Bike-share program bewilderment permeates throughout Old Town Scottsdale

A view of when a bicycle from the Scottsdale bike-share program is not conscientiously left behind for the next user (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

A solution to quell issues created by rogue bicycles cluttering roadways — and a variety of open spaces — within Scottsdale is evading city officials as an answer has been postponed until later this fall.

In 2017, companies providing bicycle-share options for residents and tourists began sprouting up around the world. In Scottsdale, the market first saw four companies providing transportation.

Two of the four bike-share companies that arrived last year are still in operation, city officials say, and word-on-the-street is that Uber, Lyft and other companies are eying entering the Scottsdale marketplace.

The privately owned and independently operated companies use technology that enables customers to use a smartphone app to rent the nearest bike, and park it at their destination. Equipped with a kickstand, bike racks and docking stations are not needed, to the chagrin of many people.

Bicycles are parked in a variety of places in Scottsdale (file photo)

Bikes have been found in roadways, ditches, canals and resident neighborhoods, city officials and residents agree. Some in Scottsdale say the most common complaints are that the bikes are ugly, too numerous and should have designated parking areas.

In June 2018, the Scottsdale Transportation Department began soliciting resident input on proposed changes to its bicycle ordinance. A draft ordinance outlines changes to include bicycle parking, operating guidelines and acknowledging emerging other vehicle-share technology.

Following an August Scottsdale Transportation Commission meeting, the group has decided to postpone its recommendation on a proposed bicycle ordinance update until October. Additionally, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee will now make a recommendation on the ordinance in October as well.

The tentative date for Scottsdale City Council adoption has been postponed until their regular meeting on Dec. 12, city officials say. Scottsdale’s transportation director says the goal of the ordinance is to clarify existing definitions.

“The bike-share businesses are ever-changing, and motorized skateboards and motorized play vehicles have also recently entered the share-market in Scottsdale, with more of both business products anticipated,” Scottsdale Transportation Director Paul Basha said.

“We needed more time to understand the products to ensure our ordinance regulations and consequences are comprehensively defined.”

During the Aug. 16, Transportation Commission meeting, assistant city manager Brent Stockwell says comments he hears from residents and city officials are centered around finding a solution.

“We’re trying to come up with a solution that we can work with both people who want to ride them, and people who don’t want to have them left on their property or see them throughout the community,” he told the 7-person appointed group of volunteers.

“Having rules that apply to everyone that rides or owns a bicycle that are fair and reasonable and address 95 percent of the problem, and not get in to something that’s seen as unnecessary regulation on business.”

New solutions sought in Old Town

Old Town Scottsdale business owner, Nicole Royse, believes a solution to the bicycles is regulated drop-off and pick-up spots.

“I appreciate what the bike-share program is aiming to do, however, there are so many of them cluttering up our sidewalks,” Ms. Royse said of the issue.

“People also leave them anywhere, including in my flowerbed in front of my gallery, on the ground in front of my gallery door, in parking spots in front of my gallery. I think to help with these issues there needs to be more regulated drop-off spots.”

The bicycle ordinance changes proposed by city officials include:

  • Don’t park more than five bikes from the same owner within 200 feet of each other;
  • Don’t park where prohibited by signs or where the curb is painted red;
  • Don’t park within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or 20 feet of a fire station entrance;
  • Don’t park in the same public location for longer than 72 hours;
  • Don’t park within transit stops, unless at designated areas;
  • Don’t park within a landscaped area, median, bicycle lane, crosswalk, intersection or turn lane;
  • Don’t park in front of or within a driveway or alley entrance; and
  • Don’t park on private property within permission of the property owner.

“The overall goal of the existing bicycle ordinance is to regulate riding and parking of pedal bicycles, motorized bicycles, motorized scooters, motorized skateboards and similar vehicles in the city of Scottsdale,” Mr. Basha explained. “The ordinance also defines consequences for disobeying those regulations.”

Unlike last year’s tourism season, Mr. Basha anticipates fewer bike-share bicycles in Scottsdale from November 2018-April 2019.

“The two companies that operated for several months last season deployed numerous bikes in numerous locations in Scottsdale — primarily because they were new to Scottsdale and wished to market their entry,” Mr. Basha explained.

“This season, the concept is not new and therefore does not need the presence of numerous bicycles. Also, it appears that one of the two companies present in Scottsdale last year will be absent this year.”

Mr. Basha says most people who were using the bike-share businesses were residents, not tourists.

“A majority of the bike-share customers last season were residents, with tourists being a minority,” Mr. Basha said. “We anticipate the same for bike-share businesses this year. However, we do not know if the motorized skateboards and motorized play-vehicle businesses will have similar customer demographics.”

A screenshot of available bicycles in Scottsdale through LimeBbike.

Mr. Stockwell noted during the August Transportation Commission that some residents are concerned bike-share companies will take up all available bicycle rack parking, while other residents propose to let bike-share companies park in racks exclusively.

“It does present a challenge,” Mr. Stockwell said of bicycle facility infrastructure.

“This is a question that has vexed us since the beginning. In general, as we’re looking for that answer, you should park in a bike rack, or portion of the sidewalk which is not within the traveled walkway. I think that’s where we start to hear comments from people: just only allow them in racks. That’s where we get to the challenge of well, there’s not enough racks and how to face that.”

The ordinance proposes allowing up to five bicycles by the same company or owner in one location, but Mr. Stockwell says that is one downside of the regulations.

“The way it’s written clearly is if you have more than two or four operators, you could be in a situation where there’s a lot of bikes,” he said.

“Trying to address a situation we were clearly seeing throughout Old Town Scottsdale, you’d go out and see bikes on all four corners, in medians, in every available space. We’re trying to at least send the message that with something that’s accessible through an app on your phone, you don’t have to physically place them everywhere. If people want one, they can use the app to find where the nearest one is.”

Last winter, Transportation Department spokeswoman Jennifer Banks told the Independent that the original plan was to develop a municipal bike-share program that would have bicycles rented and returned to docking station.

The cost to the city for a 20 station, 200-bike step-up would have been approximately $1.5 million and was unfunded, Ms. Banks said at the time.

Scottsdale residents are encouraged to attend the fall Transportation Commission and City Council meetings, Mr. Basha noted. Other public comment opportunities can be found on Scottsdaleaz.gov, and search “Bicycle ordinance.”

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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