Dockless Bike Share

With dockless bike share systems, bicycles can be parked within a defined district at a bike rack or along the sidewalk rather than at stations. Dockless bikes can be located and unlocked using a smartphone app. Multiple companies are launching services around the globe.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Costs: Many companies are offering the bicycles to cities, towns and campuses. In addition, dockless reduces municipal costs for each docking station with conventional station-based systems Rider costs are, at least for now, lower per ride.

User convenience: Users have access to bikes in multiple locations, not just stations.  Moreover, riders in a hurry can park the bike outside a destination rather than at a station that can be several blocks away. Likewise riders don't need to worry about returning a bike to a full station (referred to as "dock blocked").

Overall support for bicycling: With increased numbers of riders, bicycling gains visibility as a mode.  This helps increase demand for bike infrastructure, parking and safety measures.

Tips & Techniques

Getting Started: Bike share companies are already contacting cities and campuses to conduct and scale pilot programs.  A city or campus needs to set overall program goals for mobility and how dockless bike share fits into the overall system, including existing bike share systems

Create a Policy Framework: Your city will need to establish a regulatory framework. Seattle, Washington for example, requires operators to obtain a permit that covers safety, parking, insurance requirements, operations, and data sharing with the city.

Establish system boundaries: For system planning, most operators work with cities on boundaries for both testing pilots and program growth. Using geofencing technology, operators collect (and share) data that tracks usage, routes, system problems and more. In fact, the sheer amount of data points to the need for carefully planning data collection, privacy, analysis, storage, and decision support.

Rebalancing: Rebalancing refers to redistributing bicycles to areas of high demand, usually on a daily basis. Dockless adds complexity over a wider area, driving up costs per bike.

Incentives: Bike share companies are building credit systems into memberships for activities such as returning bikes to park preferred locations, reporting problems like improper parking, and assisting with bike rebalancing.

Master Parking Plans: As bicycle use grows, cities will need to supply more parking in key locations with existing or potential demand. While many cities install racks in opportune locations, dockless bike share increases the need to be strategic on design and location.  Alternative approaches to physical bike racks may include using GPS geofences to create areas to park bikes, for example, painting rectangles on the ground to designate parking areas.

 Integrate Programs: Dockless bike share needs to be integrated with other mobility programs, for example at transit stops and bicycle master plans. Dockless bike share can also complement economic development planning (e.g. tourism, downtown improvement districts), as well as affordable housing and campus planning.

Hot Buttons: There are many challenges with dockless bike share. Early problems include vandalism, abandoned bikes, and cluttered sidewalks. The complex and scattered nature of operations also poses drawbacks related to maintenance, bicycle durability, economic sustainability. 


Unlicensed Dockless Bike Sharing - Common Position Paper - UITP (International Association of Public Transport) 

Bike Share Permit Requirements, Seattle Department of Transportation (June 30, 2017)