Breckenridge looks like it’s ready to ride with a dockless fleet of electric bicycles, but anyone who wants to offer such a shared-mobility program is going to have to pedal in step with the town.
That’s because even after town officials have pinpointed a shared-mobility program involving e-bikes as a potential traffic-reducing option for in-town travel, they’re looking at passing new licensing requirements designed to keep such a program in check.
At the beginning of the year, Breckenridge Town Council members talked about shared mobility, its potential to reduce motor vehicle traffic in town and what they don’t want to see happen with it.
The move followed last summer’s Summit Bike Share deployment of about 25 red, white and black electric bikes in Breckenridge. The rollout was trumpeted by a former town mayor and the numbers were far less than what bigger cities have seen with electric vehicles.
Local bike store owner Nick Truitt, who’s partnered with Boulder-based company UrBike to create Summit Bike Share, has previously said he believes the town’s only trying to get ahead of the problems the bigger cities have faced with the floods of electric scooters hitting their streets.
With that, town staff told council in January that they would return with a proposed ordinance later this year designed to meet council’s goals and address some of the concerns over safety, bike clutter and pedestrian impediments that have come up in town since last summer.
That proposal is now on council’s doorstep and slated for a vote on first reading at Tuesday night’s council meeting along with a couple other agenda items that would better define the different types of electric vehicles and bring Breckenridge’s rules for bicyclists in line with state law.
Most notably, anyone running a bike-share would have to seek a license through the town manager before deploying a fleet of shared bikes under the proposed ordinance.
Obtaining such a license would include proving a financial guarantee that the town could draw on should it incur any costs tied to repairing or maintaining town property as a result of the licensee’s bicycles.
Additionally, the guarantee would be reserved for any costs associated with the town having to remove or store a licensee’s bicycles, should those bikes be improperly parked, the license expires or if it is otherwise terminated.
Licenses could be revoked by the town manager after a hearing, and the police chief would be in charge of impounding any bikes left in unauthorized locations, according to the proposed ordinance.
For the financial guarantee, town staff’s suggested rate is $80 per bike up to $8,000 after a licensee pays the $500 initial licensing fee. If council takes another one of town staff’s suggestions in the proposal and limits each licensee to 50 shared bikes, the $8,000 cap would seem unnecessary.
However, the proposed ordinance also leaves some room for exceeding the numbers by giving the town manager the authority to adjust the number of bicycles each licensee may deploy in town based on the operator’s ability to meet key performance indicators set by the town manager.
With the proposed license application, operators would also have to submit a management plan, including developing strategies for people who don’t have access to smartphones or credit cards to use the bikes.
Another provision would force operators to have a service plan that ensures “equitable distribution” of shared bikes across town, including at the town’s transit facilities and in high-demand areas.
Furthermore, operators would have to provide a 24-hour customer service telephone number so users can report safety concerns, complaints or ask questions about the shared bicycles, and operators would have to relocate or redistribute their bicycles within two hours of receiving a request from the town.
During council’s e-bike discussions in January, nobody hit helmets — or the seemingly high number of riders who were not wearing one — harder than Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe.
Perhaps at her behest, the proposed ordinance contains specific language requiring operators to promote helmet use, in addition other stipulations geared toward educating riders about the rules of the road and proper parking.
Beyond the education elements, operators need to address maintenance of the fleet and describe how they will respond to complaints about improperly parked or abandoned bicycles, as well as any safety or operational concerns that may arise.
The proposed ordinance speaks to a dockless, shared-bike program. During discussions, council showed absolutely no taste for allowing e-scooters in town.