Boston starts war on non-Hubway rental bikes

The Globe reports Boston is not going to let some bike startups do to Hubway/Blue Bikes what Uber and Lyft did to local cabs - the city's started seizing bikes from companies that let users just dump their bikes anywhere as they begin to infiltrate the city.

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monopoly

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Why is the city allowing Hubway to have a monopoly? Whats wrong with other bike companies coming in town they are much cheaper! Give consumers a choice. $7/hr vs. $1/hr, we need more competition!

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Saying hubway is $7 an hour is pretty misleading

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Hubway is $99 for a years worth of 45 minute rides. Now its even cheaper since they offering $15 off. Saying hubway is $7 an hour is pretty misleading.
So if you are going to use it more than 3 roundtrips a month hubway is cheaper, and has many more bikes.

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I've used a hubway bike once,

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I've used a hubway bike once, from Davis Sq to Teele. Figured it'd be easier than an uber. It was more than $7 and the bike was barely workable. If they're getting a sponsorship to advertise by changing their name, and Ant bike, limebike, owo, etc aren't even allowed to operate, the service should be free.

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Investment

The city owns the bikes and system with the goal of making enough money to cover the private management and upkeep of the bikes. Having competition won't help that. Boston signed an exclusive deal back when they didn't even consider there might be an alternative and they are bound by that contact.

In all likelihood, had dockless bikes been a possibility when Hubway was proposed it's just as likely they would have used that system. The suburbs waited longer and have more choices.

It's all a mess and only going to get worse. Hubway has it's problems but at least the bikes don't get left in the middle of the sidewalk or piled in a mess. But I've been screwed and missed the train several times when all the hubway docks were used up.

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Now you make me sad

RIP Frau Swag.

She's probably in the giant lineup of these vehicles at the former NAS South Weymouth.

*sob*

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Walk and chew gun

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Boston can be much more bike/pedestrian oriented, while we also make sure these hipster startups don't distrupt their problems onto the community and taxpayers.

We could do both.

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Cool

While we're making Boston much more bike/pedestrian oriented, can we also make sure these car companies don't distrupt their problems onto the community and taxpayers?

Cause we really can't seem to do both.

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We've Learned

Fortunately, we've learned from the experience in China and can balance common sense regulations against complete prohibition (or chaos).

DC has 5+ companies operating today and they are complementing the existing docked Capital Bikeshare system.

The city only allows each operator to have a set number of bikes (so you never get the piles seen in some Chinese cities), mandates data sharing, and more.

See "Dockless bikeshare helped grow the total shared bicycle trips in DC": https://ggwash.org/view/67638/dockless-bikeshare-helped-grow-the-total-s...

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There is a theory

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that certain services are best served by monopolies, such as mail delivery. This is part of why the USPS is granted a monopoly on delivery of first-class mail; if it had competitors, there would be a race-to-the-bottom that would not serve the populace well.

I don't know if this is *true* for Hubway, but it might be the legal theory at work.

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I've been a Hubway member for years....

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...but they STILL haven't expanded into my neighborhood in Dorchester! Maybe a little competition will force them to better serve the communities they operate in. I use hubway a few times a week, but I welcome the dockless bikes!

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I started to notice

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Bikes from ride sharing programs in Cambridge being left around the Greenway. I believe one was Ant Bike......

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double-take

Weird, that is not the ANT bike I was expecting. Don't think you'd ever see one of those just lying around.

(edited for herf)

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Was stealing the name

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A clueless move, or just a dick move?

And how does a business get incorporated using the name of a company that's in a similar space? Yes, the business models are different, but still: bikes is bikes. I'm assuming I probably couldn't name my restaurant Boca Grande, even if it served Norwegian food.

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clueless?

I assumed clueless. ANT (the real one) is pretty small/niche, I wouldn't expect anyone who's not pretty into cycling to know it.

However, I am very surprised it got past the lawyers.

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Agree

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I walk the Greenway early in the morning and it looked more like Ant Bike was selectively placing their bikes in high visibility areas than it did random riders leaving them where they shouldn't be. Even if they were left where they shouldn't be, the bikes should have been collected overnight, no?

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Petty

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Got to protect those revenue sources I guess though.

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Hubway is a lot more

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Hubway is a lot more expensive than Ant for one-off trips ($2.50 vs $1). Either Hubway is charging too much, or Ant is charging too little.

If Hubway is charging too much, then it's going to have a hard time keeping lower-cost competitors from popping up.

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Hubway is (was?) loosing money

The previous management company went bankrupt.

