Dockless rental bikes are becoming increasingly common on and off campus and are being left on sidewalks and lawns instead of in bike racks.
V-Bikes are rental bikes that allow customers to use their smartphones to check out and check in the bikes. As a result, they can be picked up from anywhere, and when the user has finished using the bike, they can leave it anywhere, as long as the app has marked the bike as returned. Because this service does not require users to leave the bikes in any specific location, many bikes have been left on sidewalks and in streets.
The issue of dockless bikes being abandoned is not unique to UTD either. Dallas News reported that the city of Dallas faces the issue of having too many bikes being misplaced and mishandled, and may start to limit the number of dockless rental bikes allowed in some parts of the city.
“Dockless is the current trend for a lot of new bike rental companies, where you can take it and leave it wherever you need to. That way you can actually use it for what you need to use it for,” said Elena Morten, manager of the Office of Parking and Transportation.
Before V-Bikes, Zagster was the bike rental service used at UTD. The previous service required students to park the rentals at a certain bike rack only located near the residence halls. As a result, students could not use the rental bikes to get to class if there was no authorized bike station there.
“V-Bikes are a lot more affordable for us, and students really use them for what they need to use them for,” Morten said.
More complaints are received from the public — who complain of the bikes being parked on their property — than are received from V-Bikes customers, said Obi Morgan, the V-Bikes ground team manager. UTD information technology systems sophomore John Lavery had used V-Bikes to commute to classes, but no longer does.
“It’s an actual problem. I didn’t think highly of the bikes because they are just scattered all over the city,” Lavery said. “People just leave them in random areas, like just leaving them on sidewalks.”
The technical team at V-Bikes has acknowledged the issue, and they are working on improving awareness about the bikes, including how to use them, lock them properly and park them in the right places, Morgan said. There are 500 bikes at UTD for students to use and that number is growing.
“We have provided some bike racks (to UTD’s campus) already, and we are getting more because the number of bikes at UTD is growing, and with more bikes, we want more bike racks,” Morgan said.
There are bike racks ready to be shipped to UTD from the V-Bikes factories, and will be coming to campus next year, Morgan said. Having more bike racks will make it easier to find places to keep the bikes when people are done using them. The bike racks are one of the actions the company is taking to reduce the number of bikes that may be misplaced.
“We are adding to the number of our ground-team members who are going to be in UTD to make sure that the bikes are taken off the sidewalks, grass and other places they should not be at,” Morgan said.