Seattle introduces new community bike share program

picture of seattle and bikes
Matthew Rietveld / The Watchdog

The Seattle Department of Transportation recently announced a new bike share program in an effort to create an alternative form of transportation that also works well with the community.

It will act as a replacement to Pronto, the city’s non-profit bike share system which shut down last year. Planned to fully launch by the end of the summer, the pilot program will run until the end of the year when SDOT will evaluate its effectiveness in Seattle.

Scott Kulby, SDOT director, told KIRO 7 “I think the important thing is when something doesn’t work you don’t give up.” Kulby was referring to the previous Pronto bike share which became more of an expense for the city during its time without much benefit to the community. The new program has been modified in order to improve upon the last bike share initiative.

The new bike share is going to be privately-run by companies like Limebike and Spin with estimated total participation of up to 10 businesses. There will be no docking stations for bikes, they will instead be parked on the sidewalk where users can locate and unlock available bicycles through a phone application. Once users are done, they may park the bike on the sidewalk in the area near the curb and out of the way of pedestrian paths as the SDOT requires.

While King County law requires all bicyclists to wear a helmet in public, SDOT only asks that participating companies notify users of the law. So far, Limebike has said that they will be providing 1,000 helmets to new users in order to support the pilot program. Even considering this, the number of distributed helmets likely won’t be close to the number of bikes on the street.

SDOT Director of Communications Mafara Hobson said in a press release “What we’re looking to achieve in terms of this pilot is to basically monitor and evaluate how this goes. So, if we see that there are lots of people riding the bikes and they don’t have helmets […] there will be adjustments made.”

Similar to Seattle, Sustainability at Bellevue College has been organizing their own bike rental program, limited to college students, staff and faculty. Amber Nicholson, BC’s director of sustainability said “Using a bike share or a bike rental program is a quick and easy way to get around that is not only healthy but also reduces traffic congestion and carbon emissions associated with vehicle usage.”

Currently, BC has received the bikes which will be included in the bike rental system and is working out the final details. “It’s all about building a community of cyclists that enjoy getting a little bit of exercise or fresh air, leaving the car behind for a moment, getting to know alternative transportation options (or a mix of options), and your surroundings in a new light,” said Nicholson.