Frisco pushes forward with restrictions on dockless mobility devices
FRISCO — Do dockless bike-sharing programs belong in Frisco?
That’s a question the Frisco Town Council has been pondering as it pushes forward with new restrictions on dockless mobility devices in town, a move that may serve as more of a placeholder than a permanent solution.
The town council passed a new ordinance on first reading Tuesday night in a split 4-2 vote, with Deborah Shaner and Dan Fallon opposing the change. Hunter Mortensen was absent from the meeting.
Discussions regarding dockless mobility devices — essentially any type of shared mobility mechanisms that users can access through an app on their phones and leave wherever they are when they’re done — began in April during a council workshop session. Council, wanting to set limits on the relatively new phenomenon, asked staff to draft an ordinance restricting the number of dockless bikes allowed in town while also outright banning all other dockless mobility devices, like scooters.
While the ordinance passed, it remains to be seen what exactly the effect of the code update will be and if changes will be necessary in the future.
“We don’t have any data,” Councilwoman Melissa Sherburne said. “We’re just guessing how this would happen. So, in my view, we should come up with a conservative ordinance, and let’s go from there to see what happens. This will be an experiment this summer. Maybe it will play out the way we hope. It might serve a niche, or it could be a disaster. We have no idea. But we’ve got to start somewhere.”
The new ordinance would limit the number of bikes to 17 for each operator, and the town would only allow three licenses, meaning the total number of dockless bikes allowed in town will be set at 51. Vanessa Agee, the town’s spokeswoman, said there were 25 bikes in town last year.
In addition to the number of restrictions, the ordinance will require operators to submit a $500 application fee on top of $80 per bike in case the town has to wrangle bikes or cover the costs of damage to public property. The ordinance also will require the operators to submit a management plan addressing how the bikes will be distributed, how the applicant will respond to complaints and abandoned bikes, how they’ll handle user education and more.
Though for some, the new restrictions aren’t enough.
“I did a lot of homework on this,” said Shaner, who wanted to ban dockless mobility devices altogether. “I’ve talked to business owners and bike shop owners, and I’ve thought about what we talked about at our retreat, and I don’t think this is good for the town. I don’t think introducing this business model to the town is a good idea.
“I think it’s something our bike shops don’t want. Those are valuable, and I don’t want to compete with them. I do want to encourage alternative transportation, but this is not the way to do it. We have plenty of people who ride bikes, and I think this would be a huge detriment to those Main Street businesses.”
On the other side of the coin, it’s unclear whether allowing 17 bikes per license will be a sustainable business model for operators. Fallon noted the $500 application fee, along with $80 per bike, would be cost prohibitive for local companies hoping to grab a license and might not be worth bigger companies’ time.
“The issue I have is it’s difficult for me to sit here and create something that regulates a business model I don’t understand,” Fallon said. “Is it in our interest to have a business, in which case we should be creating a little bit of an incentive? Or are we in fact regulating this business out of our community? … I just don’t know what the number is or if 17 is appropriate.”
The council discussed options to address the issue, including raising the total number of bikes allowed to 60 or 75, but members ultimately decided to move forward with the ordinance as written.
The ordinance will return to council for second reading and public hearing June 25. If passed, Frisco would join a few other municipalities in the state to begin regulating dockless mobility devices, including Fort Collins and Breckenridge, which passed a similar ordinance in February.
“It doesn’t make me nervous to pick this number today, understanding that if someone is having trouble with their business, we can revisit it and ask what the magic number is for them,” Councilwoman Jessica Burley said. “I think we do need to get out ahead of it and control it, but I’m absolutely all for alternative modes of transportation. So I think we need to try it. If nobody applies, then maybe there’s not a need. If there’s truly a need, then we may be approached, and they might say 17 is not enough to make this work.”
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