Bikeshare battle ramping up as new laws are contemplated

Always Investigating

A new dockless-bike sharing company is getting warned by the city.

You may remember last year when officials started rounding up rogue Lime Scooters left on city streets. Now police have started to confiscate similarly green Sharee dockless bikes.

HPD tells KHON2 that the bikes are being removed when parked illegally on sidewalks and public property. RideSharee, which launched several months ago with green bikes branded Sharee, says they’re entitled to park at any bike rack.

Honolulu’s mayor says new laws to rein in all kinds of rideshare may be coming down the pike.

Bike sharing has taken off in Honolulu. Biki passed the 2 millionth ride milestone recently. Competitor Sharee is now on the scene.

Frequent riders like the convenience of these services.

“There’s one outside my apartment and it’s really easy to get to,” says Biki rider Alex da Costa Ferro, “and it goes straight to my job so that helps.”

KHON2 asked, when she sees other competing services and options pop up, would she try that?

“I think I’d be worried a little bit,” she said. “I know that Lime scooters were here for a while and a lot of those got thrown into the Ala Wai, which was uncool.”

When Lime scooters swooped into the market last year, authorities swarmed in, too. The dockless scooters came and went from Honolulu’s streets.

“It’s what we did with Lime, it’s what we’re going to do with Sharee,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell told Always Investigating, as he saw Sharee bikes parked on public property in Waikiki. “Bottom line, it’s illegal to park a vehicle on a sidewalk and a bicycle is a vehicle.”

The Honolulu Police Department said they have confiscated several, telling KHON2 in a statement: They are considered found property and may be claimed by the owner upon presentation of ownership papers.

“We do have an indiscriminate parking policy and on a case-by-case basis, and we are finding that there are some cases of sabotage,” Alexander Wong, CEO of RideSharee, told KHON2 in a statement. We also have been experiencing a high volume of vandalism and theft, whether it be entire bicycles painted in various colors or parts of bikes taken. The culprits are destroying the GPS locks and using the bikes to get from place to place with a lack of respect for public property. We do have good people in the community who report these incidents to us, and we have recovered quite a few. For those bikes that are operating properly, we usually will pick these up 1-2 days to reset.

Wong adds: If a person rides the bike, they are entitled to park at a bike rack, no different than if they ride their own bike or if they rent a bike from a bike rental shop.

Mayor Caldwell says otherwise, saying bike racks are off limits to bikes like Sharee whose point of sale is out on the street. He says that’s different than a Biki, which comes and goes from designated docks, or bikes rented Sharee points out, SHAREE has stations at Ohana Hale Marketplace, Next Step Shelter, HPU and various office buildings. Riders can pick up from those locations and then ride to their end destination, parking at a bike rack. SHAREE personnel will pick up bikes 1-2 days to reset, Wong said.

The mayor takes issue with the bikes being left on public property, that they appear to be for rent where they stand, and that the company instructs users to park in any bike rack.

“In fact, I have a letter here that we sent to them back in November of 2018 that made it very clear in black and white what they can and cannot do,” Caldwell said, adding that city officials met with Sharee several times about the rules, too.

“We’re willing to work with folks but just coming in and acting like it’s the wild, wild west and doing what you want when you want, it is not acceptable,” Caldwell said.

When he saw several on the Waikiki public property, he said: I want to go get them. but I’m going to leave that up to the appropriate authorities.’

“I think as you saw with Lime, we will enforce the laws, and they will see the consequences,” Caldwell said. We support multimodal transportation. We want to come up with a way to deal with shared mobility.

KHON2 asked what would have to go into a new law?

“I think we have to look at, kind of like Biki bike, we’ll give you permission to park in these areas but specifically in these areas,” Caldwell said, “and anywhere else you’re not allowed, and that your system would have to have some type of technology such that you will be charged if you park in areas where you can’t.”

Biki currently does not pay for their spaces. Their rollout was set up in partnership with the city, and they are formed as a nonprofit called Bikeshare Hawaii, though a huge chunk of the revenue passes through to a for-profit operator.

Biki responded: “This practice is often used across the country for nonprofits in bike share and the city has been onboard since the beginning,” according to Todd Boulanger, Bikeshare Hawaii executive director.

Sharee points out the benefits of their kinds of systems. “Dockless bike share will allow the user to end their ride within several hundred feet of their end destination,” Wong told KHON2. “The bikes also do not require huge docking stations that block parking spaces.”

Biki says, The dockless bike/scooter management model can result in entropy on our public sidewalks and unfortunately Honolulu does not have the spare room on many of our sidewalks and plaza areas to safely accommodate such systems, according to Boulanger.

KHON2 asked the mayor, does he think you’ll move to where all players in this competitive field pay something?

“I think we’re looking at it right now in terms of shared mobility,” Caldwell said. This is a public asset and people are making money off of it. I think there is a cost to using it, and it’s something that we’d like to charge for. Many other cities do it, even in rideshare. For example, New York charges for the cost of using their street to do a commercial transaction. We are absolutely looking at all of these different measures.

Rideshare would apply equally to everyone,” Caldwell said. Unless perhaps Biki is a somewhat of a partnership with the city and the state. We both put millions of dollars into the system. That’s a little bit different than a true arms-length third-party coming in, in my mind.

We’ll follow up as bikeshare and rideshare continues to grow across Oahu, and report back when proposed laws and new regulations start to take shape.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.