Like several cities around the country, Austin is going to start a new biking program that gives you more freedom. The concept is simple: you can pick up a bike and leave it where you want. 

“It offers some interesting opportunities but also some challenges,” said Laura Dierenfield, the division manager with the Active Transportation and Street Design with Austin’s Transportation Department. 

The city kicked off its first steps into making the dockless bike-sharing program a reality on Wednesday. Officials with the Transportation Department hosted a community forum at the Austin Central Library were 10 bike-share companies pitched their vision for the city to those in attendance.

However, for some across the country, and internationally, the bike-sharing program has been anything but an easy ride. Cities with the pilot programs like Seattle or our neighbors in Dallas are facing problems with the bicycles — from people leaving them piled up on sidewalks to throwing them in various waterways. 

So much so, one Dallas area resident went as far as creating a social media page documenting the mishaps from the program. 

It’s become such an issue some Dallas city officials are taking action and cracking down on the bike-sharing companies in the city. They’re looking at developing some form of policy or permit that would better manage the bicycles.  

In February, the Austin city council approved a 12-month long bike-sharing pilot program slated to begin this upcoming fiscal year following this Spring’s community forum aimed to hear from area residents. 

But Dierenfield says she’s hopeful it will work here.

“It’s good that we are not the pioneer in that sense and it also offers us a way to see how we should be structuring these programs,” she said. She adds they’ll look at how other cities have implemented the programs to ensure they don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Dierenfield says one of the biggest elements they’re keeping in mind is how to make the connection between this potential program and the city’s transit system. It could provide a way for people to get to and from transit stops that are too far to walk.

“Mobility choices are really important for people,” she said. “Having those commute times go down, making sure that you have a way to get around reliably and safely, that’s what makes a great city and we want to make sure people have those choices.”

If you would like to voice your opinion, the city’s transportation department will host the following forums:

  • Tue., April 10 – 6-7 p.m., Yarborough Library, 2200 Hancock Dr.
  • Mon., April 16 – 6-7 p.m., Willie Mae Kirk Library, 3101 Oak Springs Dr.
  • Sat., April 21 – 12 p.m., Earth Day ATX, Huston-Tillotson University, 900 Chicon St.
  • Fri., April 27 – 9 a.m.-12 p.m., Cultural Arts Training Room 201, E. 2nd St., Suite A
  • Sat., April 28 – 2:30-4 p.m., Twin Oaks Library, 1800 South 5th St.

Comment on this story below: