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City mulls permits for bike sharing companies

The Denton City Council is expected to talk about rules for new bike-sharing companies in February. 

So-called "dockless" bike-sharing came to North Texas and to Denton last year, and complaints soon followed. Rental bikes are left in key spots around town. A rider uses a smartphone application to unlock the bike and ride it for a fee, usually $1 an hour. Because riders can decide where to leave the bikes, rather than parking them at docking stations, some people view them as a nuisance, calling them expensive litter. 

A council committee was discussing possible rules for bike-sharing companies when city leaders saw the problem was becoming more pressing, according to Assistant City Manager Mario Canizares.

"Given the extremes of what other cities have done, we are taking it to the full City Council," Canizares said. 

The council's first work session on the topic has been scheduled for Feb. 6. 

At least five bike-sharing companies are battling for business in Dallas, which has street corners filled with bicycles waiting for use. In Dallas, the City Council has been reluctant to write any rules, hoping that the market would settle out. But some of the bikes end up in Highland Park, a town located within Dallas, where the council drew a line. The Town Council recently wrote a new ordinance that allows Highland Park to collect the bikes, impound them and eventually auction them. 

Garland-based VBikes, the first bike-sharing company to set up shop in Denton, arrived in June. Julie Anderson, the city's outgoing bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, told the City Council Mobility Committee in November that VBikes was operating with about 60 bicycles in Denton. 

(Beginning next week, Anderson is the new director of Keep Denton Beautiful. The bike coordinator job will become a transportation engineer position focusing on mobility for pedestrians and cyclists, according to a city report.) 

Another bike-sharing company is interested in coming to Denton, but it has been waiting to see whether the city will adopt new rules for bike-sharing, Canizares said. 

Currently, a bike-sharing company can set up business in Denton without any kind of application or permit, Canizares said. The mobility committee had been reviewing the way other cities permit bike-sharing to see what system might work best for Denton before the issue came to the fore. 

Meanwhile, the city staff are meeting with representatives from the bike-sharing companies. 

"We hope they can be part of the solution," Canizares said. 

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.

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NOTE: This story has been edited to clarify that Denton will continue to have a bike and pedestrian coordinator. 

FEATURED PHOTO: A row of VBikes stand at the Downtown Denton Transit Center on Friday. As a response to some finding the dockless bikes to be a nuisance, towns like Highland Park have begun regulating them. Denton is considering its options. 
Jake King/DRC