Dockless Bikes/Scooters – DDOT Demonstration
Posted on July 20th, 2018 by Elizabeth Nelson
Comments of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society concerning DDOT’s Dockless Bicycles and Scooters Demonstration Program, submitted July, 2018
DDOT is currently engaged in a demonstration project to evaluate bikeshare and scootershare systems that operate without physical docking stations. The Capitol Hill Restoration Society welcomes the opportunity to comment on the demonstration program and urges that the evaluation of that program be shared with he public with an opportunity for public comment that can lead to the development of meaningful regulations on the subject.
These dockless systems use bicycles or scooters that self-lock and can be accessed via smartphone apps. Such technology can expand transportation options in the District, and provide access in areas DDOT has not yet been able to add Capital Bikeshare infrastructure. CHRS understands that seven private companies are currently participating in the Program: Jump, Spin, ofo and Mobike operate bicycles only. Waybots and Bird operate electric scooters. Limebike has both scooters and bikes. Each of the seven companies participating in the DDOT demonstration program are allowed 400 dockless vehicles.
The vehicles are small and take up far less space and produce less pollution than automobiles and being dockless, they take up less public space than the Capital Bikeshare programs that require dedicated docking facilities. But there are problems with the dockless vehicles being stolen, vandalized, left in tree spaces or abandoned in areas that impede pedestrian access or are sometimes “dumped” in parks, streams, or other inappropriate locations, or, if they are secured, are secured to trees and private fences. A significant problem is how they relate to pedestrians – particularly on sidewalks – the electric vehicles are noiseless (and can come up quite unexpectedly) and operate at speeds greater than bicycles are allowed to operate on sidewalks (bicycles on sidewalks are limited to 10 MPH, but we understand that some scooters operate at 14 MPH or faster).
Evaluation of the Program
DDOT has announced that this is a demonstration project, designed to allow DDOT to evaluate the operation of these vehicle. DDOT’s evaluation needs to be shared with the public and reported in a public document that can form the basis for regulations that will govern dockless operations.
First, the DDOT Evaluation Report needs to provide basic information about the different dockless bicycle and scooter firms that are participating in the program and how each of them conducted their part of the program. As a minimum, the DDOT Report needs to address:
- The names of the participating organizations.
- Description of the dockless vehicles provided by each of the participating organizations: type of vehicles , number involved in the demonstration project, maximum speed, range, etc.
- The type and amount of insurance coverage provided by each participating organization.
- Description of the methods of payment to use vehicles.
- Description of methods by which each participating organization tracks the location of its vehicles, andhow frequently this information is updated. (e.g., is location tracked in real time?)
- What are the locations of each organization’s dockless vehicles on a ward-by-ward basis on several representative dates to be selected by DDOT?Plot locations on a map.
- Operational restrictions that each participating organization has imposed on the operation of their vehicles: for example, whether they should be operated on sidewalks, in bicycle lanes, on roadways.
- Parking restrictions that each participating organization imposed on the users of their vehicles, such as only parking them on pavement that is completely off of the pedestrian walkway of a sidewalk or never parking them on parkland or tree spaces, and how they were enforced.
- What eligibility requirements for operators of the dockless vehicle were imposed by each participating organization (e.g., age, driver’s license, helmets, etc).
- Method for obtaining public feedback concerning improper or unsafe dockless vehicle issues. Such information should be available on the 311 app. and the Mayor’s Call Center to allow the public to report unsafe user behavior for individual dockless vehicle providers, the type of vehicle involved in unsafe user behavior, and a description, including photos of the unsafe user behavior.
The DDOT Evaluation Report needs to discuss and evaluate each of the above points. Additionally, the Evaluation Report should should specify whether and to what extent existing regulations may or may not apply to dockless vehicles. For example the DDOT Report should include the existing BICYCLES, MOTORIZED BICYCLES, AND PERSONAL MOBILITY DEVICESregulations (18DCMR§1200) and evaluate whether and why they should apply to dockless vehicles in general or whether specific regulations are needed for different types of dockless vehicles. The Evaluation Report also needs to address:
- Should motorized dockless vehicles be allowed to operate on sidewalks?
- In the event that dockless vehicles are allowed to operate on sidewalks, should they have control devices that limit their speed?Is the 10 MPH speed limitation for bicycles appropriate for dockless vehicles operating on sidewalks?
- If motorized dockless vehicle are allowed on sidewalks, should they emit some discernible, but discreet, sound to make pedestrians aware of their presence (even though this will not be useful to deaf or low-hearing individuals)?
- Does DC need to add more bike racks for securing the dockless vehicles, if so where, and should the dockless companies bear that cost – can dockless vehicle be secured to parking meters or regulatory sign posts?
- Should the dockless providers be fined if their vehicles are left in inappropriate location, assuming that the dockless companies will devise a means of passing such fines on to their offending customers.
- Should users of dockless vehicles be required to undergo a training program or obtain a special DC permit?
- Are all dockless providers able to provide integrated locking devices designed to secure the dockless vehicles to suitable District infrastructure, such as a bike rack or a regulatory sign post, to insure the dockless vehicles are not left in pedestrian pathways or left on parkland or tree spaces?
In addition to evaluation of the DDOT Dockless Bicycle and Scooter Demonstration Program, the Evaluation Report should also discuss how other cities and jurisdictions (US and foreign) are administering dockless vehicle programs.
DDOT’s Evaluation Report should address both the benefits and the problems of the dockless vehicles and should be made available for public comment. The Evaluation
Report, together with the public comments concerning the Report, would then provide the basis for issuing proposed Regulations.
Current regulation that may or may not apply to dockless vehicles are contained at 18 DCMR §1200, originally promulgated in 1972 and amended four times.
 Is it appropriate to have dockless vehicles regulated in the same manner as personal mobility devices (18DCMR §1200). Another issue is whether regulations are actually enforceable – noting that even now at least some of the scooters require that the rider have a drivers license (as stated on the scooter) a requirement which observation suggests has not been enforced. Whether police understand and actively enforce bicycle regulations is a part of this issue. Presently the information is anecdotal, and we need actual data on the issue..
 Currently, bicycles operating on sidewalks in the non-CBD are limited to 10MPH (18DCMR§1200.11). If dockless vehicles are allowed to operate on sidewalks, should this restriction apply, or should some other speed limitation apply?
What steps can be taken to ensure that motorized vehicles are not operated by minors and is the current age limitation of 16 years old appropriate (18DCMR §1200.10) – an issue that becomes more important in the context of whether and how speed is regulated?