Boris Bikes at Waterloo Station
Boris Bikes at Waterloo Station. Flikr user Jack999.

I suspect most readers know what bike share is by now, but if you don’t, go read the wiki page or take a gander at the websites for Denver B-Cycle or Capital Bikeshare. Tomorrow, Puget Sound Bike Share is holding a press event to announce the selection of an operator for the system they plan to roll out in Seattle starting next year, and they’ve kindly offered to answer my questions today.

So, what questions do you have for Puget Sound Bike Share? Keep in mind that there’s no point asking low-level or operational questions, like the location of specific bikeshare stations, as those things will not have been decided yet.

I need the questions by 1 PM.

34 Replies to “Questions for Puget Sound Bike Share”

  1. How will they get the required number of spontaneous users, given the mandatory helmet law? Are they working on getting an exemption? Having previously used the bike share in Melbourne, another locale with compulsory helmet legislation, their solution of selling helmets at convenience stores was very clunky and would have put off a lot of people.

  2. If the helmet law proves to be a significant obstacle to getting good usage, is there any recourse that the public and/or PSBS can take to work for the law’s repeal?

      1. The problem is that bike share is supposed to be for casual spur-of-the-moment trips, where the person probably doesn’t have a helmet with him since he wasn’t necessarily planning to ride a bike, and he might not want to buy another helmet just for that trip.

      2. [cp complaining] Helmet laws are to cyclists what seat belt laws are to drivers. The idea that the requirement to wear a helmet would deter
        Any cyclist from riding I’d patently idiotic.

      3. Except, Beavis, seat belts come with the car. If there was some way to make helmets come with the bike so you don’t need to remember to bring one with you every day you might possibly use bikeshare, then I’d agree with you.

  3. Will Puget Sound Bike Share throw its energy behind lobbying for other conditions that will influence its success? The most obvious are building a downtown bike network (I’d say “improving”, but honestly there’s nothing there to improve upon) and getting rid of the helmet law.

  4. Is there a plan to address integration between the lower-density single family home neighborhoods and the denser urban villages? For instance, if I lived in Wallingford, could I find a station with say 3-5 bikes that I could then ride to Fremont or U-District to access better transit routes and a bigger bike bank of 20+ bikes?

    1. Good question. Is it likely that, as in Paris, people will ride them downhill and leave them there?

  5. My question is regarding typical timelines for program evaluation and the process for making changes to locations and volume of bikes over time. Who collects data about usage and what kind of reports get generated? How will data be made available to the public?

  6. Will PSBS have a zone limitation similar to Car2Go or will it be city wide? Will they provide coverage for Rainier Valley, Columbia City, Seward Park e.g. South East Seattle?

    1. There’s a map of the plan on page ii of this document. Also covered on this blog. Initially it looks like greater downtown (including the stadiums, SLU, Seattle Center, and Eastlake) and UW. Phase 1B would expand Cap Hill and First Hill coverage mostly. Phase 2 would extend a little farther, but doesn’t get close to SE Seattle.

    2. And more generally if you look at other (successful) systems, they’re very focused on mixed-used high-density urban centers. Given the current and proposed zoning of the Rainier Valley, I could maybe see the Mount Baker station area one day making sense, but I’d be surprised if it could ever pencil out elsewhere.

      1. Too late, I know, but I think the core of Columbia City could also make sense. I agree with you with respect to the rest of the valley.

  7. Other bikeshare systems have ended up being used disproportionately by white, upper-middle-class people. How does PSBS plan to ensure success among low-income and minority communities?

    1. Good point. I hope that PSBS does try to make this more than just another draw for white collar professionals and well off tourists.
      Bruce, my question to PSBS would be how will this improve the quality of life for all in this city? How does the selection process address social equality since transportation and transit have an inherent social component and a bike share program needs to address this?
      It would be a clear signal if they did more than just provide one type of tourist friendly 1500 dollar (avg. cost of each bike share bike in Chattanooga) bike and actually provide a range of types I.e.; transport bikes, freight bikes, etc. to support a broad and local user base.

      1. I’m not sure this sort of bike share is the right model for freight and cargo bikes. Bike share as done in DC, Paris, London, etc. is designed around a large number of short, spontaneous trips in a dense environment. There’s an analogy to car-share (or car rental). Classic bike share is like Car2Go (since bike share was around first, bike share probably influenced Car2Go), serving the fairly common need to make short trips in a dense area.

        Borrowing a cargo bike is sort of like using ZipCar or renting a U-Haul. You need a specific type of bike for a specialized need; not a need common enough to warrant having them out all over town all the time, so you have to be willing to plan your trip a little, start and end at a particular location, etc. I’d imagine a neighborhood group having a co-op cargo bike share (maybe sort of like “tool shares” some neighborhoods have), where you make a reservation, pick up the bike at a particular location, and return it there.

      2. In general, I agree. However, it would still make the system a lot more unusable if the bike-share bikes came with some very basic cargo carrying equipment so that you can take at least a little more than what can fit in your pockets.

        I’m not asking for much here – a simple basket would do. But, without the basket, even something as light as a manila folder, ipad, or notebook, would make the bikeshare unusable for your trip, unless you happen to have planned ahead and brought a backpack.

  8. What is the proposed policy on adverising/sponsorship? This is, I beleive, one of main reason’s Paris’ bike share program gets so much funding from a bank.

  9. My question is whether the three-phase plan to which Al linked is still the operating presumption.

    There’s something perverse about a plan that anticipates isolated nodes in Redmond and Kirkland (where each bike will be used exactly once a day), but that never expands west of Fremont, disregarding the longstanding plight of east-west travel in North Seattle and ignoring the low-hanging fruit that is bi-directional Burke-Gilman usage.

    The plan also suggests a ridiculous dock density in downtown and Belltown, with as many as 200 bikes in a given 2-block radius. Paris is the only program with that kind of density, and their demand and coverage area are orders of magnitude larger. Here, it’s oversaturation.

    Based on how hard it is to find that document on their website, I hope the intent is to reassess the coverage area and bike density from scratch. I think it’s worth asking them directly.

    1. The inclusion of Redmond and Kirkland is about building political support for the program and taking advantage of communities that are willing to help pay for it.

      My understanding, for instance, is that Redmond would primarily focus on the Microsoft campus and be paid for by Microsoft.

      And none of this is scheduled to happen in the first couple phases anyway.

  10. Will the bikeshare stations include good wayfinding information? I assume there will be a map with the coverage area and (at least nearby) station locations, but it would be especially valuable to include recommendations for “user-friendly” routes on the map.

  11. As a heavy user of DC’s bikeshare system, I think the key to success here was opening the system with a large enough number of stations (maybe 50, if I remember right?) to demonstrate instant utility. Less successful systems like Des Moines, Iowa have started with fewer than five stations, and been unsuccessful, as you might expect. How many stations will bikeshare Seattle have when it opens?

    Equally important, what is the source of funding?

  12. Some questions to think about:

    1) How much time will it take to fiddle with the machines to pick up and return a bike. If we’re talking 3 minutes to pick up the bike, 2 minutes to return it, this makes a half-mile trip by bike-share no faster than walking.

    2) Will the seat heights be adjustable? Or will the system focus exclusively on adults who are average height, with everyone else just out of luck?

    3) Will laywers/insurance stuff cause the entire system to shut down, the moment the first biker using the system gets into an accident (given enough users, an accident is bound to happen eventually, the same as with people riding their own bike)?

    4) With respect to Capitol Hill and downtown, I would naturally expect to see a lot more people riding bikes down the hill than up the hill. Riding down the hill is pretty much as fast as driving, without even bothering to pedal. Riding up the hill, the pace becomes a lot closer to walking. Does this mean there’s going to be a large glut of bikes available downtown, with almost no bikes available up on Capitol Hill?

    5) Why is the busiest section of the Burke-Gilman corridor (Fremont->Childrens Hospital) not included in the first phase? This seems like a no-brainer and the flatness of the terrain would avoid the problem of a glut of bikes at one end and lack of bikes at the other end. IMHO, the Burke-Gilman corridor should be a higher priority than capitol hill or Eastlake.

  13. Too many hills for the average user they are trying to attract. It may spike in the summer, but winter, rain, maybe ice/snow; forget it.

    1. I wouldn’t be that pessimistic. Ice and snow only happens a couple days out of the year (and when it does happen, shutting the system down for safety might be the prudent thing to do anyway). Rain in Seattle is often light rain, and if you’re only going a short distance, you won’t get that wet. If you’re in capitol hill, need to get downtown fast, and OBA says it’s 10 minutes before the next bus will show up, you will put up with the rain and ride it out.

      While hills will certainly present a problem with some trips (e.g. downtown to capitol hill), there are several busy corridors where the bikeshare program could work well that are relatively flat, for example:

      – downtown->South Lake Union
      – South Lake Union->Fremont via Westlake/Dexter
      – Fremont->Wallingford->U-district via Burke-Gilman
      – Westlake Station->Safeco Field

  14. How will payment be handled? Am I going to have *yet another* RFID card to keep an eye on (and eventually loose), or will PSBS be tied in with ORCA as a regional transit option?

    1. Assuming it’s like every other Alta system, and I think it will be, you’ll get an RFID key fob with an annual membership.

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