Sorry for the late reply. I actually took myself out of this conversation on purpose.
In any case, cities across the country are beginning to “react” to these shared dockless options in various ways, including exploring regulations that would, in effect, kill the very nature of them being dockless. Here’s one such story. https://www.curbed.com/2018/6/13/17456664/uber-lyft-curb-scooters-bikeshare
I think the challenge with these systems stems from a naive presumption that people will be polite and behave a civil and respectful manner when using them and leaving them for the next person to use.
The very first dockless bike that I ever saw in Miami was leaning on a tree among bushes off the side of a parking lot of a restaurant in Key Biscayne, FL. I only saw it because I had stopped for lunch with a friend after we were, coincidentally, cycling.
Cities are waking up to the reality that these bikes (and now scooters) are left everywhere including in front of handicap ramps, sidewalks, and other planned and ordered infrastructure.
Unfortunately these dockless systems rely on the respectfulness of its users, and an understanding that the collective good needs consideration over our own selfishness. The sad truth is that does not align with our cultural reality. We don’t live in a culture where all people will stand patiently at a cross walk, and wait for a light to turn red before crossing a non-busy street like they do in Germany. We don’t live in a highly ordered society like Finland where the collective culture knows that it’s rude to be loud on public transit. We don’t live in a culture where everyone will throw their garbage or recyclables into the proper can. We also don’t have a society that has any real consequences for these actions either, and not enough people seem comfortable calling people out on them either for a variety of reasons including their own safety.
So, to make all of these dockless systems work in this sort of environment, cities can do several things: 1) put in more infrastructure to support these new transit options like shared bike lanes , 2) establish and advertise drop off zones for use when finished using them, 3) fine operators whose bikes/scooters are left to block public access facilities, 4) fine users who behave badly (< this will likely never happen).
Operators of systems that dock must work with cities to identify public spaces for their stations; why should alignment with the city be any different for dockless system operators? Are we all allowed to leverage public infrastructure to our hearts content and for our own profit? Is that reasonable to expect?
I suspect that these sorts of systems will become more and more regulated by cities over time as both problems exist for cities, and as operators realize that their investment in their product is damaged or lost. Already in Miami, LimeBike is finding bikes thrown into the bay. If a user finishes her ride and then someone picks up the parked bike afterward and throws it into the bay, who ends up paying for it? How is the asset protected when not in use? The sad truth is that many people can be jerks, and a variety of situations are ripe for someone to vandalize these companies’ assets.
As for operators, I can easily imagine them having to employ more people in the future to respond to cities’ demands. This will push usage fees up and possibly restrict the inherit flexibility that dockless systems provide. I have to wonder how long this ride (pun intended) can continue?