2018 Year in Review: Seattle’s Bike-Share Program Is Having “A Year”

After rolling into town last year, the city’s many pilot bike-share companies cycled through an awkward testing phase. Here is our abridged review

This article appears in print in the December 2018 issue, as part of the Year in Review featureClick here to subscribe.

The Pile Up
City sidewalks become littered—literally—with fluorescent orange (Spin), yellow (Ofo) and green (Lime) bikes, annoying pedestrians, businesses and homeowners—and posing serious problems for visually impaired and disabled pedestrians. Nonetheless, Bellevue, Kirkland and Mercer Island get in on the action and launch their own bike-share pilot programs.

Vandal Scandal
No longer content to simply leave the dockless bikes in trees or Lake Union, at least one man takes to cutting the brake lines on some of the cycles, causing minor incidents (police are still searching for the individual). Other riders hoard the bikes for easy access to them, and one smart aleck hikes a bike 5 miles up Mailbox Peak near North Bend and leaves it at the top.

Bike Lane Battle
To accommodate all these new wheels—and the city’s already sizable herd of bike commuters—the city constructs new bikes lanes at an estimated cost of $12 million a mile, creating public outrage and resulting in cutbacks and unfinished lanes. Meanwhile, the latest plan to finish the Burke-Gilman’s 1.4-mile “missing link” in Ballard is being fought by a coalition of businesses and unions in the area.

The Last (Kick) Stand
Spin and Ofo pull out of Seattle, citing the city’s newly approved $250,000 permitting cost to operate as the reason. While the city says it will host as many as four bike-share services, Lime is temporarily left as Seattle’s only bike-share company willing to foot the bill.

Charged Up
The number of electric cycles, on the other hand, is growing. In addition to Lime’s e-fleet, which debuted in February, Uber is planning to bring its red Jump bikes to town. The all-electric fleet will give Lime a run for its money, too: True to Uber’s form, its bikes are slightly less expensive to use than those of the competition.

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