Montgomery County Reports Decrease in Complaints about Dockless Bike-Share Pilot Program

The county has been testing the bike rentals in the Silver Spring area since the fall


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A dockless Spin bike that appeared to have its back wheel circuit board damaged leaning against a wall at the Bethesda Metro station Wednesday afternoon--outside the designated Silver Spring area where Montgomery County has permitted several dockless bikeshare companies to operate. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

A Montgomery County transportation spokeswoman said Tuesday the county is receiving fewer complaints related to the ongoing dockless bike-share pilot program in Silver Spring.

The declining number of formal complaints stands in contrast to early resentment toward the bikes expressed on social media, especially Twitter, where users have complained about the bikes overwhelming Silver Spring’s sidewalks and being dumped on their sides throughout the area.

“Dockless bike litter, Silver Spring, MD edition, courtesy of Ofo Bicycle sigh,” wrote Oliver Willis on Dec. 14 with a picture of more than a dozen yellow OFO bikes lying on a sidewalk.

“Where we live in Silver Spring, Maryland there are piles of abandoned bikes on every corner. Horrible trend,” wrote Christopher Sands on March 26.

Esther Bowring, the transportation spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday the county has granted permits to four companies—LimeBike, Mobike, Ofo and Spin—to place as many as 600 dockless bikes in an area that includes downtown Silver Spring, Takoma Park and surrounding suburban communities. Riders can rent and unlock the bikes using the companies’ apps, with rates hovering around $1 per hour.

Bowring said the county has received 131 phone calls and emails about the pilot program since the county first began allowing the dockless bikes in September. She said most of the emails reported bikes being left in areas not in the public right of way or bikes that had fallen over. But those types of complaints have been declining, she said.

“The number of emails has decreased significantly in the last two months, and we have only two emails so far in April,” Bowring wrote in an email.

She noted that after initially allowing the dockless bike-share companies to operate, the county established “tighter rules” that limited the companies to about 24 bikes per block and required them to have their staff redistribute and monitor the bikes. The county also held a town hall-style meeting to get feedback from residents and this helped diminish complaints, she said.

The Silver Spring area where the county has permitted the dockless bikeshare companies to operate. Provided by Montgomery County

The county also established designated dockless bike-share parking areas in downtown Silver Spring, where the per block limits aren’t applied. Those locations are along the Silver Spring Civic Center and plaza as well as on Ripley Street behind the Silver Spring Transit Center.

It’s not clear if all the companies are adhering to the dockless parking areas, however. A Flickr photo taken on April 10 showed dozens of green LimeBike bikes lining the sidewalk along Colesville Avenue in front of the transit center.

The county is assessing the dockless bike-share program in Silver Spring and hopes to complete its review this summer, according to Bowring.

Another trendy form of transportation—motorized scooters—has been popping up lately in Silver Spring. On April 7, Twitter user Julio Ceron posted a picture of two LimeBike electric scooters in East Silver Spring.

Bowring said the county has no agreements with any of the dockless companies to bring power scooters into the county.

Mary Caroline Pruitt, a spokeswoman for LimeBike, wrote in an email Tuesday the company has not distributed power scooters in Silver Spring and any that appeared in the area would have been brought from Washington, D.C., where the company’s scooter program has been expanding.

“We have, and will continue to advise our riders not to end their trips outside of approved areas,” Pruitt wrote. “Additionally LimeBike collects every scooter every evening to charge, maintain, and ensure that they remain in approved areas.”

Despite the criticism the dockless bikes sometimes get on Twitter, there’s also been praise from users.

“Hey Ofo Bicycle, thanks for bringing bikes to our city Silver Spring … . We took them out for the first time today and had a blast,” Emily Hirata wrote on Jan. 27.

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