Austin OKs dockless bike rental pilot, with a one-year limit


The City Council approved design and launch of the pilot, but required staff to show it the details up front.

The council also OK’d a $30-per-bike fee for dockless firms, while putting $200,000 into its own rental system.

The pilot will be limited to one year, and the council required interim reports for staff on how it goes.

The Austin City Council on Thursday approved the creation of a “dockless” bike share pilot program, but made it clear this is a one-year test drive.

Council Member Kathie Tovo, who proposed the time limit, noted that some short-term policy tests by the city were left open ended. Then, when the council wanted to make them permanent but tweak the rules — she cited ride hailing and short-term housing rentals as examples — advocates for those programs complained of broken policy promises.

Council Member Ann Kitchen also added a condition, with her colleagues’ support, requiring city transportation officials to check back with the council’s Mobility Committee with the specific design of the pilot program before kicking it off.

The vote to approve the design and implementation of the pilot, and well as a $30-per-bike fee for dockless rental bikes, passed 10-1, with Council Member Ellen Troxclair opposed. Robert Spillar, director of the city transportation department, estimated that a public process to design the pilot would be completed by May or June.

City staff has estimated it would get $90,000 in fee revenue from the program this year, which would indicate that as many as 3,000 rental bikes would be on city streets by the end of the summer.

BACK STORY: Dockless bike pilot makes some downtown, bike advocates nervous

The city owns a station-based bike rental system, called B-Cycle, which has been operating since December 2013 and had about 190,000 rentals tax year, or roughly one rental per day for each bike. That system has 54 permanent docking stations and 425 available bikes.

The council, in a separate vote, allocated $200,000 to B-Cycle, which is operated by a nonprofit under a contract with the city, as a match for a federal grant of just above $900,000. The combined $1.1 million will be used to build 18 more docking stations for the bikes (three are in place already) and buy 100 more bikes.

The dockless bikes will represent competition for the city’s still-fledgling bike rental operation.

Over the past year, various companies have begun bringing rental bikes into U.S. cities — sometimes with city regulations in place, sometimes not — that can be picked up and dropped off anywhere using a phone app to unlock the bikes. Companies such as LimeBike, Ofo and MoBike typically charge a dollar rental fee for 30 to 60 minutes.

Those dockless bikes have been a problem in some cities, most particularly Dallas where no rules are in place, because customers have tended to discard them in places that obstruct sidewalks and trails, or pile them in places as pranks or vandalism.

Some critics in Austin have been concerned as well that the dockless bikes will take part of the market from B-Cycle and ultimately kill it, without any guarantees that the new bike share wrinkle will survive in the long run.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

EXCLUSIVE: Citing fatal flaws, Texas starts over on rare lizard-protection plan
EXCLUSIVE: Citing fatal flaws, Texas starts over on rare lizard-protection plan

In 2012, alarmed that the federal government’s move to protect a small reptile could cripple the oil and gas business, Texas unveiled its own plan to look after the dunes sagebrush lizard and its habitat in the middle of the petroleum-rich Permian Basin. Unlike other states, in Texas species protection falls to the head financial officer. The...
Historical marker honors story of formerly enslaved Austin residents
Historical marker honors story of formerly enslaved Austin residents

The Texas Historical Commission on Friday designated a historical marker for the Wood Street Settlement in downtown Austin. The designation, part of the commission’s Undertold Markers Program, aims to address historical gaps and document underrepresented people and untold stories. The Wood Street Settlement, near the west bank of Shoal Creek...
Community news: Austin, Georgetown names Mayors Challenge finalists

CENTRAL TEXAS Austin, Georgetown named finalists Austin and Georgetown are two of 35 cities selected as finalists in the 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge, a competition that encourages city leaders to develop innovative ideas that confront challenges facing their cities. The cities now advance to the six-month Test, Learn and Adapt phase of the competition...
Snoop Dogg shouts out Westlake grad/Super Bowl QB Nick Foles in new track
Snoop Dogg shouts out Westlake grad/Super Bowl QB Nick Foles in new track

Snoop Dogg gives former Westlake QB/ Super Bowl ring-winner Nick Foles a shout-out in his brand new song, “Doggytails.” “Nick Foles with it — get it?” Snoop raps. “I be the backup, second in line, see when I get in, you ain’t gettin’ no more time. I’m free as a bird.” (A reference, obviously...
Stuck between a Columbus and an Austin, has Precourt dropped the ball?
Stuck between a Columbus and an Austin, has Precourt dropped the ball?

The Major League Soccer franchise that at times seems to have one foot in Columbus, Ohio and the other in Austin may be kicking away a prime opportunity with both feet. Anthony Precourt needs to get his stuff together. Now. And so should the city of Austin. The owner of the Columbus Crew has dilly-dallied around for months, courting Austin as a potential...
More Stories