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Within one month of Seattle imposing new regulations and a $50 per bike per year permit fee, Sarah Anne Lloyd reports that both Ofo and Spin are on their way out.

When Ofo first announced its departure, the company attributed the decision to the new fee structure, which adds up to $250,000 for a fleet 5,000 bicycles (or $50 per bike). Fees go toward administering the bike-share permit, addressing equity issues, and developing parking solutions for the bicycles…

Like with Ofo, which also recently announced its bikes wouldn’t be returning, a Spin spokesperson cited high permit fees as a deciding factor.

If the companies are truthfully blaming the new fees, it would be a spectacular own-goal from the City. A light regulatory touch made Seattle into a dockless bikeshare success story. Taxing into oblivion the lowest-cost, lowest-impact transportation service imaginable while dumping cash into buses, trains, and cars would mock all the goals Seattle ostensibly has.

However, Ofo is broadly retreating from the U.S., and Spin may pivot to e-scooters. Blaming regulators is a better excuse than “we ran our business into the ground.” So readers can choose to believe the best or the worst about what SDOT and City Council wrought.

Regardless, never fear: JUMP (Uber) and Motivate (Lyft) are not deterred by exorbitant permit fees ($).

Though the city’s recently passed bike-share regulations allow up to four companies to operate up to 5,000 bikes each, only three applied for permits. The application period recently closed.

If we’re still at three companies, and more heavily capitalized ones at that, I suppose that’s a good thing.

But JUMP is an all-electric fleet, Limebike is shifting to higher-margin E-bikes, and David Gutman reports that Motivate’s fleet composition is unclear.  Certainly, a $50/bike tax to fund a wish list of non-essential programs puts pressure on these companies to squeeze more out of riders using premium bikes. The new landscape may be a bad one for fans of the manual bikes, like me.

At $1, bikeshare is competitive with walking short distances; that makes transit more attractive when it’s not quite getting you where you want to go. As rates move into the $3-5 range, Limebikes are as expensive as transit and not that much cheaper than Car2Go or ReachNow.* Also easier to ride farther than manual bikes, E-bikes are more of an alternative to other modes than a complement to them. That doesn’t make E-bikes bad, but if we lose the $1 manual bike, Seattle will have lost something important.

* Though vastly more available than either of the carshare companies. I can’t remember the last time I needed a short-term car rental where I didn’t have to take transit to get to it.

93 Replies to “Bikeshare Out, Bikeshare In”

  1. I bike to work and have taken LimeBikes occasionally for casual trips. I’d much prefer scooters to e-bikes.

    1. I’ve had two recent experiences with cities that allowed scooters:

      Portland, OR. After getting off the Bolt Bus, I walked over to the food truck corral at 10th and Alder. In the 10 minutes I was there, I saw two unrelated crashes of scooters into pedestrians.

      Madrid, Spain. The Retiro Park is supposed to be a quiet, pedestrian friendly park to walk around in. It is completely filled with idiots on scooters flying around at unsafe speeds. Saw a few people go flying off them when they had to stop quickly.

      Yeah, no thanks. I hope Seattle maintains and reiterates the ban on those stupid scooters which solve nothing and enable dangerous morons.

      1. Question, Rapid and everybody else: Is the average age for learning to ride a bike going up? I rode my first “two-wheeler” about age 8. But I’m thinking that now that for many people, bikes are becoming the new car….many riders have never had a grown-up show them how to ride a bike.

        The law doesn’t require either a license or any other certificate of being trained, does it? Begging next couple questions like a spoiled, hungry dog. Bike-share companies leaving town because they don’t like fees. Good if Recent Riders agree to be licensed and trained same as in the old days when they only had a car.

        Or do they already. Reason I’m asking is my car insurance company doing better on Fortune 500 than my Prius- and its whole company worldwide. Maybe time for a trade-in.

        Seattle police have had a bike squad for years. I fifth grade, our local chief of police himself told our class we had the same responsibilities as motorists. Who in those days frequently used hand-signals. Can you get a ticket or lose a license for same skills and attitudes that would cost you a ticket on four wheels? Proof of insurance, same question.

        Answer emphatically positive in Sweden. No personal sympathy for skills-and-manners challenged motorists here. We’ve all seen battalions of them commit Acts of War- and then cry about the internationally-justified response. It’s excellent politics to publicly point to higher standards of skill and behavior than the fat-tired climate changers.

        Can anybody give me any reason that scooters are not cars, training, driving laws, licenses, insurance, criminal liability and all?

        Mark Dublin

      2. @RapidRider
        I think I’m in your camp regarding e-scooters in our area. I just had two close calls myself with e-scooter users while down in the San Diego area. (See my post on the matter in last Friday’s news roundup open thread.)

      3. Are scooters less safe than cars? I don’t think so. So why are you complaining about scooters and not cars?

        And I’d love to see some data on pedestrians killed by e-scooters. Any city works for me. Any data you can supply. I’ll then counter with some automobile death data.

        I would suggest that the real problem here is lack of infrastructure dedicated to scooters. If scooters had even a tenth of the space dedicated to cars you wouldn’t have to worry about them hitting pedestrians.

      4. AP, no way that scooters need their own space. Riders, like bicycle riders, need to understand their lower status in pedestrian zones. They’re welcome only as long as they go out their way [literally] to avoid endangering — or even discomfiting — pedestrians.

      5. @AP Your argument is just silly. It really is. Citing automobile accident and fatality statistics is simply a red herring type of argument.

      6. Tisgwm, I’m sticking by my “silly” argument. I have no patience for cities limiting bicycle and scooter use in the name of protecting pedestrians when doing little or nothing about the danger of cars to pedestrians. Example: the city of Cleveland is up in arms about an e-scooter rider who was killed in a crosswalk a few days ago by an automobile driver who had snorted heroin.

