Safety concerns grow as new bike share company comes to Dallas

News of a fifth bike-sharing company is touching a nerve with several people along the Dallas Katy Trail.

Dallas has seen a surge in companies bringing bikes of assorted colors to the streets for the public to use. A lot of them can be found around the pedestrian and bike-friendly Katy Trail.

Friends of Katy Trail, a non-profit that maintains it, is going to be meeting with city transportation officials and bike-sharing company leaders next week to talk about the problem of too many bikes being left around. They say part of the problem is there are too many bikes. On Thursday, they counted more than 130 in a three-and-a-half-mile stretch.                     

“It just looks like abandoned bikes,” said pedestrian Megan Gorgas. “It’s kind of sad.”

Folks taking the popular path see the bikes every couple hundred feet. Sometimes, they’re in neat clusters while other times they’re in disarray.

“I feel like a ton of people on the trail are riding them,” Gorgas said. “I don't know who is just dumping them on the side.”

Robin Baldock and Lauren Whitson with Friends of Katy Trail walked to gather data and take photos of the bikes. Their trail manager has recently had to spend time moving them.

“Sometimes we find them right in the middle of the trail, which of course is unsafe,” Whitson said.

They know the bikes are popular but worry there's far too many with hardly any rules or oversight over where they can be dumped.

“It’s definitely over saturated,” Whitson said. “It’s costing us a lot of money to upkeep our landscaping. And, frankly, it isn’t very safe.”

Right now, the city is letting the bike share companies do what they want and studying them. People can call 311 with complaints. Around 90 people already have.

But a transportation official with the city of Dallas says regulation recommendations are coming next year. It could mean permits or possible fines.

Everett Weiler just started as general manager of Ofo on Monday. He says one goal is teaching cyclists where to leave the bikes.

“The more that our users get familiar with bike sharing, the better of the whole community is going to be,” he said.

Until then, the often visible growing pains will remain dotting the Dallas landscape.

Although city staff plan to recommend regulations to a city council subcommittee, it's not clear what council will decide.

U-Bicycle is the fifth bike sharing company to expand to Dallas. The plan is for it to bring less than 100 bikes sometime in the month of December.