City Council preview: dockless bikes, Xcel negotiations + land-use review

Preview highlights of Boulder City Council agenda, June 2

By Tatyana Sharpton Jun 1 2020

As we enter the summer months and Boulder ramps back up to “business as usual,” — whatever that means — we want to shed some light on key city council topics on this week’s agenda for its June 2 session.

Dockless bikes back on the table

Dockless mobility options have made it to the board before and have faced the boot, such as in 2018 when city staff approved an ordinance to launch a pilot program for dockless bike share that would run through August 7, 2020, which withered as city officially passed a moratorium on dockless e-scooter companies back in May 2019. Now the city once again brings the topic of dockless micromobility back for deliberation.

Supporting goals outlined in the city’s Transportation Master Plan, allowing Boulder to enjoy dockless bikes would not only make bicycling more convenient, but also reduce emissions as more people would bike, at least that’s the theory.

Currently, nonprofit organization Boulder Bike Sharing, which just turned nine this year, dominates Boulder’s micromobility landscape with its 300 Boulder BCycle bikes, located at 45 stations around town.

With Boulder Bike Sharing’s biggest sponsor Kaiser Permanente pulling all of its state funding, including BCycle’s, in 2019, the city and CU stepped in to save the nonprofit.

The city has provided $65,000 annually to the bike sharing service since 2014, adding an extra $80,000 after Kaiser pulled out. Currently, the nonprofit requires about $185,000 in funding to maintain its current operation, both the city and CU have recommended providing the bike share program $275,000 in order to not just maintain but evolve the program, which the city has split 60-40 with CU (though the nonprofit plans on seeking a more diverse array of funding sources).

In the past, the city has kept dockless transportation at bay since the moratorium and reports of clutter such as bikes.

The ordinance passed in 2018 did require a lock-to mechanism for bikes, meaning the bikes needed to lock to a bike rack after each use.

Dockless bikes would mean some competition for Boulder Bcycle, but a potential to expand Boulder’s micromobility with easy app features for finding usable bikes all around the city, not just at designated stations.

Public outreach scheduling for Xcel negotiations

Those who have followed Boulder’s decade-long attempts to municipalize its electric system, city council will push ahead with its goal of negotiations with Xcel Energy, whose assets Boulder wants to purchase.

In conducting these negotiations the city has scheduled a series of five virtual townhall meetings for feedback from the public, three of which council has scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Friday, 5:30 p.m. June 10 and and 5:30 p.m. June 24, with reps from the electric company present at some or all.

Boulderites can register to listen in on these sessions through Eventbrite, or submit feedback to if not able to virtually attend.

Making changes to Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (BVCP)

The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, used by Boulder County to guide long-range planning, undergoes major updates about every decade, the last major change period in 2015 and the next scheduled for 2025.

Tomorrow, council will discuss amendments to the plan as part of Boulder’s 2020 Mid-term Update. This mid-term update brings 13 items to the table that city staff elected to review, including majority land-use amendments and one policy and text amendment.

Boulder zoning takes into consideration a variety of lifestyle topics, such as business districts, residential districts, mixed-use areas, and regional landscape necessities such as flood zone areas and swamp land.

The mid-term update allows residents to bring to council ways they wish to reallocate land use in ways the city needs, like making changes to land use from low to medium density to allow for more affordable housing.

Header Image: Boulder Bike Sharing.