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D.C. prolongs dockless bike- and scooter-share pilot program through end of 2018

But now dockless bikes will have to be locked to racks or posts

Lime bikes in Franklin Square
The Washington Post/Getty Images

For the second time this past year, the District is extending its pilot program for dockless bikes and scooters while regulators figure out long-term rules for their use and availability.

The pilot program will continue to run through December, the Washington Post and WAMU reported on Thursday. Now, though, in an effort to control where riders leave dockless bikes, the companies that operate them will have to provide locking capabilities so riders can lock the bikes to bike racks or posts.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which is running the pilot program, last extended it in April. DDOT launched the program in September 2017, and at its peak seven companies participated. But over the summer, two of those companies dropped out. DDOT has restricted dockless companies to operating only 400 vehicles each in the city—whether bikes or scooters, or both. That cap that will stay in place for now.

In September, according to the Post and WAMU, the District will publish draft regulations for the vehicles and accept comments from the public. DDOT’s goal is to implement long-term rules in January. The rules will cover fees for operators, the per-company vehicle cap, data-sharing, citywide availability, and scooter and bike parking.

“Bikes blocking the pathways or end up tipped over are more of an obstruction than a benefit,” DDOT chief project delivery officer Sam Zimbabwe told WAMU. “So [the locking rule] helps us keep things a little more orderly.” DDOT has installed dozens of bike racks on city streets this past summer and is on track to add 300 more this fall.

Scooters, which have become more popular in the District throughout the pilot program, will not be required to be locked. With the exception of Uber-owned Jump, an electric-bike provider that already features locking capabilities, the remaining dockless operators in the District predominately supply electric scooters. Those companies are Lime, Bird, Skip, and Spin, which recently said it would change to an “all e-scooter fleet” in D.C.

Riders took more than 625,000 trips on the vehicles from last September to June, and in May, more than 55,000 riders took more than 140,000 trips, DDOT told the Post. (When asked about the future of dockless bikes and scooters in D.C. on Wednesday morning, a spokesman for the agency told Curbed DC that there was “nothing to report just yet.”)

A spokesman for Jump says the company currently has 400 pedal-assist bikes in D.C., the maximum allowed under the pilot, and that it is “working hard to keep up with demand.” “The District’s pilot program has shown that there is enormous demand for sustainable, affordable alternatives to moving around the city in cars,” he adds in an email to Curbed DC.

In a statement, DDOT Director Jeff Marootian says the agency will use the data collected during the pilot to create policies “that will allow the program to expand while maintaining the integrity and safety of our public space.” One of the immediate policies, according to a release from DDOT, is requiring dockless operators “to educate their respective customers about properly parking and securing bikes and scooters in public space.”

Later this year, the companies that are currently participating in the pilot program will have to reapply for operating permits from the city. Meanwhile, some community members have called for allowing up to 20,000 total dockless vehicles. Jurisdictions across the country are adapting to the sudden rise of the bikes and scooters.

This post has been updated with additional information from DDOT and comment by Jump.