Fort Worth

To dock, or not to dock? Fort Worth questions its bike-share program

The B-Cycle station at Main Street and Weatherford in downtown Fort Worth is one of 46 docking homes for its bikes.
The B-Cycle station at Main Street and Weatherford in downtown Fort Worth is one of 46 docking homes for its bikes. Star-Telegram archives

This bike share program’s biggest selling point is convenience. Instead of picking up and leaving bikes at a docking station, riders find these rides with an app and leave the bikes anywhere they want.

They’re known as known as “dockless” bikes, and a citizen’s commission vetting the program said it’s difficult to shed recent images of those same bikes littering Dallas.

But at the same time, members of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Commission said they’re not convinced the city’s program, in place for nearly five years, is meeting the transportation needs of all Fort Worth neighborhoods. Those bikes are kept at 46 “docking” stations.

For now, they’ll continue researching whether station and station-free industries can both operate in Fort Worth before making a recommendation to the City Council early in 2018.

Jason Lamers, the advisory groups’s chairman, said how the so-called “dockless” bikes are left by riders is a challenge. Recent pictures from Dallas show them cluttering sidewalks, piled on top of each other and even in the Trinity River.

“There are some good examples of what these companies have done,” Lamers said. But, “introducing something like this is scary to me. I see what I see in other cities.”

Servando Esparza, the North Texas representative for dockless bike share company ofo, told the group his company has 1,000 bikes in Dallas and 10 employees who are constantly making sure the bikes are where they’re supposed to be.

“It’s not in our best interest having a bike under a bridge or in a river,” Esparza said. “We want the bikes used. There’s high demand here. We want to be a different option for people who don’t have access to transit.”

The bike-sharing process is pretty simple: You download a bike share app, locate the bike via GPS, scan the bar code to unlock the bike and put the bike is a secure spot (ideally) when done. The service usually costs $1 per hour.

The advisory commission is looking into a possible bike share policy after some dockless bike companies came into Fort Worth this summer and just dumped bikes on downtown sidewalks without permission. The bikes were removed by the company or impounded at the city’s auto pound.

Companies also approached the city about operating here without bringing bikes in. Station-free bike companies operating in North Texas include V Bikes, Zagster, LimeBike, Spin and ofo.

Fort Worth requires a permit to operate in the public right-of-way. Dallas is conducting a pilot program and will look at possible regulations in a few months. If the issue gets past Fort Worth’s advisory commission, a City Council committee will hear its recommendation before it goes to the full body.

Fort Worth’s Planning Department staff presented findings to the commission Thursday night, but the members asked for more specifics on expansion plans for the city’s BCycle program, which has 350 bikes. BCycle mostly operates downtown, on the Near South Side, West 7th Street corridor and the Cultural District.

Locations are in the Clear Fork development along the Trinity River, the Stockyards and near TCU. Bikes should be going to the Evans/Rosedale area, near the T headquarters on Lancaster and Gateway Park, and possibly in the Alliance corridor in far north Fort Worth, said Michael Brennan, chairman of the BCycle board.

The BCycle program is operated by Fort Worth Bike Sharing, a non-profit entity created by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. Lee Jones, director of business development with Wisconsin-based BCycle told the committee it, too, is looking at a dockless system.

A handful of people spoke in opposition to the new bike share programs, arguing bikes are usually left where they’re unwanted and it’s unsightly.

“We have seen the new dockless system,” said Jim Wilson, president of the Clear Fork Bicycle Club and a Benbrook councilman. “It’s absolutely a safety issue for bicyclists. What’s going on in Dallas ... it’s not done right.”