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Councilman Wants To Bring Dockless Bike Sharing To L.A.

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Mobike dockless bikes, which just launched in D.C. last month. (Photo courtesy of Mobike)
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Metro's official bike share program has already expanded to several locations since launching in L.A. last year, but there are limitations to a station-based bike share program for a sprawling city like Los Angeles. There is, however, another option: dockless bike sharing.

Dockless bike-sharing systems let riders use an application on their phone to find and unlock nearby bicycles and drop them off anywhere bikes are allowed, without any docking station or kiosk required. The bikes are GPS chipped and their back wheels typically lock automatically when not in use, which prevents against theft. Similar systems already operate in Washington, D.C., Seattle, and San Francisco, among other places. And unlike a station-based bike share program, where stations are typically only located in particularly dense parts of town, a dockless system can allow for bike sharing in less dense areas.

On Tuesday, Councilmember David Ryu introduced a motion in L.A. City Council to initiate a dockless bike-sharing program. If passed, the motion would instruct the Department of Transportation and Bureau of Street Services, in coordination with the City Attorney, to conduct outreach to dockless bike-sharing companies, and to develop a pilot program to test and develop dockless bike sharing in Los Angeles. Ryu introduced this motion alongside a second motion on peer-to-peer car-sharing that would instruct the city's Department of Transportation to develop a permit process for the industry (L.A.'s Municipal Code does not currently have a framework to regulate peer-to-peer car-sharing).

“I’m excited to introduce two motions today that will open the door to more commuting options, reduced traffic, and greater mobility in Los Angeles," Ryu said in a statement. "This should be a no-brainer for City Council: more programs to drive down the cost of bike rentals and more car share opportunities that will give people who want to forego car ownership options to make that a reality.”

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The Department of Transportation is already in discussions with a number of dockless bike share companies, but the department needs authorization from the city to move forward.

"We want to make sure that bike share makes it to as many neighborhoods as humanly possible," Nicholas Greif, director of policy and legislation for Councilman Ryu, told LAist. Greif pointed to Seattle's dockless bike share system—where bikes end up peppered throughout the city in both lower and higher income neighborhoods, regardless of density and based on market demands—as an example of why the program could work well in L.A.

“Dockless bike sharing would allow more people to bike instead of drive, and bring bike-sharing to communities where docked systems aren’t feasible," Ryu said.

Because of the existing interest in bringing a dockless bike share pilot to the market, Ryu's office told LAist that the timeline could be fairly quick, and that they hope to see an initial program as soon as early next year.