        Richard Bullington, why is there “no way” that scooters need their own space? We have public space for automobiles literally everywhere. We have pedestrian space in most places. Why do we not have space for less impactful modes of transit like scooters and bicycles?

      7. @AP: I don’t need to constantly worry about cars blasting down the sidewalks while I’m walking.

        And yeah, comparing scooters to cars is a strawman if I ever saw one.

        But let me turn it back to you: why do we need scooters? What current mobility problem exists that we need to throw eScooters at it?

      8. >> why do we need scooters? What current mobility problem exists that we need to throw eScooters at it?

        From a Spin statement on the Seattle Bike Blog today, “Since our launch in Seattle, we have added electric scooters to our fleet, and we’ve found that these vehicles generate more than 20 times the consumer demand than that of bikes.”

        If Spin’s statement is accurate, people want to ride scooters more than they want bikes. What mobility problems do we have? I’d say the fact that people are choosing cars when they could make a safer, less impactful choice (e.g., a scooter or a bike) is a mobility problem. We’ve got a little traffic in this city.

        And I’m not comparing scooters to cars. I’m comparing the pedestrian risk that scooters pose to the pedestrian risk that cars pose. I’m saying that scooters are less risky to pedestrians than automobiles. If you need to have scooters on the streets to make the comparison fair, so be it. Right now, e-bikes aren’t allowed on sidewalks either.

        I’m tired of people clutching their pearls and screaming about how every new mode of transportation is such a big threat when over 37K people died by car in the US in 2016.

        Does mixing scooters with pedestrian traffic cause problems? Sure. Are those problems solvable? I believe so. Are scooters more dangerous to the public health than cars? No way in hell. This is no straw man. This is established fact. Cars kill people.

      9. @Rapid: “I don’t need to constantly worry about cars blasting down the sidewalks while I’m walking.”

        And yet, drivers mow down thousands of pedestrians a year. So maybe you *should* be more worried. Clearly, your perception of danger is way out of whack with reality.

      10. @AP

        “And I’m not comparing scooters to cars. I’m comparing the pedestrian risk that scooters pose to the pedestrian risk that cars pose. I’m saying that scooters are less risky to pedestrians than automobiles. If you need to have scooters on the streets to make the comparison fair, so be it. Right now, e-bikes aren’t allowed on sidewalks either.”

        And therein lies the red herring problem with your argument. Whenever someone has to resort to “well, yeah, but look at the problem over there”, then they really don’t have an argument. The issue that was being addressed in the earlier posts is the potential risks posed to pedestrians by e-scooters being used on sidewalks, boardwalks, promenades, park paths, etc.

        The lack of e-scooter and e-bike infrastructure may indeed be a problem but that fact doesn’t mean that users of such two-wheeled devices should be sharing the pedestrian ROW.

      11. “we’ve found that [electric scooters] generate more than 20 times the consumer demand than that of bikes.”

        I’d like more confirmation than just Spin’s marketing assessment. And what exactly does it mean? That the scooters are ridden 20 times more often? Are they the same kinds of trips as the bikes? What modes are they displacing, and is it the same as what the bikes displace? Are these more choice rides than necessity rides?

        I’d assume that since asdf2 reported the maximum safe speed is 10 mph and they’re less stable than bikes, that they’re used mostly for downtown-ish trips, or compact neighborhoods like the U-District. In that sense they’re like Pronto, useful for trips of a few blocks. (In Pronto’s case because that’s where the stations were.) Whereas dockless bikes are best at the neighborhood last mile and crosstown trips — Fremont to Crown Hill, Cherry Hill to the Grocery Outlet at MLK & Union, Lake City to Aurora — and longer trips like the Central District to Bellevue that buses don’t serve very well. Short intra-neighborhood trips displace walking more than longer inter-neighborhood trips do, because walking isn’t viable if it takes an hour or longer. So I’d guess that scooter trips are more a mode-of-choice than a mode-of-necessity. We should give people choices, but that doesn’t mean we need to rush into it.

        My biggest concern is that bikes have coexisted on sidewalks and streets for decades and the social convention is more or less established. Bikes are legal on sidewalks but they must travel at pedestrian speed and be ready to stop at any time if somebody steps out of a yard. Bikes on streets can go closer to the speed of cars so they can blend in more easily. And people are used to bike trails and know what to expect of them. Scooters at full speed are too fast for sidewalks but too slow to share a lane with cruising cars: I’m afraid of scooters running into pedestrians and cars running into scooters. If a bike is going too fast it’s easy to say, “Get in the street!” but it’s harder to say that about an e-scooter because they resemble walking and push scooters. And separate scooter lanes is just too much: we’re having enough difficulty building out our bike-lane network, and there’s no social expectations built up of what is and isn’t acceptable in a scooter lane.

      12. We are clearly not going to convince each other. You’ll continue to believe that scooters are a special problem that can’t be solved. I’ll continue to believe we could fix the problems if we wanted to. Let’s leave it alone.

      13. Well, red herring type arguments are rarely convincing to anyone except to those not paying attention.

        “You’ll continue to believe that scooters are a special problem that can’t be solved.”

        Now you have indeed laid out a straw man argument as well. Speaking solely for myself here, I never made such an assertion. For example, I have no issue with e-scooters using the streets or established bike paths.

        Fwiw. My spouse lost his paternal grandmother (as a pedestrian) in a pedestrian-vehicle accident. So please save me the lecture about those types of incidents.

      14. I’m not absolutely against scootershares. I just want to make sure they’re really worthwhile and not just the shiny new smart watch fad, and not causing more problems than they solve. Yes, we can fix the problems, but is it worth putting resources into doing so?

      15. Tlswgm, you laid out the problem that can’t be solved:

        “The issue that was being addressed in the earlier posts is the potential risks posed to pedestrians by e-scooters being used on sidewalks, boardwalks, promenades, park paths, etc.”