Hubway bikes are better built and the docks add a lot of cost. They also don't require a smartphone which not everyone has. I'm curious if the dockless companies are actually making money or just hoping to build a following before raising prices.

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And...

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the ban hammer will come down on privately owned bikes...

and maybe a tax on walking with your own two feet...

and just for laughs, a prohibition on carrying more than 10 lbs...sorry 5kg--got to be PC about units of measurement you see... of groceries without engaging the services of a licensed and insured schlepper.

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Metric isn't PC

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Metric is a far more useful and consistent measurement system used by most of the world and by scientists, too.

That's not "PC" - that's rational.

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English Units are Politically Correct

The Metric System is just sensible, internally consistent, and rational.

Science uses it. Most countries use it. The only reason the US doesn't use metric is ... politics!

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There is nothing rational about metric units

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Basing your standards on water and the length of the quarter-meridian through Paris is just as arbitrary as basing it on human anatomy...and slightly less convenient for everyday use.

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No

Metric units are designed to be rational. They multiply with orders of magnitude. They are based on weight and volume of water. They have inherent interoperability. That is why they are standard in scientific measurements and engineering systems. Simple.

https://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/units/metric.html

You are just incapable of understanding rationality.

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You're funny

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There's nothing special or extra rational about water, the quarter meridian through Paris, or the number 10. They are completely arbitrary choices. You might not understand what 'arbitrary' means but that's not for me to correct.

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Rational Thoughts

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Water - The basis of the metric units for mass and volume. Pure water has the exact same properties worldwide if measured under the same conditions. Not arbitrary.

Paris Meridian and the Meter - I admittedly didn't know the history here, so I looked it up:

...the Paris meridian was also a sound choice for practical scientific reasons: a portion of the quadrant from Dunkirk to Barcelona (about 1000 km, or one-tenth of the total) could be surveyed with start- and end-points at sea level, and that portion was roughly in the middle of the quadrant, where the effects of the Earth's oblateness were expected to be the largest

Somewhat arbitrary, yes, but not completely.

The Number 10 - This is arguably the biggest advantage to the Metric system. With few exceptions, the base-10 number system is used worldwide for nearly everything. That includes both the English and Metric measurement systems. Metric units can be changed with a simple movement of the decimal point. The English system requires unique multipliers to do the same, depending on what units you're working with. That seems overly complicated. 10 may not be "special", but it is certainly a rational basis for a measurement system. How anybody can deny that is beyond me.

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Nothing rational about 10?

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Nothing rational about 10?

Ok, quick and without a calculator, convert 300 feet into miles.

Now convert 300 meters into km.

Which was easier?

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What if I'm carrying over 5

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What if I'm carrying over 5 kilos of groceries on my private bike?

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...and the market will

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...and the market will eventually be dominated by a handful of Bicycle Tycoons.

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Seems like a series of easy solutions

This sounds like a solid argument for the city installing bike corals on most blocks, just like we install free resident parking for cars. There might be someway to tie a fee to it like we do for metered spots in high demand areas but in general, the precedent has already been set. And we already have public parking spaces that have been rented out to ZipCar, so theres another option.

Enforcement could be quite easy since each bike as unique company identity and serial number. The bike companies could be fined/bikes confiscated and pass along those costs to the particular users who improperly park their bikes, just like we do with cars. As a ZipCar member, those are things we have to take into consideration already.

And we can let the free market dictate the volume of bikes that different areas would demand, based on the usage and needs of the bikeshare members. This might be more ideal for neighborhoods in parts of the city that haven't been deemed worthy of Hubway/Blue Bike expansion yet. Again this is similar to how we have allocated public space for private vehicles and demand for those spots overtime is influenced by how its used.

Just seems like a much better option to encourage not only competition but give alternative transit options for peoples mobility in the city. Of course that'll mean taking away some parking spaces from cars and as a result, I expect some very logical and well-worded rebuttals to these ideas.

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Doesn't make sense

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Parking spots for bicycles are not scarce like parking spaces for cars.

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Think again

Its illegal for us to tie up to public property, unless its a bike rack and frequently you will see signs saying we can't lock to private property. In both cases we risk having our locks cut and bikes confiscated, just like cars risk getting towed for illegally parking.

So really we are limited to the few bike racks around town that we've been graced with and thats just not enough. Parking spots for bicycles are far scarcer than parking for cars.

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FYI

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In Boston, you can lock to any signpost that isn’t a sign for accessible parking.

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Totally Bogus

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I smell a lawsuit - don't waste your time or your money. Like your stupid taxi rules, the world will move faster than the city and the city will lose in the end.

Now if we can just do something about restrictions on the number of liquor licenses...

