Sacramento, California, came late to the bike-sharing game. Because city officials never created a publicly funded municipal system (and because they’re in Sacramento, seat of California’s notoriously regulation-happy government), they’re having to put the cart before the horse, somewhat — or the bike-trailer before the bike, as the case may be — and devise a system of laws tailored to a changing and increasingly privatized industry.
This week, City Council’s Law and Legislation Committee unanimously approved an ordinance that would ban riders from leaving bicycles in any position that would block sidewalks or bike paths, according to a Sacramento Bee editorial. It would apply to all bicyclists and bike-share companies, but the regulations are of course targeted at the startups that allow riders to pick up and drop off bikes anywhere with the help of a smartphone app. U.S. cities that have embraced this newer model, which came of age in China, include Seattle, New Orleans and Washington, D.C.
“Without regulation, bicycle-share businesses pose a threat to the public health, safety and welfare,” the ordinance states. “Some bicycle-share bicycles may be self-locked anywhere within the city, making it difficult for the city to ensure that these bicycles are placed safely, upright and out of the way of pedestrian walkways, bicycle paths, and roadways. Bicycle-share bicycles will also increase demand for the city’s limited bicycle parking. In addition, derelict self-locking bicycles can become a major cause of blight in both residential and nonresidential neighborhoods.”
Bike-share companies would have two hours to retrieve stray bicycles upon notification, the Bee reports. If companies don’t go and get those offending bikes, they could be fined and their permits could be suspended or revoked. The city would then impound their bicycles.
The proposed laws, which will go before the full council in the next two months, are certainly more stringent than many of the city’s peers. It’s possible that, if adopted, Sacramento’s ordinance will prove a popular model — as Next City has covered, the private, startup model does pose some potentially serious problems for longevity and equity in bike-share planning. And blight has been a problem, particularly in Chinese cities.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.