        You identify potential risks. Are there potential solutions? If you don’t acknowledge the possibility of solutions (which I do not believe you do acknowledge) then you have laid out a problem without a solution.

        I’m terribly sorry about your spouse’s paternal grandmother dying in a pedestrian-vehicle accident. Was it the operator of a scooter that killed her? If not, then spare *me* the lecture.

        All I said is that you’ve identified problems you believe will not be solved. I believe these problems can be solved. We differ in opinion. What else did I say to offend you? Or–and here’s your next “straw-man argument”–you’re just waiting to be offended.

        As I suggested, let’s leave it alone.

      16. @AP

        Here’s my final response. First, let’s set the record straight: I’m not offended. On the other hand it does seem like I’ve hit a nerve on your end by pointing on the silliness of your original argument. Secondly, your latest reply is simply another straw man type argument. Let me elaborate.

        >>>Tlswgm, you laid out the problem that can’t be solved:<<>>You identify potential risks. Are there potential solutions? If you don’t acknowledge the possibility of solutions (which I do not believe you do acknowledge) then you have laid out a problem without a solution.<<>>I’m terribly sorry about your spouse’s paternal grandmother dying in a pedestrian-vehicle accident. Was it the operator of a scooter that killed her? If not, then spare *me* the lecture.<<>>All I said is that you’ve identified problems you believe will not be solved. I believe these problems can be solved. We differ in opinion.<<<

        And there's your straw man argument restated. We actually don't differ in opinion in this regard as your assertion ("problems you believe will not be solved), is a false one, as I have previously pointed out.

      17. @AP Correcting the post above (forgot that one cannot use “>>>” to signify excerpts with this blog’s editing connotations).

        Here’s my final response. First, let’s set the record straight: I’m not offended. On the other hand it does seem like I’ve hit a nerve on your end by pointing on the silliness of your original argument. Secondly, your latest reply is simply another straw man type argument. Let me elaborate.

        “Tlswgm, you laid out the problem that can’t be solved:”

        Nope. That’s YOUR conclusion and your conclusion only.

        “You identify potential risks. Are there potential solutions? If you don’t acknowledge the possibility of solutions (which I do not believe you do acknowledge) then you have laid out a problem without a solution.”

        Your straw man argument continues here. If you re-read my previous post you will see that I do indeed acknowlege possible solutions.

        “I’m terribly sorry about your spouse’s paternal grandmother dying in a pedestrian-vehicle accident. Was it the operator of a scooter that killed her? If not, then spare *me* the lecture.”

        This doesn’t even really warrant a reply. It’s simply petty and juvenile. (Actually, if you re-read what you wrote here you’ll see that it doesn’t even make much sense. What would I actually lecture you on? [RQ])

        “All I said is that you’ve identified problems you believe will not be solved. I believe these problems can be solved. We differ in opinion.”

        And there’s your straw man argument restated. We actually don’t differ in opinion in this regard as your assertion (“problems you believe will not be solved), is a false one, as I have previously pointed out.

      18. OK, then. You started off calling my argument silly. You’ve gone on to accuse me being petty and juvenile. And you

        I don’t see what your spouse’s grandfather has to do with anything here. Did you bring up his death as a counter-argument? Or just as a way to establish your authority? I don’t believe I was lecturing you about any sort of these incidents. I’m only stating that the safety risk posed by scooters is insignificant compared to the safety risk posed by cars. You brought up the dead grandfather.

        I’ll retract my claim to know anything about what you believe. But I maintain that it is possible for cities to integrate scooters on their sidewalks without significant danger to pedestrians.

        >> Here’s my final response.

        Thank goodness for that. You’ve spent quite a bit of time ripping into me and very little time making any sort of argument yourself.

      19. @AP:

        “Since our launch in Seattle, we have added electric scooters to our fleet, and we’ve found that these vehicles generate more than 20 times the consumer demand than that of bikes.”

        I bet if Car2Go replaced half of their vehicles with Dodge Vipers, those would probably generate the most rentals. That doesn’t mean we should start littering the streets with Dodge Viper car shares.

        If Spin’s statement is accurate, people want to ride scooters more than they want bikes. What mobility problems do we have?

        Our mobility problem is laziness. Just because the idea of blasting down a sidewalk at 20 MPH on a fully powered scooter entices people more than bike share does not mean we should entertain their desires.

        I’m tired of people clutching their pearls and screaming about how every new mode of transportation is such a big threat when over 37K people died by car in the US in 2016.

        So we should accept, with open arms, the stupidly dangerous and unnecessary scooters because they aren’t as dangerous as cars? Am I reading that right? Are you next going to propose I cut down the largest tree in the forest with this red herring you keep thrusting upon the debate?

        Again, what problem will eScooters solve? What current mobility issues are in dire need of eScooters to make life better?

        @Pat:

        And yet, drivers mow down thousands of pedestrians a year. So maybe you *should* be more worried. Clearly, your perception of danger is way out of whack with reality.

        I understand you’re trying to be clever and ignored my statement in it’s entirety, but I never downplayed the threat of cars to pedestrians. I deal with close misses of terrible drivers everyday, but 100% of those near misses are at intersections.

        What I don’t have to deal currently with is cars mowing me down as a pedestrian, mid-block, while on a sidewalk. With eScooters, that’s something pedestrians will need to start dealing with. How do I know? It happens today with all the illegal eFilth that pollutes South Lake Union sidewalks. I’ve also seen it in Portland and Madrid, where eScooters proliferate, along with moronic users.

      20. @RapidRider, why are e-bike users less moronic than e-scooter users? Is it an inherent quality of the machine?

        Laziness is a problem, true. But it is a fact that when I have to travel two-ish miles, I’ll actively evaluate whether I want to walk or not walk. Not walking can include a Dodge Viper, a bike, or another device. My original statement was that a scooter looks like it would be an attractive option.

