Unlocking a Spin bike Image: Lizz Giordano

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly a year since Seattle became the first American city to have a large dockless bike share presence.

With the initial permits set to be reviewed this summer, SDOT’s Joel Miller reported to the committee last week on the system, which now includes 10,000 bikes provided by 3 companies (presentation slides and video).  Thanks to a unique deal the city crafted with the companies, anonymized user data is provided to UW which is then analyzed and passed to SDOT, which is how we’re able to get such accurate data (only through December of last year – this year’s data will come soon).

Overall, the results were positive.  The number of rides per day seems to get lower as the weather gets lower, but not catastrophically so.  The city conducted a professional survey of residents and found that 74% had a favorable impression of bike share.  Miller contrasted that with the unsolicited comments the city received via phone and email, which were 85% negative. That’s not surprising, but it’s helpful to contextualize how residents really feel about these things. Most relevant for our purposes, 75% used bike share to access transit at least once while 30-40% used it to access transit often.

38% of bike share customers are women, which is less than 50% but higher than the 25% of cyclists nationwide who are women.  1 in 4 riders use helmets, but a UW/Harborview study indicates no significant elevated head injury risk due to bike share.  Miller highlighted some equity concerns, and despite the fact that dockless bikes are more accessible to low-income areas than Pronto was, hinted that there might be an opportunity for the companies to do even more to provide access to low-income areas when the next permit cycle starts up next year.

The biggest bit of negative feedback related to bikes parked improperly.  SDOT took this concern seriously, especially as it impacts pedestrians with mobility or visual impairments. They have rolled out a pilot program of designated bike parking spots in Ballard, which get bikes off the sidewalk and also make for safer pedestrian crossings by removing a parked car.  The second highest complaint was a lack of infrastructure. This is where the agency really needs to step up and build the basic bike network if they want to really see bike share thrive.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it seems like there’s little appetite on the council for allowing the Great San Francisco Scooter Scourge make its way up north.

21 Replies to “Dockless Bike Share is Popular, Now Infrastructure Needs to Catch Up”

  1. Question for those who know:

    If a bike is scanned and paid for in a city, does that bike company need a business license in that town? For example, if a bike from the Seattle bike sharing program is “rented” in Tukwila, do they need a business license in Tukwila? From what I’ve read, they would need a business license in each city. This can be difficult when you have no idea where your bikes will end up.

    1. It’s a Seattle program so I don’t think they’re licensed in the surrounding cities; they’re guest bikes. The fact that the suburbs have tolerated them is a good thing. Bellevue is about to start its own bikeshare program, although it’s so limited it won’t help access to the residential areas as well as it could. I don’t know how Bellevue treats/will treat a “Bellevue bike” vs a “Seattle bike”. There shouldn’t be any problem with knowing where the bikes end up because they have GPS tracking. I’m sure the companies know how many of their bikes have gone to Kenmore or Bainbridge Island or were taken to Mexico.

    2. If I had to guess, a literal reading of the law probably would make any bike which crosses a city boundary unrentable on the other side. Thankfully, the companies are being reasonable, allowing people to rent their bikes, wherever they end up. It is much easier to gain acceptance from neighboring communities if the locals can rent and ride the bikes that end up, vs. having them just sit there, inaccessible to everyone, simply because of missing paperwork.

      When officially expanded or not, it is already not too difficult to find Lime bikes in the major population centers on the Eastside, especially around Redmond near the Sammamish River trail. The organic expansion of bikeshare is definitely the way to go – if the company has to prove to the city that people will ride their bikes before any of the bikes are there to be ridden, you just end up with a chicken and egg problem, and progress never gets made.

      Thus far, the “organic expansion” to the surrounding areas has been almost exclusively Lime Bike (with a healthy mix of e-bikes and pedal bikes, so it’s not just because of the electric assist). Spin and Ofo bikes outside the Seattle city limit are virtually nonexistant. Looking at the app, the areas outside of Seattle that seem to be the most popular with bikeshare users include the Burke-Gilman/Sammamish River Trail corridor (Kenmore/Bothell/Woodinville/Redmond), followed by the 520 trail corridor (Bellevue/Kirkland). Less popular is the Interurban north corridor (Shoreline/Lynnwood/Everett), I-90 (Mercer Island/Factoria), and Interurban south corridor (Tukwila/Kent/Auburn).

