OCEAN CITY – Efforts to prohibit, or at least regulate, dockless bike and scooter rentals are moving forward in Ocean City as a resort committee this week agreed to seek legal advice and support from county officials.
On Monday, the Ocean City Police Commission agreed to contact the town’s city solicitor, as well as other resort and county officials, in an attempt to prohibit, or at least regulate, dockless bike and scooter operations in town.
As the name suggests, dockless bikes and scooters do not require a bike rack or docking station and can be rented and unlocked using a smartphone app.
The growing popularity of such systems was first discussed at a commission meeting last year, but officials at the time made no motion to act on the matter.
Back on the agenda for discussion this week, Ocean City Police Department Captain Michael Colbert told the commission dockless bikeshare companies often place hundreds of bikes on public property.
“They’ll dump 300 in there, and another company will dump 300, and another company will dump 300 …,” he said. “They quickly overload the area, and there isn’t a lot of protocol.”
Colbert added the bikes often clutter public and private property.
“People stop riding them and they just throw them against a tree or up against a building,” he said.
Colbert told the commission a new trade association for the bikeshare industry has guidelines for working with municipalities to introduce dockless systems, but noted not all companies followed its recommendations.
Mayor Rick Meehan suggested Ocean City be proactive in dealing with dockless bike and scooter rentals. He questioned if the town could prohibit such operations.
“I’m really concerned about this,” he said, “that we’d become a dumping ground for these bikes.”
Colbert pointed to several cities that have placed strict regulations on dockless systems. But he suggested resort officials contact that city solicitor for advice on prohibiting such operations.
“Certainly, you can put rules and regulations in place,” he said.
Meehan said dockless systems could create public safety issues and could lead to complaints from residents and visitors.
“I think what we ought to do at this point in time is not allow them, period, if possible,” he said.
Council Secretary Mary Knight also highlighted the importance of working with the county. She explained any dockless systems set up in West Ocean City, where many J-1 students live, could migrate to the resort.
“I think this is something Mr. Mayor might want to make the commissioners aware of also …,” she said. “If we do something, they should also do something.”
Council President Lloyd Martin said the town did not want to see business licenses issued to dockless bikeshare companies.
“We don’t want to issue a license for this,” he said. “It’s not a bicycle rental shop. If this ever happened, we want to make sure it’s regulated … and they aren’t just dumping things in the street.”
Meehan told the commission he wanted to move forward with efforts to prohibit dockless bike and scooter rentals. He noted, however, that things could change as bikeshare companies grow and regulations are introduced.
“I think it’s something we need to get out in front of now …,” he said. “Two years from now, this might be a different story.”
The commission voted unanimously to seek advice from the city solicitor and to reach out to various resort and county officials. The issue will also be brought before the Mayor and Council at the next work session.