        I’ll admit I’ve never seen the problems of e-scooters firsthand. But I continue to believe that there are cities where they are being used safely. Maybe you’re right: they’d never work in Seattle. I’d like to give them a chance.

        As for the “red herring”, I have obviously failed to explain myself. I meant to imply that it’s odd we accept cars in our cities—even building massive amounts of infrastructure for them—but cannot accommodate e-scooters when, objectively, scooters are less dangerous than cars.

        Instead of comparing the danger of scooters to the danger of more cars, I’ll just ask if you know of any deaths by escooter. I personally haven’t heard of any such incidents. There was that one bicycle-pedestrian death in SF a few years back, but scooter killings have been less publicized.

        But as I suggested to that other commenter, I suspect we’re not going to convince each other. Thanks for the civil discussion.

      21. And as for ignoring your statement about e-filth mowing down pedestrians, I said

        “If you need to have scooters on the streets to make the comparison fair, so be it. Right now, e-bikes aren’t allowed on sidewalks either.”

        Maybe that’s an unworkable proposal. But I didn’t ignore your statement. It just got lost in the sophism.

      22. I’ve never seen someone on this blog work so hard to defend a red herring type of argument, but to each his own. The argument was and is silly and instead of being retracted it was simply followed up by a series of faulty, straw man type arguments.

        I’ll restate my position: I’m in agreement with RapidRider in that e-scooters don’t belong on the sidewalks. All of the other comments about pedestrian-vehicle accidents/fatalities is not pertinent to the issue at hand and just serves as a distraction for one struggling to make any sort of cogent argument in their defense of the opposite position.

        And, yes, @AP, you were indeed lecturing.

      23. @AP: Ignoring my statement was in response to Pat, who implied that I have no reason to feel safe on the sidewalk, because cars run over pedestrians in crosswalks.

        As for eBikes, there are plenty of morons on eBikes. I see them everyday. They range from riders who are riding erratically and actively endangering others to riders who are simply ignoring the laws banning motorized vehicles from most trails and sidewalks or ignoring the 15 MPH limit on eBikes for the 5 pilot trails in Seattle that only recently allowed eBikes, because they think they are special or above the law or something. That’s not to say that there are no dangerous morons on analogue bikes, but they are a tiny minority, like less than 5%.

        I used to be 100% against eBikes, but the Lime eBikes showed me that electronic assist for speeds of 10 MPH or less can coexist just fine on busy trails. I am still staunchly against any kind of electronic assist above 10 MPH, which will not change, as there is simply no valid reason anyone needs to be assisted above 10 MPH. If you need to go faster, but cannot physically achieve it, consider a street legal scooter, taking the bus, car share or a taxi.

      24. I never said that scooters should be on sidewalks. My only real-world experience with these devices is seeing a Bird scooter (I think) in San Francisco, on the street, in a bike lane.

        I clearly did not explain well the argument that you so quickly dismissed as silly, petty, and juvenile. My argument is that we provide infrastructure to accommodate cars, which are quite dangerous to people not inside them, but refuse to consider scooters, which are far less dangerous. My suggestion that separate infrastructure could make them a workable mode of transportation was quickly dismissed (“AP, no way that scooters need their own space”).

        >> I’ve never seen someone on this blog work so hard to defend a red herring type of argument, but to each his own.

        I’ve never had someone start a conversation on this blog by accusing me of being silly rather than asking clarifying questions about my argument. I’ve admitted that I didn’t explain my argument well, but your contribution has been limited to dismissing my comments, appealing to some authority based on a personal experience, and claiming that I’ve lectured you. (My “lecture”, I assume, was mentioning that people in Cleveland want to ban scooters because an automobile driver killed the rider of a scooter? I don’t see how that is a lecture.)

        I’d suggest that if you’d started off with a different tone we might have had a far more productive conversation. Instead, I’ve written you off as someone who with whom I’d rather not engage in the future.

      25. “My only real-world experience with these devices is seeing a Bird scooter (I think) in San Francisco, on the street, in a bike lane. ”

        Were there any bike riders at the time? How well did they coexist? Did the bikes have to slow down much for the scooters? Were they able to pass them as easily as a pedestrian?

    2. Are scooters as amenable to having sturdy baskets as bikes? I really like being able to dump my purse and macbook into a bikeshare bike’s basket. Scooters also seem harder to use, as I’m relying on my feet for stability instead of my butt.

      1. Probably not. If you like having the basket, you should choose a bike. I’d probably also choose a bike, if both are within similar proximity. But others may choose the scooter, which is fine with me.

    3. A lot of this conversation assumes scooters are to be ridden on the sidewalk, and I realize that is where they seem to often get ridden. I think they ought to be ridden in bike lanes. Our current mode segregation is really by speed – cars in car lanes at 20-35 mph (in the city), bike lanes at 10-15 mph, sidewalks at 2-4 mph. So scooters belong in bike lanes. Problem is our bike network is sparse and incomplete.

      I think Seattle should allow scooters, take a % of revenue to fund oversight and regulation, and ban them on sidewalks.

      1. That would force bicycles to slow down for scooters, and the peak-hour congestion on the Burke-Gilman Trail would get worse. Or conversely, it would encourage scooter riders to ride at unsafe speeds.

      2. What is the appropriate speed at which to operate the scooters? Any speed mismatch can be a problem, sure, but unless we want to open a separate scooter lane, it seems to me that the bike lane is a much better place for scooters than the sidewalk or street for the reasons Brett outlined. I don’t really see what the alternative is. Sidewalks ain’t it.

      3. I don’t think banning them outright from sidewalks is feasible, because, as previously stated, the bike lane network has too many gaps, for which sidewalks are the only option. Take the ship canal bridges for example. How is one supposed to ride across the Montlake or Fremont bridges without riding on the sidewalk? Are all the scooter rides from SLU to Fremont supposed to park their scooters at the south end of the bridge and walk across? Good luck trying to enforce that.

