What started out as a conceptually simple experiment is turning out to be an arduous urban mobility solution calling for a web of rules. Dockless shared bicycles offer the ease of cheaply hopping on and off a bike at any place and time. As a public transport option, it has merits. It contrasts starkly with the array of billion-dollar assets, technocrats and engineers associated with rail and bus systems. What sharing schemes do instead is merely to put together bicycles and ordinary people. Users use their own energy, need no schedules and routes, and complete trips in the most efficient manner.
Like e-scooters and power-assisted bikes, the humble bicycle is useful for making first and last-mile connections. They need neither billions of dollars of public money to set up and run, nor vast stretches of land for depots. Users pay very little because entrepreneurs and innovators are out for market share on a global scale and for spin-off gains from mass consumption. The business model took account of enough key factors to draw massive investments. What all players, including regulators initially, did not give sufficient weight to was the civic responsibility needed to avoid the parking mess surfacing in cities.