Bike Share Could Return to Seattle Sooner Than You Thought

Two private companies want to bring bike-share programs back to the city.
| Updated: November 27, 2018

If at first you don’t succeed, try again with someone else’s money.

Maybe that’s not how your kindergarten teacher put it, but it seems to be the city’s approach toward bringing bike share back to Seattle. That’s right, less than two months after Pronto docks vanished from our streets, there’s a new push to replace the city-run program with another system. Make that two systems.

When the announcement came earlier this year that the city was killing its struggling bike-share program, city officials left the door open for a private company to eventually take its place. Now, Seattle Bike Blog reports two companies are eying our hillside town.

San Francisco-based Spin, which the blog describes as Car2Go with bicycles, hopes to launch in Seattle, well, pronto. The compay, which had a rocky launch in Austin during South by Southwest, is a “free-floating” system, meaning there are no stations for parking its bikes, as most existing bike shares have. Riders can park the two-wheel rentals anywhere after their trip by popping the kickstand and locking the rear wheel. Spin’s app helps users locate available bikes and unlocks them by scanning a QR code. The cost of $1 per 30-minute ride could encourage more short, one-off trips than Pronto, which charged $8 per day (or $85 for a yearlong pass) when it launched in 2014.

The second company interested in Seattle, Bluegogo, runs similarly station-less systems mainly in China. After irking city officials in San Francisco, the company launched a pilot program there with 11 parking docks around the city, also charging a buck for a half-hour ride. In late March, Bluegogo pulled its bikes off the streets after running afoul of existing zoning laws. However, it may look to resume service after the city recently set new permit rules, the San Francisco Examiner reports.

According to Seattle Weekly, bike friendly City Council members Rob Johnson and Mike O’Brien are prepping legislation to handle the potential influx of thousands of bikes on city streets. A pilot program could begin as soon as this summer.

When Pronto’s fate was sealed this year, some speculated the county’s mandatory helmet law was partly to blame. Others pointed to the city’s steep hills and perpetual rain as turnoffs for casual riders. After failing to secure a grant to expand the program, the city decided to pull the plug rather than sink more of its own cash in trying to grow the embattled Pronto.

“Our experience with the Pronto … program has been a disaster,” council member Tim Burgess told the Seattle Times in January. “I don’t think Seattle is ready yet to invest millions of dollars” in a new program.

Here's hoping for better results with someone else's money on the line.

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