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Under what authority?

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Under what authority?

I can rent a bike from whoever I want, and leave it or lock it anywhere legal. Why should it matter if I'm renting it from a company for a short amount of time?

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You would think........

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but much like Marty and the AirBnB scenario, big gov't will tell you what's best, especially if they're not getting a cut.

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It is already illegal to lock

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It is already illegal to lock a bike to public property that is not a bike rack. Always has been. That is how they remove them all when there is a parade or the Marathon, etc. Mostly it doesn’t get enforced against people who do it with private bikes. Now we are talking about someone who’s business model is to use public space for private profit. Different thing.

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Three things

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- Monopolies are rarely best for the customer in the long run

- Innovation is going to happen. As someone mentioned up above, had dockless systems been available earlier, it might have been selected by the municipalities

- Shockingly, where people need or want to go is not governed by municipal / political boundaries and to pretend otherwise is bizarre.

I hope that the municipalities come up with a better answer than "BAN THE INSIPID INFIDEL BIKE AGITATORS IN OUR MIDST."

I'm not against some sort of reasonable regulation and monitoring, but protectionist, political boundary oriented approaches doesn't seem like the answer to me.

Of course, this is Boston.

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My take

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Boston (et al) paid good money to create a nice bike-share system, part of which states that Hubway/Bluebikes will be the sole provider. Boston's confiscation of competing bikes is merely living up to the agreement they signed. The idea is to have one well-funded and maintained system for bike sharing, which I'd say they have mainly achieved, yes at the expense of competition.

Going forward, there is nothing to say that Bluebikes can't incorporate dockless bikes or perhaps migrate to being all dockless (it's been done elsewhere.) When the next renewal of the contract comes up, if Ant (or someone else) wants to offer a better deal to the cities, then by all means let's have a contest. But for now, a deal is in place and it's the city's obligation to uphold the arrangement that they signed with Bluebikes.

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Honestly I understand your

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Honestly I understand your point. I think the concern is the City limiting people's option to one choice, and now you are bound to Hubway regardless. Competition is a good thing. The City is way to entrenched in Uber, AirBnB and other little nonsense instead of focusing on violence, roads, MBTA and other necessities. The City keeps shoving bike lines into this world-class City, but we only have room for one vendor.

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The biggest problem I see is

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The biggest problem I see is the wealthy and hipster segments have had Hubway for YEARS while the inner suburbs and urban areas that are less white have been sitting around waiting for bike access. Many of these areas still do not have that access... which means if you want to bike from Roxbury to Downtown or Everett to Downtown you will not be able to if the city of Boston swoops in and junks the bikes.

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There is ONE way

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You can BUY a bike and ride from point A to point B, no matter where they are located.

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Roxbury

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There are plenty of Blue Bike stations in Roxbury, though there are still large sections of Dorchester that aren't covered.

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Need a different analogy

This isn't like Uber and Lyft disrupting cabs.

This is more like banning non-Zip Car rental cars from parking in Boston.

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Actually its more like

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them banning you from running your own personal train on the MBTA tracks, or charging fares on your own gypsy-bus using the existing bus stops.
Hubway is a city owned transportation infrastructure mode of transit. They own the bikes, they own the stations, they own the trucks that move the bikes, and they contract out Hubway to run it for them. No one is saying you can't rent bikes from somewhere else and ride them into the city, you would just have to lock it up, bring it inside, etc, just as you would your personal bike. If you just dump the bike on a sidewalk it is within the city's rights to pick up abandoned property. If the rental company wants to get there before the public works truck that's on them I suppose.
If a mom and pop storefront operation rented out bikes you would have to return it to them no? Or else be charged for the price of the bike? If you were renting from Joey's Bike Rentals would you ride their bike to work then toss it behind the bushes or on the lawn? No you would not.
These other bike rental services are allowed by law to exist, but if they wanna play ball in Boston they are gonna have to come up with a different model than "just throw this where ever you want, it's fine"

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Swimming Pools

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The City and the State both operate public swimming pools. Some require admission fees of different sorts, presumably to offset maintenance costs. This bike crusade would be like banning hotels from also providing access to their pools for a fee, because it may theoretically cut into the 'business' that the City is doing, under the pretense that it would be starving the public of the revenue needed to maintain the publicly-run parks and pool system.

The problem here, is the City competing with private companies in the free market in an area where it shouldn't be. I mean, it's bikes for crapssakes! This is the government that won't compete against drug companies that are bilking the public beyond belief re prescription medicines - but they'll go after some little bikeshare start-up in the 'public interest'?

