As the colorful dockless bike-shares, which began operating last summer in Seattle, stray past city boundaries, some suburban cities want to come along for the ride.
Bothell was the first suburb to issue permits for bike-share companies after bikes began popping up around town, most likely propelled north by the Burke-Gilman Trail. And now Bellevue is set to launch its own dockless bike-share pilot this May.
The city is starting small, permitting only 400 bikes at the pilot’s launch (roughly one for every 350 residents), and is only allowing e-bikes, which Bellevue says will “make the service accessible to a wider variety of potential users.”
Taking lessons from Seattle, where some dockless bikes are being improperly parked and blocking sidewalks, Bellevue’s pilot establishes bike hubs, using paint and racks, to identify preferred parking areas. Operators will be required to offer incentives, to encourage riders to use the hubs, and disincentives, to keep people from parking the bikes improperly. Geofencing will be used to keep bikes from being left in the middle of parks.
The city is laying out strict guidelines for rebalancing bikes nightly which the city says will “facilitate the convenient provision of bicycles where people want them while maintaining orderly and accessible public space and minimizing impacts to private property.”
Each night, bike-share companies will be required to move 75% of their fleet into activity centers, which includes downtown, BelRed, Crossroads, Eastgate, Factoria and the Wilburton/Hospital area. Another 10% of bikes must be relocated near bus stops served by a frequent transit network; the rest can remain in neighborhoods. Companies will also be required to move at least 50% of their fleet to bike hubs nightly.
During the weekdays between 6am and 6pm, the bike-share companies will be given two hours to repark improperly-placed bikes after receiving notice. At other times, the companies will have 10 hours.
Local businesses and organizations have thrown support behind the program.
“Bikeshare is a service that will enhance the ability [of] residents and employees to navigate through the downtown area without using their cars to get from place to place… we are excited to see the city finally taking steps to realize this dream,” Su Development, a construction company, wrote to the city.
Bellevue said it would allow bike-share companies to increase the size of their fleets if they are abiding by city requirements, but the city plans on limiting the total number of bikes to 1,200 during the year-long pilot period.
According to a city survey, 55% of respondents said they would use a bike-share, while 24% said they would not. But many, 69%, said they felt somewhat or very unsafe riding a bicycle in downtown Bellevue.
The Council, taking steps to make biking in the city’s downtown safer and more comfortable, recently approved plans for a downtown demonstration bikeway. A north-south bikeway will sit between Northeast 12th and Main streets and could open as early as May.