College Station City Council Is Told Yellow Rental Bicycles Are Leaving Aggieland

WTAW

By Bill Oliver

Published: October 26, 2018

Yellow ride sharing bicycles based at Texas A&M will be no more at the end of the fall semester.

Aubrey Nettles of the city manager’s office told the council on Thursday, the revocation of a city permit was the result of OFO losing its auto liability insurance. That meant OFO was not able to pick up abandoned bicycles.

Nettles also reported the city’s code enforcement office responded to 395 complaints and spent an average of 24 staff hours a week on those complaints.

Nettles said code enforcement issued tickets to OFO that had fines totaling $5,785 dollars. As of Thursday, OFO owed the city $1,250 dollars.

Ron Steedly of Texas A&M Transportation Services says they will assume operational control and will also seek a new vendor for 2019. Steedly said OFO’s fleet of 2,300 yellow bikes will be collected on and off campus then donated, repurposed or recycled. He also told the council the new provider must get a city permit before operations begin, and the new company will begin with a smaller number of bicycles.

Nettles added that A&M and city officials met last week with one of a few different providers of ride share bicycles that she says have been successful in other cities.

Steedly told councilman John Nichols they are aware of scooters and electric bikes, but their initial focus is on pedal bicycles.

OFO’s local operations manager, Jacob Rice, thanked the university and the city then apologized for the abandoned bicycle problem.

Mayor Karl Mooney, who first announced the city had revoked OFO’s city permit on WTAW The Infomaniacs, called on the university to provide training to bicyclists about traffic laws.

Thursday’s announcement came less than five hours after Texas A&M transportation services told WTAW News their contract was still active with OFO and there were no negotiations with another provider.

Click below for comments from transportation services communications director Melissa Maraj, visiting with WTAW’s Bill Oliver.

Following Thursday’s council, Maraj e-mailed WTAW News the following:

“It looks like ofo has resolved their issues and the permit has been reinstated by the city. Apart from this our contract with them is still active and bike share will remain at the university as I discussed yesterday.

On our end, our alt trans rep made some foreshadowing comments regarding what would need to happen if ofo no longer services us, but at this time we have our contract and no new contracts with any other vendors has been initiated. If this changes I will definitely let you know.”

On Friday afternoon, Maraj e-mailed WTAW News the following statement:

Texas A&M University’s Transportation Services will transition from its current bike share system to a new vendor in the coming months. The current vendor will continue to service the campus community through the remainder of the fall semester.

To address some of the operational issues resulting from the recent nationwide ofo layoffs, such as slow response times and operational deficiencies, Transportation Services is reviewing other vendors that can provide operational enhancements to the bike share system. A new company has not been selected.

“Bike share has been widely accepted by our community and the launch of bike share on campus has shown us that we can provide a successful and sustainable mode of transportation to our customers,” said A&M’s Alternative Transportation Manager Ron Steedly.

Transportation Services is working through the transition details and expects uninterrupted service. Details will be provided about how to switch to the new vendor. As information becomes available, there will be a campaign to communicate it and it will be posted to https://transport.tamu.edu/bikeshare.

“Our expectation is to select a vendor that can provide improved service, including a round-the-clock call center to address operational issues. In addition, we would like a vendor that can offer improved communications tools for reaching customers directly when there are user issues that impact the community,” Steedly said.

On-campus bike share delivered 2,300 bikes with more than 39,500 registered users. Since the launch in March, more than 330,000 miles have been logged on over 500,000 rides taken by customers.

Before A&M will consider a new vendor to begin providing service, the vendor must first apply for and be approved by the City of College Station for a permit to operate in the city.

And on Friday afternoon, the city of College Station issued the following statement:

On Friday, the City of College Station reinstated the permit required for ofo — the Beijing-based dockless bicycle sharing company — to operate outside the Texas A&M University campus.

As long as the company continues to meet city requirements, ofo’s permit to operate in College Station remains valid through Aug. 23, 2019 — one year from its original issue date.

Texas A&M currently holds an exclusive contract with ofo to operate the bicycles on its campus; however, a city ordinance governs how dockless bike-share businesses operate beyond campus boundaries. Texas A&M Transportation Services has indicated it will transition its dockless bike-share system to a new vendor after the fall semester.

Background:

ofo’s permit was revoked Oct. 12 due to multiple violations of College Station’s ordinance governing dockless bike-share programs. Among the violations was a lapse in automobile liability insurance coverage, which prevented ofo’s paid drivers from legally operating vehicles used to gather and relocate the yellow bikes.

In addition to its automobile liability insurance coverage reestablished, ofo also paid $5,785 in outstanding citations and replenished its $5,000 escrow account with the city.

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