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The Real Story of the Dallas Share Bike War

It may be hard to remember now, but there was a time before the share bikes ruled the city.
By |
Robert Newbecker

You probably want to know how all of this started. [takes long drag off cigarette, stares into the middle distance for a moment] OK. I’ll tell you.

Let’s see. All right, first there was VBikes. Popped up out of nowhere. One morning, we woke up and there were all these yellow-and-gray—well, I guess you’d call them bikes. They more or less had the same shape as a bike. But they kind of looked like a child’s drawing of a bike, you know? Not a very sharp kid, either. Rode like a shopping cart, like sliding down a stair railing after a few pops. I think the V stood for “vasectomy.”

So that’s how it started. And then, pretty soon, there were Spin and LimeBike. I don’t remember which came first, and it doesn’t matter much. One was orange, and the other was green. They were a little better, but only because they couldn’t have been much worse. They were like the Shutterstock photo for “bike.” Basic as a white girl at a Starbucks. I guess you can’t really be too choosy when it comes to share bikes. I mean, if it costs a buck and it isn’t a soda or a lottery ticket, you get what you get.

That was it for a while, and even that was too much. The deal was, you could drop them off anywhere, and people really explored the limits of “anywhere.” There were bikes in the river, bikes in White Rock Lake, junked up behind dumpsters and wherever else. Downtown, it was like that movie Left Behind, like everyone on a share bike had just been sucked up into heaven mid-ride. Bikes were lying everywhere. People couldn’t handle that kind of freedom.

And then, when everyone sort of thought that was it, Ofo popped up. What? Yeah, I don’t know what that stands for. “Only Found Overturned” was the joke. Those bikes were actually pretty good, but I think it was probably too late. People were tired of it all.

But here’s the weird thing. [takes another long drag from cigarette, flicks it blindly off porch] It didn’t stop there. No, sir. No, no, no. Those were just the first four. It got so much worse after that.

After Ofo? It was like the dam burst. I don’t know if I can remember them all, but I’ll give it a shot, seeing as you came all this way. Want a beer? No? OK. Yeah, I found me this little place outside of the city when it started to really get bad. Just knew. Not everyone was so lucky. Or smart. Hate saying that, but it’s the Bible truth.

Anyway [cracks open beer, takes a long pull] after Ofo, there was, oh, there was Byke—some Danish outfit, if I recall—then Kommon, WHLZ, Buck-a-Bike, Spöke, Dril, O R E O S, Ryder, da share z0ne, Diff, Okat Bikes, Mike’s Bikes, Mike’s Rides—different companies, mind you—DOOD, Dallas Bicycle Collaborative, The Angel’s Share, D Bikes—not sure what Wick Allison was thinking with that one—Branson, and, hell, at least a dozen more. Oh, WITS. That one was black and red. Pretty good-looking, for what it’s worth.

[takes another long drink from beer] I don’t know, man. After a couple years, my God, downtown looked like a hoarder’s living room. Just stacks and stacks and stacks of bikes.

And then—this must’ve been 15 years ago, maybe 20—it happened. Those computer bike locks started flashing, making this wild-ass noise, like a million drunk radar detectors. What’s that? Radar detectors were—you know, it’s not important. Where was I? Yeah, those locks were going off for weeks. I took it as a sign and got the hell out. Just in time, too, because, on April 4, what you know as the Share Bike War started. Didn’t last long, of course. Nothing but moving targets, and that whole pension mess meant Dallas had about a dozen decent cops left.

I’d say it was about a month before the takeover was complete. One of those damn VBikes installed himself as mayor. Mayor Vincent Bikes, if you can believe it. [finishes off beer]

Oh, yes, hell yes, there were casualties. Full story never got out, them taking over the press and all. But, yeah, thousands died. Thousands. A lot of them in North Oak Cliff. [quietly] Bike friendly, my ass.

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