- Washington, DC's District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has again decided to extend its Dockless Vehicles Program for bikes and scooters, following a similar extension announced in April to run through August. Operators will each still have a 400 device cap.
- DDOT made what it calls "minor changes" to the program, like requiring dockless educational initiatives and that dockless bikes have a way to lock to fixed objects to prevent tipping. DDOT is also speeding up its bike rack installation.
- The extension will run from September through December. DDOT plans to make more changes next year after new regulations are proposed and adopted.
Although DDOT claims its changes to the dockless program are minor, the locking requirement doesn't really seem to fit that bill. It somewhat goes against the concept on which the dockless industry was founded, but it shows a trend that other cities are latching onto. Chicago amended its dockless pilot in July with the same locking requirement and ofo, one of the operators, ended up leaving the program. Ofo has since left a number of other cities where it operates.
Even though locking requirements are more restrictive, they help cities get a better handle on the dockless bikes and curb potentially bad parking behavior by customers. In reality, it only takes a few seconds more for a rider to lock a bike to a bike rack or other appropriate fixed structure than to leave it strewn on a sidewalk. The challenge mostly is for the dockless operators who don't have such mechanisms on their devices and will have to retrofit them.
DC was one of the first cities to launch a dockless pilot program last year and it worked with operators from the start. It has since extended the pilot a few times to continue offering an extra mobility option while it gathered input for a permanent regulatory framework. Scooters have been added to the program whereas the original pilot was only for dockless bikes, as the scooters didn't start popping up in cities until this year.
DDOT anticipates that the permanent program guidelines will pass in September, and dockless bike and scooter operators will be able to apply for permits before year's end. New rules will govern fees, equipment and operational standards, data sharing, program coverage in all parts of the city and enforcement measures. Operators participating in the current pilot will have to reapply for a permanent program permit. DDOT plans to start issuing the permits in January.