Bike sharing companies are sweeping across the East Valley in full force
Citrus-colored bikes are blooming across the East Valley and around the Mesa Community College (MCC) campus. These obnoxious-colored bikes are widespread throughout the city, stirring up mixed reactions from the public. The bicycles are part of a new form of paid transportation called “bike sharing” that has been around for the past decade. Each bike is equipped with a payment method, including smartphone apps or a prepaid system enabled by PIN, allowing riders to rent them for a low cost and leave them anywhere at any time. One of the most prominent bike share companies operating in the Valley is LimeBike, based out of San Mateo, Calif. The privately-operated company has a foothold in over 30 markets across the country and last November, they entered Scottsdale with the full support of the city. According to city officials, the only requirement was for LimeBike to pay a privilege tax, which gives the company freedom to operate. The City of Scottsdale does not receive additional revenue, though Susan Conklu, senior transportation planner for the city of Scottsdale, said that local studies have shown increased bike usage “contributes to the economy by attracting business, tourism, and retaining residents” already living there.
Since then, LimeBike’s presence has been made known to East Valley residents. According to the company, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, yet some criticisms remain, which is propelling cities to reconsider its currently lax permission to operate. The bikes are creating a stir in areas like downtown Scottsdale and Tempe where business owners say people abandon them near entrances, adding to a disorganized appearance. Most of the pushback has been from Valley residents to the point that an Instagram account was created to document it, known as @litterbikesofaz, where photos of the bikes taken by valley residents are submitted to be put on full display, often in strange and bizarre areas. “The majority of the complaints the city receives now are that the [bikes] are blocking the sidewalks within neighborhoods,” Conklu said. “Many people like using the bikes, some people don’t want the bikes to be allowed by the city, and others like the bikes but have requested more organization of the bikes and faster response times by the [bike share] companies,” Conklu said.
The City of Scottsdale is working on creating regulations to mitigate citizens’ concerns. “The details and timeline for the regulations are still being worked out,” Conklu said. While LimeBikes are officially supposed to be used within Scottsdale city limits, they have appeared in the surrounding cities as well, most notably in Mesa and Tempe. According to Conklu, Tempe has also formed a working group to develop regulations. Valley cities are going to be observing other major cities in the country where bike share is already cemented and plan a model around that. “Tempe [is] working on some regulations for dockless bike share since the companies have been operating there this spring… Tempe City Council formed a working group to refine their regulations with an update possible in June .” (who said this?)
The cities are still allowing their use since the bikes provide a level of convenience and benefit for the public. There are currently no city or state laws that explicitly prohibit a bike sharing and dockless concept, but the community response has garnered enough feedback which is mobilizing city planners to find a solution. “City staff provide feedback and forward complaints to the companies to address issues, but the public is encouraged to contact the companies directly for any issues,” Conklu said. LimeBike’s company objective per their website is “to provide a sustainable solution to the first and last mile transportation problem by helping people move around their cities in an affordable and convenient way while eliminating their carbon footprint.”