Paradise Valley explores bike-share program possibility, regulation

A view of when a bicycle from the local bike-share program is not conscientiously left behind for the next user (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

The Town of Paradise Valley is exploring the ins and outs of offering a bike-share program that could be available to the general public, but more likely to end up a unique amenity offering for local luxury resorts.

Paradise Valley Town Council — at the request of Councilman Scott Moore — held a study session Feb. 22 on the prospect of a bike-share program as bicycles have conspicuously been popping up in and around municipal limits.

“This is a fast moving issue in our community,” said Paradise Valley Town Manger Kevin Burke at the onset of the late February discussion.

“There are two models to the bike-share program; one that uses docks and bike racks and one that doesn’t. The main company with this is a company named GR:D. They actually partner with the municipality.”

Mr. Burke points out there is a formal agreement between municipality and bike-share program operators.

“There are actually General Fund dollars put into this program, so it is actually subsidized or partially funded by the municipality to offer this bike-sharing service to guests and residents of the municipality.”

To the celebration of some and chagrin of others, the ongoing bike-share programs enlisted in both Scottsdale and Phoenix have brought multi-modal transportation to the forefront of Paradise Valley thoroughfares and rights-of-way.

“A bike can be picked up and dropped off anywhere, and that is where the problems start to arise,” Mr. Burke said of local concerns expressed at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

“They are originating in Scottsdale where they are most prevalent and then being dropped off in Paradise Valley. When they started showing up about a month ago we would get calls or just discover them and deal with them typically to how we deal with lost property.”

Increasing the usage of bicycles in the city of Scottsdale, specifically downtown Scottsdale, has been a focus of municipal leaders for more than five years, Scottsdale city officials say.

Last summer, Scottsdale transportation officials got their wish.

There are a total of four bike-share companies operating within Scottsdale city limits:

  • LimeBike, which are green and yellow bicycles;
  • Spin, which are orange bicycles;
  • Ofo, which are yellow bicycles; and
  • GR:D, which are all green bicycles.

Councilman Moore says he has seen the impact of bike-share programs in the central Phoenix and south Scottsdale region first-hand.

“This certainly has been moving quickly and I have been in some conversation with Scottsdale City Council to see what their stance is,” he said.

Scott Moore

Scottsdale bike riders, he says, tend to travel into the town and then leave the bike on town property. The town can only collect them and hold onto them.

“They were just left in the middle of the street … We don’t have any sidewalk. It is interesting that staff is making this a new department. It is great that you are collecting all the bicycles for free I am not sure where all of this is heading.”

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to host a follow-up discussion on the possibility of implementing a bike-share program as well as the possibility of an impound program for astray bikes.

Managing market disruption

Paradise Valley officials contend the popularity of the bike-share programs in neighboring Scottsdale and Phoenix is a good thing, but blocking municipal rights-of-way and leaving bikes in the middle of the street is not.

“At what point does it become a profitable thing and what is the business plan?” Councilman Moore said of his questions spurred by town resources to help manage the actions of consumers.

(submitted photo)

“What is the safer approach to take if we do anything with this?”

Mr. Burke says town leaders have contemplated developing an impound program for when bikes are left astray.

“This should not be a cost to the town,” he said of the overbearing approach to bike-share mitigation. He says town staff has corralled 19 bicycles since Feb. 14.

Paradise Valley Councilman Paul Dembow says he believes local resort operators would like to offer some kind of bike-share program.

“I think that a lot of people who visit the resorts will use them,” he said. “We would have to be paid to get the bikes, but that is not going to be sustainable. They know exactly where the bikes are because it shows them on the app. I know the resorts would really like to offer them as a unique amenity.”

Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner says a resort program is one thing while a townwide program is quite another.

“I think this is pretty simple. We are a limited government town,” he said.

“People want to ride a bike, rent a bike in Scottsdale and leave it in a front yard and maybe that is OK for the bike companies , maybe it’s not. That is one thing, but when we are talking about anything being left in our right-of-way that we are expecting our public works folks to stop and pick up at their own risks — that is the issue for me.”

Vice Mayor Bien-Willner contends the issue is not about the business model or riding bicycles in the Town of Paradise Valley — its about safety.

“It’s not whether or not we like this business, I don’t care about this business one way or another. If they can make money doing it; great,” he said.

“For our resorts, and as long as it’s not a violation of their (special use permit), their guidelines and they have a right to put in that bike rack for those bikes, go ahead. I just don’t want to see them on the sidewalks, any right-of-way, even a bus stop because that is a potential hazard to pedestrians and other cyclists, motorists.”

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace offered a similar sentiment.

“We need to be really careful — it’s either everybody or nobody,” she said of the usage of municipal rights-of-way and public sidewalk.

“We can’t block for individuals with disability to use the sidewalks. This has some great opportunities as a business model, but they have to follow the rules. If you throw trash in the road you get a ticket. If we are blocking this for ADA rules we are not OK with that.”

North Valley News Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at 623-445-2774 or at tthornton@newszap.com

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