After cutting the expensive and underused Divvy bike-sharing program in early 2018, the Oak Park Board of Trustees is looking into the less expensive option of dockless bike sharing in the village.
Cameron Davis, the newly hired assistant director of the village’s Development Customer Services Department, said he is researching what other municipalities are doing with dockless bike companies.
Dockless bicycles are different than Divvy bikes in that they do not have to be returned to a docking station, but rather can be left or locked up at any location. Some bike-sharing companies require dockless bikes to be returned to a predetermined area.
Dockless bikes, referred to by some as DoBi bikes, have had problems in some cities like Dallas, where the bikes have become an unsightly mess, because of users leaving them piled up in public spaces.
Davis said users can find DoBi bikes using a smartphone app and GPS tracking equipment on the bikes.
About five DoBi companies are interested in setting up shop in Oak Park, and Davis said he prefers eventually letting at least two operate in the village to encourage competition.
“Competition always elevates services,” he said.
The village also is working to develop a set of regulatory guidelines for DoBi bikes over the next few months to avoid some of the problems experienced in other cities.
Davis is planning to have a regulatory framework in place in late 2018 and a rollout of DoBi bikes in the spring of 2019.
Creating a relationship with DoBi companies is not likely to cost the village anything, unlike the costly Divvy program, which cost the village $26,665 a month at the time trustees pulled the plug on the program in January.
Trustee Bob Tucker said he usually prefers Oak Park to be ahead of the curve with programs like dockless bike sharing, but said he wants to learn from other communities’ mistakes before funding another bike-sharing program.
Trustee Dan Moroney suggested contacting officials in Forest Park and River Forest to potentially coordinate on a larger bike-sharing program. Trustee Deno Andrews similarly suggested coordinating with the Cook County Forest Preserve District, which recently launched its own DoBi system with dockless bike company HOPR and is bringing about 500 bikes to the forest preserve trail system.