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there is something

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crazy about the city confiscating rented bikes for the purposes of an exclusive contract. I am not an attorney but I am really wondering how they can get away with that for very long

what if the city had a contract with Honda or Toyota, and was going to confiscate all other cars? At some point, the principle has to shine through **even if and despite of** ya'll being used to might makes right

cars are not going to be here in 100 years, and you all know it

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You have drivers essentially

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You have drivers essentially stealing thousands of dollars by illegally using handicap placards on a daily basis which get them free parking, yet there is no enforcement of that. But someone rides a non blue bike into Boston? CAN'T HAVE THAT!!1!

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I don't get this reaction

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(Sorry, this is kind of rambly, tl;dr: the operation costs for a dockless system are probably pretty high and they only scale by putting a lot of bikes in to the system and probably won't make money.)

I'm not sold on dockless bikes, really. The big problem with Hubway is peak hour balance (heck, that's a problem with all transportation). But at least the bikes go somewhere predictable (a bike station) and the operator can pick them up and bring them back for the next round of commuters (Hubway does just this).

A dockless bike share operator would have the same issue, except that the bikes wouldn't go anywhere predictable, so the only way to get bikes from one place to another would be to pay someone to drive around and find them wherever they are. That's not scalable or feasible. So most of these bikes will wind up getting one ride a day from commuters, if that (but probably a lot less). And they'll pile up in places during the day. The point of Hubway as an operator is to help rebalance the system (which they don't always do a great job of). Plus there's the question of: if each of these bicycles has a single user, why not just buy your own bike? And when there's a foot and a half of snow, do these bikes just sit in ice until they melt, or does someone schlep around with a shovel to rescue each one? Maybe they're a gateway drug to biking more, but I sort of wonder.

What Hubway might be concerned about is losing some of the lucrative tourist business. I pay $99 a year for Hubway (well, less, my employer subsidizes it) for all the rides I can take. A lot of tourists are happy to $8 per day to ride, and then to pay overtime fees, because what's a $20 ride when you've dropped $250 on a hotel room and $600 on flights and $40 for a trolley tour duck tour or—good lord—$60 for an hour-long Segue tour. The city probably wants to soak the tourists, and I'm kind of okay with that to subsidize a service that actually works for commuters.

The dockless bike finance model seems to be the Lyft/Uber model (or the Underpants Gnome model): put a lot of things out on the road, ???, profit. $350 per bike capital cost, so if you can get 4 rides per day you'll pay it back within 90 days, hooray! Except that you have to have some staff, the bikes are going to get abused, rebalanced, etc, and the operational costs of a dockless system are higher than the a dock system (albeit with lower capital costs). If each bike has to get "rescued" from somewhere and brought back in to the system once a week and serviced once a month, that's five touches a month. If each takes an hour of personnel time (to get to the bike, and then bring it somewhere) and you can get away with paying someone $20 per hour (with overhead costs included, this isn't much) you're looking at an operational cost of $1200 per year. Now you'd need those 4 rides per day (apparently, in China, it's 3.2 rides per bike per day, and the company started because people kept stealing bikes) just to cover these costs. And you can't afford to have bikes parked in people's yards, or pushed in to the bushes, or thrown in the river, or just parked behind a wall where it's hard to find them and they can't get a great GPS signal, because then they generate no money. And at least right now there's no price discrimination, so there's no upside for tourist business. Plus if they're getting this much ridership, people probably figure out they can just buy a goddamn bike and a U-lock.

Boston/Cambridge/Brookline/Somerville probably realizes that if these bikes are basically abandoned property and removed, it pretty quickly kills off the questionable business model once and for all. The dockless companies can suggest that people leave them in allowable spaces (bike racks, street signs, public property not blocking sidewalks) but they have no enforcement mechanism. And the city does have an interest in keeping the sidewalks clear. I'd say the cities' policy should be something along the lines of "We'll let these bikes in, but if they're left somewhere illegal, we're removing them, just like we would with any other bicycle." Except since the dockless bikes (generally) don't have to be locked up, they don't have to get someone out from DPW with an angle grinder.

So anyway, this was a total ramble, but I don't believe the dockless bike hype.

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Good rant

Good points. Rummer has it Hubway is trying to figure out some combo bike which would dock in the city and be dockless in the suburbs. Other cities require dockless bikes be locked to something so hopefully they don't cause as much clutter. Both are good better alternatives.

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Thank you for calling them rentals

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"Bike-sharing" is too much like that "sharing economy" newspeak, made up by people who never learned sharing in kindergarten, but must have gone to a kindergarten where they were taught to lie, cheat, and exploit the masses. Maybe in Connecticut.

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