North Texas suburbs cautious about bike-share programs after watching Dallas

Staff Photographer

Some North Texas suburbs have their eyes on Dallas and its bike-rental litter.

They don’t want to clean up the same problem.

For a couple years, McKinney officials have talked about a bike-share program. Carrollton city leaders are considering it, too. What they eventually decide is still up in the air.

But officials in both cities are proceeding with caution after seeing dozens of the ubiquitous bikes lined up on downtown Dallas street corners, others tangled on a sidewalk in a heap like a football pileup and even a couple floating in White Rock Lake.

"That has had a cooling effect on our process in McKinney," said Michael Kowski, director of parks and recreation for the city, during a McKinney Community Development Corporation meeting Thursday. "What we are doing now is stepping back, looking at the market, looking at options to make sure we are fortified against some of those challenges we are seeing in Dallas and across the country."

Learning important lessons

Kowski said the technology behind bike shares has evolved since McKinney officials began discussing such a program a couple years ago when the inventory of bikes was smaller and bike rentals with docking stations dominated the scene. Now, as in Dallas, you can ride a brightly-colored bike anywhere and ditch it wherever.

"We know that people bicycle in McKinney. We see people do it," Kowski told members of the community development corporation at its December meeting. "So it was important for us to consider bike share across our community."

Unlike more dense urban areas such as Dallas, he doesn’t envision hundreds of these bicycles in McKinney, where public transportation is limited to a subsidized taxi voucher program for the elderly and disabled.

He sees it more for recreational use for people who do not own bicycles, for example, to explore the city’s trails. Already, the McKinney Community Development Corporation has set aside $60,000 for the initiative.

"We’re studying it more and not moving forward with anything until we have a full grasp of all the options, and some of the lessons learned from our sister cities," Kowski said in a phone interview.

Two LimeBike rental bikes were submerged in White Rock Lake in Dallas on Jan. 5.
Moving slowly

Carrollton is also moving slowly with regard to starting a bike-sharing program. Mayor Kevin Falconer said Friday that city staff has discussed ways to introduce rent-a-bikes for the past several months. He said Carrollton’s proximity to Dallas and other cities with existing bike programs makes it difficult for Carrollton to outlaw the bikes.

"We are in a metropolitan area — what we call the Metroplex — where we don’t technically have or know where city boundaries are or begin, so if you get on a bike in downtown Dallas you can very well end up in Carrollton," Falconer said. "Obviously, if another city has another bike program and that person happens to ride their bike into Carrollton, we don’t want to prohibit that."

Kowski said McKinney residents also have spotted a few of these bikes trickling here and there into their city limits at times, though the problem isn’t widespread. He said the city still is developing its response to those situations.

Falconer said Carrollton is considering adopting a bike-sharing ordinance with some type of permitting with the bike companies or a combination of both to help prevent any clutter.

He wants to find a happy medium between Dallas’ initial approach of allowing the companies to park lines of bikes throughout the city and Highland Park’s strict ordinance that outlaws leaving any rent-a-bikes overnight, before moving forward into a rent-a-bike contract with a company.

David Ramirez and his niece Giana Correa of Dallas rode a VBikes rental bicycle along the North Texas March for Life route in downtown Dallas on Jan. 20.

He pointed to Plano, which plans to present its bike-sharing ordinance to its city council in late February, as an example of what Carrollton may end up doing.

"They are a neighboring suburb just like us," Falconer said. "We feel like that would be a good city to partner with to see how they are dealing with [the bikes] because they share some of the same opportunities and concerns."

Permitting bikes

Peter Braster, director of special projects for Plano, said the city has shared its proposed bike-sharing ordinance with Carrollton and other neighboring cities to promote a unified stance on the regulation of the bikes.

He said three bike-sharing companies currently operate in the city. VBikes, LimeBikes and Ofo first rolled out in Plano last November.

Plano’s proposed ordinance would mandate permits for all rent-a-bikes, he said.

The permits would require bike-sharing companies to put a phone number on each bike so residents can call to report any issues. The companies would also have to respond to any complaints within two hours or the next business day if a complaint is made after hours. Plano officials will also have a say where the bikes can be placed in the city.

Braster said the ordinance and permits would help the rent-a-bikes become successful.

"We know it’s not the bike-sharing companies’ fault," Braster said. "That being said, we need to have a bike-sharing program in place that makes them aware the bikes are not being treated well and gives them the opportunity to fix it."

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