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LA officials seek regulation of expanding dockless bike rentals

LA Metro launched a bike-share program in Pasadena with 300 cycles available at 30 stations located around the city. Now private companies operating dockless bikes could give it competition. Meghan McCarty Carino/KPCC

Three companies are trial-testing dockless bicycle rentals in the Harbor area, Griffith Park and Koreatown, but the city of Los Angeles hasn’t sanctioned their expansion.

Officials say while the rentals could prove useful in some parts of the city, they raised concerns on Wednesday during a meeting of the Los Angeles City Council's transportation committee.

Publicly funded bike sharing is available from Santa Monica to Pasadena. But the private, dockless bike sharing systems are different. Unlike public bike-share systems, there are no docking stations. Renters use a smartphone to locate and unlock the bike wheels. And they’re cheap: at about a dollar an hour, seven times cheaper than the walk-up fee for Metro bikes.

Many of dockless bike companies started in China, where the streets are literally littered with the bicycles. The companies have expanded to U.S. cities like Seattle and Washington, D.C., where five dockless bike-share firms are currently operating.

In some cities, the bikes have become a nuisance, piling up on sidewalks and driveways, even landing in trees and rivers.

 

 

City Department of Transportation head Seleta Reynolds told the City Council’s Transportation Committee that dockless bike share could benefit neighborhoods not served by public bike sharing.

"But we shouldn’t necessarily allow it to come into the city in a way that we might not have intended," Reynolds said.

Officials also worry that public systems won’t be able to compete with the private bike companies that are backed by venture capital and can charge cheap rental fees.

The city has 45 days to propose ways to regulate the bikes.

Officials floated ideas like restricting the number of bikes allowed per area, requiring upkeep and cleaning up of the bikes or charging a permitting fee for operation. The proposals will then go to the full council for approval.