        And, as soon as you have rules which are officially on the books, but everyone violates with impunity, you are asking for selective enforcement, driven by racial biases, and have to worry about policing the police to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Better to just not have rules on the books in the first place that you do not plan to enforce.

  2. I completely agree that losing a basic bare bones bike as an option will be disappointing. And for those who want to say that the fee wasn’t a big deal… Well if the average big is being used once a day (which I think was the case) and the revenue per use is $1, well that is only $350 per year. The companies have to purchase, maintain, and reposition the bikes. The fee amounts to a 15% tax not on their profit but on topline revenue, and that could be enough to make kill the economics for the bike share companies. That’s not to say that they may not have been making it, but it’s a basic theory of taxes – when you tax something, you get less of it. Seattle’s soda tax is not in place to invest in making soda attractive. I don’t think it was necessary to tax bike sharing at a high rate.

    1. Do the dockless bikeshare companies also have to pay sales tax, on top of the city fees? Pronto charged sales tax for memberships, which significantly inflated the price, and helped drive down usage. I’m curious whether a 10% sales tax is silently included in the $1 rate, or if the companies have somehow found a way to do what Pronto was unable to do, and avoid the tax.

    2. That’s assuming that $1 rides were realistic in the first place. A $350 income barely covers the cost of the bike even before taxes. They were a loss leader and market-share grabber.

    3. “The fee amounts to a 15% tax not on their profit but on topline revenue,…”

      Sorry, but that is just a false statement. It’s an overhead expense related to a capital expenditure. The company pays that fee whether or not that particular asset produces a dime of revenue.

      1. It’s an annual fee, not a one time expense. It has nothing to do with how much they spend on bikes or how often they replace them. It is not related to capital expenditure. The fee is high enough that it amounts to 15c/bike/day. Of course it drives the companies to provide only bikes that can generate more revenue than the cheap bikes.

      2. @Carl

        Your earlier statement is still false.

        “It’s an annual fee, not a one time expense.”

        Whether it’s a one-time fee or an annual type thing is irrelevant. It’s still an expense and not a tax on revenue.

        “It has nothing to do with how much they spend on bikes or how often they replace them.”

        I never made such an assertion. (Yours is a straw man argument here.)

        “It is not related to capital expenditure.”

        It absolutely is. Assuming that these companies capitalize the costs of their rental fleets (most likely with a rather short depreciable life), as soon as they deploy these revenue-producing assets in jurisdictions that mandate such fees, like Seattle now does, then that capital, i.e. their fleet of bikes, incurs said fee expense.

        I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but this sort of fee simply is not a tax on revenue, but rather an expense related to deploying these assets.

    4. They really need to look at different fees for e-assist versus non assist bikes. Or, a fee that is a percentage of revenue instead of a flat fee. I agree the current fee structure is forcing these companies into more expensive bikes. All that said, I have a feeling they would move to all e-assist or purely electric anyhow based on profit potential.

  3. I don’t think the benefit of the Lime e-bikes is distance, at all. I’m only 5’11” and can’t seem to get the seats high enough so that they’re comfortable to sit on for long periods of time.

    They do help quite a bit on hilly routes that aren’t served at all by transit — for example, almost any E-W route north of the ship canal or south of Jackson.

    1. It depends on one’s height. I’m a bit shorter, and I have ridden Lime bikes on occasion as far as Seattle->DT Bellevue. The trip was cheap enough to be considered a steal relative to Uber/Lyft (~70% off), but still way to expensive compared to a free, employer-funded, transit pass, to justify taking to work every day.

    2. There seemed to be two different models of the non-electric Limes. One had a spring loaded seat, where you squeeze the lever and the seat pops to full height. The other was a more standard ‘quick-release’ mechanism where you loosen the lever, pull the seat to its desired height, and then re-tighten the lever. The former’s max height was way way way too low, and I’d avoid those if at all possible. The latter were adjustable to a reasonable height, and I’m 6’3.

      1. I personally like the spring loaded seats, since they’re less effort to adjust.

        But, I have also encountered a fair number of Like bikes where the seat adjustment mechanism is outright broken. Fortunately, Lime now gives you a small grace period, so if you relock a bike immediately after unlocking it (usually because you discover something wrong with the bike post unlock), they don’t charge you.

      2. I think the spring-loaded idea is fine, but it unfortunately seems to be coupled with seats with a too-low max height.

  4. To some extent, the shift from pedal bikes to e-bikes might have happened anyway. Fees or no fees, it’s still good for the business of the companies operating them.

    I think one of the big keys to getting good usage out of the system might be some sort employer subsidy for bikeshare commutes, similar to what they already do for transit commutes, with the Orca passport program. Imagine if companies like Amazon and Microsoft had special deals with Lime to give their employees a huge discount (with rides completely free when traveling between offices during standard business hours). Success with a few large companies would also encourage smaller companies throughout the greater Seattle area to reach similar agreements.

    These types of employer agreements provide multiple benefits to all sides. Lime gets a stable, guaranteed revenue stream from the companies, which drastically improving ridership of their bikes because, as the marginal cost goes down, usage goes up. This pads the statistics Lime reports to the city, and helps justify their continued right to operate. Meanwhile, the companies gain another perk to offer employees to help with recruitment, increase the number of non-car commutes, allowing them to hire more employees without building more parking, and also bolstering their “green” image with support for alternative transportation.

    1. I’m curious how much daily commuting really is a core use case. I continue to think that anyone who does regular daily riding (and has a place to store it) is better off buying an e-bike. Daily rental fees add up fast.

      1. For the short time when Limebike was graciously stocking the top of Queen Anne with ordinary (non-assisted) bikes, I routinely took them into work in Fremont — the price was right, and the effort / speed was unbeatable.

