Bike share is local; laws governing it should be, too

In late 2017, legislation was filed in the Florida Legislature that would have created statewide regulations for dockless bike share companies. Supported by Beijing-based bicycle sharing company Ofo, the legislation would have prevented cities from controlling bike safety, equipment quality, and more. By going over the heads of local officials, the legislation would have negatively impacted the elderly, those with disabilities, and other high-risk groups.

Zagster, and others in the industry such as the North American Bike Share Association (NABSA), JUMP Bikes, DecoBike, and Spin, came together against the legislation. We engaged with Florida Representatives and Senators and explained that our industry was best served by being strong collaborators with our partners at the local level. Our joint efforts ultimately stopped the bill from passing this year. For now, the management of public rights-of-ways in Florida, such as sidewalks, is where it belongs - in cities.

When it comes to city and county streets, it’s critical to recognize that local residents and officials know best. Cities bear the brunt of the costs of bike share programs, from oversight and enforcement, to improving existing bike infrastructure (bike lanes, racks, etc). Removing locals from the decision-making process opens the door for operators that don't (or won’t) understand the community they intend to serve. These companies could eventually enter a city or county and act in ways that hurt, not help, residents. For example, flooding markets with bikes - without bolstering infrastructure or supporting an active bike culture - has the potential to harm a promising transportation option before it gets a chance to flourish. States contemplating preemption laws, like the ones proposed in Florida, should strongly consider the impact that this type of legislation would have on their local communities.

Bike shares can become the safest, most reliable form of transportation if governed appropriately and supported by local communities. City and county officials know how to regulate their streets and sidewalks best, so local control over bike share just makes plain sense. These leaders must be empowered to uphold local, state and federal regulations regarding the public right-of-way to protect pedestrians, bikers, and drivers alike. We urge others to follow Florida’s path and reject laws that preempt local officials from ensuring the safety of streets.

This post was written by Tim Alborg, Zagster’s Director of Public Policy and Government Relations. At Zagster, Alborg educates local policy makers on bike sharing and transportation issues and works with key elected and appointed officials to advocate for legislation and regulations that support bike infrastructure.