  2. Thanks for linking the video. It was a bit unclear though, the post-Dec 2017 data, will be released prior to the new permit recommendations?

    I’m also very interested in the e-bike vs. regular bike data. I find my preferences skew hugely to the Lime-e’s when I’m using them for getting to work or for errands. I think anecdotally, and based on how fast they tend to change position, this is true for other folks.

  3. I’m rather enthralled with bike share around Seattle. So nice to walk up and request to ride a Line Bike one finds from a phone. Be wonderful if Paine Field and Mukilteo were next up for bike share please – especially as it won’t be so well received in Pierce County.

    1. That’s right, bikeshares could help the Snohomish County access situation, especially the link between Mukilteo and Everett Station or Lynnwood TC or Highway 99 which is so minimal. Well, we don’t know that they’d be poorly received. I used to know a couple families in Mountlake Terrace, one of whom was a bike enthusiast and the other would probably be OK with it. I could see a bikeshare being possible in the MT-Edmonds-Lynnwood triangle.

  4. What is a scooter? And a cottage? People are using these new terms without saying what they mean and I’m not sure what all is included.

    To me a scooter is a small motorcycle like a Vespa, and I’ve seen the term used for motorized wheelchairs with small wheels. The video in the link above shows those skateboard-things with handlebars, or what I might call a push scooter. But what ties these all together under one word? Is a Segway a scooter? Or those smaller skateboard-with-gyroscope things I’ve seen recently? When we consider scootershares, does it mean just these skateboards with handlebars or does it include other things too? Why do people want to use these scooters so much, and do enough people really want to use them to make a robust clientele?

    Re cottages, I thought a cottage was a small house. My dad grew up a farmhouse and alter my grandmother lived in a cottage across the street, which was a small house around 500 sq ft with a living room, bedroom, and kitchen. Is that what we mean by Seattle cottages? And bungalo, I also thought a bungalo was a small house around that size. But I’ve also seen houses 1000 sq ft or larger called cottages or bungalos. So how are they different from a regular house and what’s their limit? How do they compare to the small-lot houses in Mt Baker, N 80th Street, White Center, etc?

      1. They are electric, so compare to the e-bike which is a dollar plus 10 cents a minute

      2. Lime E-bikes cost 15 cents per minute, not 10. That’s exactly the same price as the San Francisco scooters.

      3. @Mike: Yes, the scooters are electric. Keeping them charged is opening new frontiers in the gig economy (typing on mobile, apologies if my HTML is busted). Whatever you may think about the urbanist implications of scooter-share, the labor implications are worth at least as much consideration (see also app-taxis).

      4. Right – the rates went up on the Lime-e bikes; was $0.10/min a couple of months ago, now $0.15

    1. Why do people want to use these scooters so much…?

      People are inherently lazy. They want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, with as little effort as possible and zero regard for laws, rules and etiquette. Hence the proliferation of selfish, lazy people and their e-Garbage polluting our sidewalks and trails.

      1. Absolutely. These lazy bums should just get back in the car; the one true chariot of any selfless, industrious, courteous, and law-abiding citizen. Me? I’d rather have “e-Garbage” polluting our sidewalks than “internal combustion-Garbage” polluting our streets and waterways.

      2. So the options are either selfish assholes dangerously tearing down sidewalks and trails on motorized scooters, skateboards, mono wheels, bikes or whatever e-Garbage of the moment, or more people driving in gas powered cars? If only there was some middle ground, but alas!

        Whatever did people do in the ye good old days of a year and a half ago before we became inundated with all this e-Filth? Those must have been dark times indeed (both metaphorically and literally from all of the ICE pollution obviously)!

  5. The bikeshares are great, but the city has been really lax about regulating their use. Rarely do I see bikes get reshuffled, leaving huge coverage gaps on top of Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill around mid-day, and about half the bikes I try to rent have visible damage or are locked out for repair. The apps are also a total mess to use, with users locked out from renting bikes because the previous locked trip failed to end in-app.

    Hopefully someone at city hall addresses some of these issues before deciding to make the bikeshare pilot a permanent deal.

  6. I recently traveled to Stockholm, which has a well-used dock-style bike share. After the third time arriving at an empty dock, I found myself wishing they at least *allowed* dockless bikeshare.

    I consider this the one area where Seattle beats Stockholm when it comes to bikes.

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