        Afterwards they started stocking the top of the hill with e-bikes, which I found puzzling, and then not at all, which I was saddened by.

    2. FWIW, the UW has an arrangement with bike share where you get a discount if you register with a UW email. Can’t remember if was with all the companies, though.

      Bike share remains very popular at the UW, though the total number of bikes is much less than last year. At one point you could hardly go anywhere without running in to a pack of Ofo bikes (usually neatly lined up–they were very proactive about this), now that it’s Lime only you can still find bikes but may have to walk a block further than before. Roughly a third of them are e bikes.

      Might be interesting in a month of so when fall quarter starts up and there are potentially two more companies in the mix.

      1. I recall reading somewhere that Like cannot legally stock bikes on the UW campus because it’s UW property, not city property, and Lime doesn’t have a formal agreement with the UW in place. So, the only Lime bikes available on the UW campus are the ones people ride there.

        Ofo probably just decided to just do it anyway, and ask for forgiveness, rather than permission.

  5. At least we haven’t gone completely anti-bike like Oregon with their super regressive bike sales tax (in a state with no sales tax!).

    As long as the city is putting the $750,000 to good use and contributing the funds to data analysis and improving basic infrastructure I’m ok with it. If they take the OR approach and the money goes straight into the mega-highway project infrastructure bucket we can start cleaning up the pitchforks for the next SDOT meeting.

    1. Southeasterner, are you saying that in Oregon bikes are sales-taxed and cars aren’t? Not going to ask how a State could get away with that, because obviously one is. But I’m into Fantasy. What’s the explanation? Or are requests for info on that taxed?

      Mark

  6. Will Lyft/Uber actually provide the bikes, or will they just be an app to borrow a bike from a stranger? (This question is in jest, I hope.)

    Given Uber’s poor safety record, at least with ridesharing, when asked whether they are responsible for the placement of bikes, will they just throw up their hands and say “We’re just an app. We can’t be held responsible for the actions of the users of our bikes.”

  7. These companies have to be losing money, and quite a bit of it. The city should have decided upon a light regulatory touch, recognizing the financial losses as direct corporate subsidy of the best, lowest cost, zero emission transportation options we have.

    1. (1) But someone, somewhere, is making a profit. That can’t be allowed!! We don’t need more luxury e-bikes and e-scooters!! Only rich, white people are asking for them, anyway.

      (2) Whose streets? Car streets!

      [sarcasm alert]

    2. Considering how hard it is to turn a profit in any form of passenger transportation, I’d be surprised (and delighted!) if they have been raking in large profits.

  8. Taxing into oblivion the lowest-cost, lowest-impact transportation service imaginable while dumping cash into buses, trains, and cars would mock all the goals Seattle ostensibly has.

    Last I checked, all three of these bike shares are private and for-profit with a bunch of investor funding behind them, costing the City and it’s residents a non-zero amount. Also, last I checked, Car2Go and ZipCar (both private, for-profit) are taxed pretty highly, with nobody complaining.

    Buses and trains are subsidized because they are publicly owned. Personal cars are definitely over subsidized, but they are privately owned by the public and the infrastructure is generally open for use by other modes of transportation.

    If one of the bike shares decided to go non-profit, I could see an argument for subsidizing (like Pronto, but obviously that was a poorly run disaster from the start). But none of them have.

    Taxpayers should not be subsidizing a bunch of investors’ bottom line. That happens way too much already in our society. If a necessary service needs subsidizing, nationalize it.

    1. Actually, I do have problem with carsharing being charged taxes as much as 18%, while Uber and Lyft pay almost no tax. It artificially inflates the price of Car2Go, relative to Uber to point where driving a rental car costs nearly the same as paying someone to drive you. It also reduces the number of annual trips you need to make before car ownership becomes cheaper.

      1. Uber and Lyft should be taxed as well. Seattle Council is probably too nervous that people will notice their formerly cheap Uber and Lyft fares are more in line with taxis and take it out on them.

        Seattle really dropped the ball when it came to “rideshare” AKA unregulated taxis. The fumbled around too long until Uber basically muscled their way in with as little regulations and taxes as they could. At that point, good luck adding regulation.

      2. NYC just added a significant means of regulation (albeit “temporary”), and Uber/Lyft haven’t left the city. The usual fear mongering, sure, but just not up and leaving like they have been known to do before in smaller cities. Uber/Lyft are just very dependent on ridership in large cities at this point?

    2. These bike shares may technically be for-profit companies, but none of them have become solvent. In fact, many people think that these bike shares are just the latest bubble, and they are all slowly going bankrupt. Mostly because the city imposes strict rules forcing bike shares to redistribute the bikes; I think it’s a good thing, but it means these companies are just barely holding on. Add random vandalism and regular maintenance, and these companies are barely keeping their heads above water. Add a $50 / bike annual tax, and now these companies are back in the hole. The result will be no bike shares.

      1. The city fees are largely based on what the market will bear. If Lime threatened to get out if it wasn’t reduced, I’ll bet, if push comes to shove, the city would reduce it.

      2. Ofo has received somewhere north of $2.2 billion in investor funding and Lime close to $500 million.

        I think they’ll be just fine.

  9. I honestly think that SCL/SDOT completely failed this one. At $1, I’d take the bike. At the price of assisted one from Lime, I prefer car2go (i always had one within 5 minute walk) or a bus.

    1. Depends on the trip. Lime bikes are much easier to park than Car2Go’s, and don’t get stuck in traffic. And, for trips that don’t involve the highway, they are still quite a bit cheaper, especially after adding in the tax to the Car2Go rate.

      The only time Car2Go can really compete with Line Bike on price is when you’re driving down an empty freeway, since pay by minute means faster speeds cost less per mile. Of course most of these trips have at least one end outside of the Car2Go home area, so you still can’t use it.

