Walk Bike Nashville Supports Dockless Bill

Walk Bike Nashville strongly supports for the regulatory bill (BL2018-1202) proposed by Councilman Elrod and others to create a dockless bicycle and scooter permit. This is a bill that we have been working on, along with Metro Planning and Council, for over 6 months. The introduction of a full dockless scooter and bicycle pilot program would have many benefits for transportation, and our work to promote non-auto transportation. 
A few reasons why we hold this belief:
  1. Dockless bicycles and scooters are used for transportation: data from the 1-year pilot in Seattle show that fully 75% of users report using dockless bikes to or from transit. We know from our experience in Nashville that the average Bird ride was 1.9 miles, which means most were trips that otherwise would have been made in cars. The dockless nature of these businesses means they are far more useful for people either traveling short distances within the city, or to/from transit than a traditional docked-bicycle or even a personal bicycle in many cases. Anything to get people out of their personal cars is good for Nashville: it reduces traffic, reduces carbon footprint, and creates a more vibrant/safer city.  
  2. These businesses are better at attracting diverse users than traditional bikeshare. In Washington DC, a recent study showed that dockless bikes are used by a more diverse audience, and are used much more in undeserved portions of the district. There is huge potential for dockless bikes/scooters to reach areas of Nashville that currently lack access to B-Cycle, which are primarily built through development. Essential to ensuring dockless vehicles are available in all of Nashville is not prematurely setting low city-wide caps. 
  3. SUMDs will mean safer streets. It's a well known fact that the more people in a bike lane, or in a street in a low-speed vehicle, the safer that street is for all users. There's safety in numbers and the benefits of added slow-moving road users far out-weigh the overly dramatic fears about scooters running over pedestrians. Cars kill people, we should be working to make sure vulnerable road users are protected from car-drivers, whether those users are on private bicycles or scooters, on foot, or on a SUMD.
  4. Dockless Bikes and Scooters will be hugely beneficial to our advocacy efforts: A chief reason we hear for not building safe bicycle infrastructure is that some people believe not enough people are using bicycle lanes to merit taking away space from cars. A dramatic increase in the number of people using bicycle lanes -- which we saw during the Bird pre-pilot-- is the single best thing we could ask for in convincing neighborhoods to support bicycle lanes. Dockless scooters in particular will also get a whole new type of person in Nashville out of their cars, into the street, which means countless new allies in our efforts to create safer streets. To this end the data we would get from these companies would invaluable in creating safer streets in Nashville.

BL02018-1202 is a relatively restrictive bill that gives Metro wide leeway to restrict these companies for public safety and the general public good. This is also just a pilot -- there will likely be growing pains and things learned along the way. We therefore support this bill and look forward to having many more bicycles and scooters on the road!