Cities Debut Semi-Dockless Bike Shares - Governing

First came the large-scale bike-sharing systems, with permanent docking stations dispersed around cities. Then came dockless systems, which let riders leave or pick up their rented bikes almost anywhere it’s legal to park a bike.

Some riders love the convenience of being able to leave a bike wherever they want. But other residents hate the nuisance of finding the free-standing bicycles clogging sidewalks, often blocking walkways and entryways to buildings. (One Washington, D.C.-based blog began cataloging all the worst bike-parking jobs, including on stairways, on fences and even inside stores and lobbies.)

Now one company has a new service that it says offers the best of both models.

Zagster, a bike-share company that has typically served small and medium-sized cities, says its new Pace system will incorporate some of the features of the dockless systems while retaining popular aspects of the more-established dock-based systems.

“With the dock-based system, you have the predictability of just going out of your office in New York, making a left and knowing there is a Citi Bike station there. But if your favorite coffee shop doesn’t have a dock nearby, you’re unable to lock up your bike there,” says Zagster CEO Timothy Ericson. “For a fully dockless system, it’s the reverse. You have to hunt down your bike, hope the GPS is accurate and find a bike. You don’t have the predictability.”

Zagster's hybrid Pace system, which it's rolling out in places like Rochester, N.Y., and Tallahassee, Fla., lets riders use docks or park elsewhere. (Depending on the city, users may get charged more for parking without a dock.) But the bikes can’t be left free-standing; they have to be locked to something in order to end a trip.

“We believe that bikes should be locked to things,” Ericson says. “That whole dockless evolution of dumping your bike anywhere in the street is not good for cities and not good for riders in the long term.”

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