Hills? Yes, we have a few. Sure, rain is Seattle’s meteorological default mode. And okay, taxpayer-subsidized Pronto, despite its 3,000 registered users, was the hissing flat tire of city bike-share programs. (It officially deflated in March.) Nevertheless, new biking networks persist.
“We always knew that bike share should be a tool,” says Kyle Rowe, the Seattle Department of Transportation’s program manager for the city’s new bike-share pilot. “The question was how.” Well, without public funding for one.
In July, two fledgling companies—with no government subsidies—put their two-wheelers into the urban wild. Spin and then LimeBike, both California based, launched with 500 units each. Anyone with a cell phone can now straddle Spin’s bright orange cruiser or LimeBike’s neon green version. The cost: a buck per half hour.
These free-floating operations—untethered from the docking stations that likely helped kill Pronto—are already speeding past bike-share records. In its first week, Spin users logged 5,008 rides, beating Pronto’s best week in its entire two-and-a-half-year life span.
Still, skeptics soured by Pronto’s demise or wary of our hilly topography don’t see us as a legit bike town. Yet 3.6 percent of Seattle workers commute via two wheels—the fifth-highest bike ridership in the country. In Eastlake and Wallingford that number more than doubles. “It was a no-brainer for us,” says Spin CEO Derrick Ko. Meanwhile, more bike-share companies, like Ofo and VBikes, are on the way.
“This town is desperate for ways to get around that are not driving,” says Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bike Blog. Take one such LimeBike rider, spotted at Fourth and Stewart. She had ridden about a mile downtown. Shiny with perspiration, she offered, “I really like it so far.”