      1. I live in North Seattle. Going Fremont to Crown Hill will always be cheaper in car2go or bus for me than on e-Lime bike.

      2. I’ve done Fremont to Crown Hill multiple times. Bus – free with pass. Lime-E – $4. Car2Go/ReachNow – $8 (after tax). Uber/Lyft – $12. If you don’t feel like waiting for the bus, the bike still wins on price.

      3. Eh, shared uber/lyft cost me $3.75 yesterday. :-)
        I guess it depends on the time of the day. When I wouldn’t want to wait for the bus (evening, weekend) traffic is usually very calm, but yeah time/price ration still tilts towards car2go for me.

      4. Crown Hill is close enough to Fremont that an e-bikes would get you there about as quick as Uber. Whatever time Uber saves from cars moving faster than bikes gets squandered in waiting for the car to show up. The shared rides, with random detours will be slower. $3.75 for Lyft Line is also likely a temporary promotional rate, and probably excludes the tip. If you don’t intend to stiff the driver, you have to include tip in your budgeting.

        Car2Go, similar. Whatever time you save by driving over biking gets squandered by time spent walking to the car, which is usually quite a bit further away than the nearest bike. At least in Fremont.

      5. I ride a Lime-E from King Street to my office near the convention center nearly every day. There is literally no faster way to get where I’m going. It would be ridiculous to buy an eBike to do this; I’d have to take it on the train with me and then store it at work. This way, I just pick one up near the ID station and drop it off on the street. It’s $2 (cheaper than the bus would be, and door to door instead of dropping me off three blocks away past a construction site.

  10. a $3 bike share will mark the end of the bike share. it’s just way to expensive. I had an annual Pronto membership, and that was great! I think the $2 / hour rate of LimeBike and Spin was a little steep, but still acceptable. The $1 / hour rate of Ofo was a game changer. Now, I feel like the city is getting too greedy (as usual) and they will tax the system out of the city.

    1. There’s no way ofo was anywhere near profitable at $1/hr (I would even question if Spin or Lime were anywhere near profitable at $2/hr) and I suspect they were just trying to undercut Spin and Lime, as they were late to the game. Plus, there were people apprehensive about giving their data and financial information to a China based company. so maybe they though $1/hr was low enough for people to quell their fears.

      And how is Seattle “greedy” in trying to recoup the non-zero monetary cost required to manage and regulate these for profit companies? Why aren’t the for profit companies the greedy ones for expecting taxpayers to subsidize their bottom line?

      Maybe someone can establish a non-profit bike share company, using all the soon-to-be abandoned Spin and ofo bikes as a start. Then we can talk subsidization.

  11. I believe all of the following:

    1. These fees would make a real difference for a company operating on the cusp of profitability, especially if it’s offering the most basic, affordable service.
    1a. That’s a real shame, because the basic, affordable service has many virtues. Pedal bikes, at least in theory, require less attention than e-bikes, which is good, because… it’s not easy to park a service vehicle unobtrusively in a lot of places where bike-share is popular (based on the stories out there about gig-economy scooter charging, I expect this will be a much bigger issue when that hits Seattle). Considering how many share-bikes I see with their brake cables cut, maybe that’s not working out — maybe they all need a lot of attention. Anyway, pedal bikes are a cheap and simple way to make a lot of trips that don’t quite fit in the transit network… UW Station is a big destination that’s way more convenient to bike than bus to from lots of places, for example. Some of those trips are surprisingly flat, and a cheap pedal bike option is nice to have.

    2. ofo and Spin were not on the cusp of profitability in Seattle. They’re moving out of operating bikes in cities, like Seattle, where they aren’t close to profitability. Blaming the government is just face-saving.
    2a. Lime might be close… or they might not be. They did actually gain mindshare in Seattle, which the other companies didn’t. And they managed to convince investors to throw more money at them, though that pertains to their entire company and not just bikes in Seattle. Lime might ultimately end up all-scooter, all-electric, all-gig-economy-charging…

    3. The availability of bike-share seems to be positive overall. Scooters might be, too… if cities actually do respond by making more space for walking/biking/wheeling/scooting/etc.
    3a. But the city has legitimate costs to administer the program. Because the companies, left entirely to their own devices, would dominate certain areas of the public realm, and the city needs to figure out where and when it needs to act, or to weigh on the companies to act, to keep the public realm really public. When the Burke-Gilman at Stone/34th is routinely blocked up with share-bikes, who comes in as a representative of the people and mandates that it be kept clear? Ultimately that will fall to the city. When the companies all switch to scooters, including new entrants that have proven less scrupulous in their other ventures than Lime, and the scooters are charged by gig-economy participants that drive and park vans in all kinds of illegal places, who is even in a position to restore order? Only the city. Other people can lodge complaints, but Uber is coming, and Uber only responds to credible threats.

    1. “Considering how many share-bikes I see with their brake cables cut”

      Why would anybody cut bake cables? To cause more accidents to give bikeshare a bad name? It sounds like something in a murder mystery, where the murderer plants a compromised bike in the path of his victim. Hopefully he won’t go downhill and run into a car….

      1. I had the brake cables on my bike cut once, but that was a theft tactic (they didn’t have enough time or tools to get through the lock during the day so they cut the brakes… then, like a sucker, I left it parked outside and decided to go pick it up the next morning when I had more time, and it was gone).

        But that’s not why you’d cut the cables of a share-bike, since they’re going to be left out overnight anyway.

        So I suspect it’s a political act. If so, the finger may point toward one of the following:

        1. General anti-bike anger. The anti-bike/anti-progress zealot faction in Seattle is getting more and more extreme with their expressions and tactics — after failing electorally they hijacked process, and as this becomes less effective they have turned to sabotage: tacks in bike lanes, and firecrackers in city trucks. Maybe also cutting brake cables of share-bikes? But this sort of zealotry tends to operate on “home turf”, and I mostly see cut brake cables along the Burke-Gilman in Fremont, not the most likely location for anti-bike zealotry.

