Aspen discusses future of e-bikes and dockless scooters in town
The city of Aspen is taking a proactive approach to companies looking to set up dockless mobility options like e-bikes and scooters in town by enacting a six-month pause on allowing them here.
In the meantime, city staff will spend the rest of the year developing a management plan through public outreach efforts and working with local bike shops.
Aspen City Council signed off on a comprehensive management approach during a work session Monday.
Dockless mobility operators have expressed interest in setting up shop in Aspen, according to John Krueger, the city’s director of transportation.
“They are proliferating around the country and around the world, so we are trying to be proactive,” he said.
Dockless programs are a relatively new trend in the world of transit, allowing users to rent, retrieve and return various mobility devices like e-bikes, trikes and scooters without the use of fixed stations.
Councilwoman Rachel Richards said she supports developing a comprehensive plan to manage dockless transportation modes because she has seen what they have done to other communities in which bikes and scooters have been abandoned on streets and sidewalks, tossed in the trash and even thrown in the river.
“I simply don’t want to see those issues in town,” she said. “If you are going to do this, you have to get ahead of it.”
Other issues to deal with are right-of-way management, safety, vandalism, city oversight and impacts to local businesses.
As it stands, a dockless operator would need only to obtain an Aspen business license and a temporary encroachment license to do business in the right-of-way, which puts the city in a reactive mode.
Mayor Torre said he has many concerns about dockless devices in town, particularly safety.
“They don’t work well in an urban setting,” he said.
Councilman Skippy Mesirow failed to convince his fellow electeds to not do a comprehensive plan and let the free market figure it out, allowing creativity and innovation to come from the transportation industry.
The city’s comprehensive plan will consider limiting the number of operators and devices that could be allowed, along with whether preference should go to local shops that want to get in the dockless business.
Ed Garland, co-owner of Aspen Bike Rentals, said he does not plan to pursue dockless devices because the business model doesn’t pencil out.
But he and his partner, Kevin Byford, support the six-month delay in allowing dockless operators from coming here and the comprehensive management plan.
Patrick Dietz, who owns Aspen Bicycles, said he is working on a dockless e-bike prototype with his business partner, Billy Taylor, who owns ReCycle Art Aspen.
Dietz told council they are still figuring out details on how it would operate in the community, and whether the city or other bike shops would want to partner.
“I would like this to be in the local environment,” he said.
Mitch Osur, the city’s director of parking and downtown services, said he just returned from a symposium with 100 municipalities represented.
He said the conversations were about scooters, not e-bikes, noting that they are being rolled out in 30 cities in the next week.
Dockless mobility has not yet been tested in Aspen but it soon will be.
Dockless operator Lime is coming to town in July during the Fortune Brainstorm forum, according to Krueger.
Lime plans to bring 50 scooters to Aspen to use by event attendees.
Because the event takes place on private property, it does not require a special event or other city permits.
However, Lime has agreed to educate event attendees on rules related to the appropriate use of scooters.
The city’s comprehensive management approach is estimated to cost $25,000, the majority of which would be spent on outreach efforts.
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