        2. Cyclists that don’t like bike-share or e-bikes or something. They’d consider the Burke “home turf” and they’d have the tools to get the job done. And there are cyclists that ride on the Burke that are annoyed with share-bikes blocking the trail (me, for example). It would be pretty unusual for an annoyed cyclist to go this far (if this sort of thing was common then it would also be common for cyclists to vandalize cars, which have been a much bigger annoyance for much longer), but it only takes one guy…

        3. Anti-capitalist sabotage. There was documented anti-capitalist sabotage of the Biketown system in Portland. That sort of action is perhaps more subdued in Seattle, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the thing here. There’s a particular logic to anti-capitalists and anarchists going after bike-share… I don’t really like to see it but I sort of get it.

        Whatever the case, brake cables are getting cut.

      2. I find it extremely unlikely that anarchist/anticapitalist activists are cutting bike brake lines as anything like an organized tactic. We’re about making things better for people, not bomb-throwing. Cutting bike brakes…that does nothing but hurt people, and really of ALL the corporations in Portland and Seattle, do you seriously think we can’t come up with better and more popular targets than the freaking bikeshare orgs? Especially with fascists holding semi-regular marches and demonstrations in both cities? Come on. We’ve got plenty of targets that don’t involve trying to kill or injure people essentially at random.

      3. I wouldn’ta guessed they’d sabotage share-bikes in Portland, but they did, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I don’t have a dog in this one way or the other.

        Anyway one guy was caught on camera. Could be anyone. It’s sort of interesting how far the cable-cutting is spread throughout the city. It’s been so widespread, sustained, and quiet… which I think points to the anti-bike cranks more than anyone. It’s reminiscent of when tacks get laid across bike paths… the public knows it’s one of maybe 30 cranky locals, those 30 would probably suspect a couple of particularly unhinged people among them, and the person that did it might have told some close friends over drinks but doesn’t want any more recognition than that.

        I wonder how much these things feed off eachother. I bet one crank with tacks inspires others… but does news of cranks with tacks inspire drunk doofuses with beer bottles behind bus islands? I remember sweeping up a lot of bottles around the time Westlake was getting tacked, but… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, that’s one man’s anecdote. Maybe one crank with cable cutters inspires others… and maybe these people and the drunk idiots that throw bikes into the Sound reinforce eachother.

      4. Anarchists/anticapitalists tend to be environmentalists, vegans, members of cooperatives, etc. It’s hard to see how they could be against bikes and bikesharing, and even taking a stand against their corporate owners seems a bit of a stretch. The bikeshare corporations aren’t major polluters or running Chinese sweatshops or selling $6 lattes and displacing local businesses or supporting right-wing extremists. The worst I can think of is that one of them is Uber and it exploits its drivers and claims it’s just an app platform and has no responsibility to the communities it operates in. But with bikeshares there’s no driver being exploited, it’s clearly the company’s bikes and the company’s responsibility, their carbon footprint is infinitesimal, they don’t take up much road space or parking space, etc. So why would anarchists/anticapitalists be so offended by them they’d target them for sabotage? It seems like they’d do better to continue protesting Starbucks and Nike and Shell and Exxon.

  12. “and the agency can’t find enough drivers or base capacity for all the buses it wants to put on the road. ” Usually, when supply is constrained one responds by raising prices, not cutting them…

    1. Metro is not a for-profit company. It’s an essential community service. Raising prices would harm the community. “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” The argument for lowering the fare is that it would serve the community better, and allow the citizens to pursue their goals more easily and with less financial stress. That’s what governments exist for (in the liberal view), to do collectively what people can’t individually do.

  13. How long has either bike-sharing or car-sharing been seriously in business at all? I think we’re right at the beginning of a brand-new industry, so natural that , for cars and bikes, it’s all a first-time for everybody. Could the City do its own free ride-share program, handing out, retrieving, maintaining and even building very simple bikes from scrap?

    Because whatever the needs and desires from the corporate world……we’re talking two wheels, a frame made out of a half dozen pipes, and some handle-bars. Hills pretty steep for “coaster brakes.” But if you can’t do a dozen gears….won’t three work? City could encourage people to build their own, and bring them in to be certified for safety.

    Not going to speculate why our most promising car-builder is now competing with our Chief of State for reality show audience share. Any night, Tesla himself is going to materialize in a shower of sparks and add a trade-mark infringement claim to the plot. But we’re daily assembling a technical work-force from countries with very old bicycle cultures.

    Really shouldn’t be long before between community colleges and websites, everybody that wants a bike should be able to afford and build one. Here’s mine.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/41897604492/in/dateposted-public/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/41223384254/in/dateposted-public/

    Generator goes on a bike-trailer.

    Mark

  14. How did the City come up with a tax rate of $50 per bike per year? That sounds way too high for a program that’s still in its sorting-out phase. I’d like to understand their methodology in arriving at that number, or did they just pluck it out of the air?

    1. I’m not with the city, but I think they worked backwards from the amount of money they were trying to raise.

      Part of the whole “sorting-out” phase is that the need to sort out a regulatory framework has been thrown at cities without much preparation. If you want the city’s response to be based on a bunch of anecdotal complaining rather than more careful consideration, then go ahead and ignore that need.

    2. It costs money to regulate and oversee the bikeshare programs. Somebody has to pay for the staff time, police time, etc. I don’t know whether a just amount is $50 but it’s certainly higher than zero. And this is building a new regulatory infrastructure from scratch, with few models to go on because (dockless) bikeshare is so new.

    3. A couple more reasons. Bikeshares make it more essential to accelerate building the bike-lane network. And adding more bike-parking rectangles in neighborhoods.

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