Seattle gearing up to take bike share all-electric, to Central District in 2017

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Bewegen electric assist bikes could be rolling out in Seattle by April 2017. (Image: Bewegen)

The City of Seattle is planning to say goodbye to bike share operator Motivate and bonjour to Bewegen. The young Quebec-based company was ranked the highest among six companies seeking to operate a new bike share system in Seattle. Motivate came in second.

While the deal is not finalized, Seattle Department of Transportation has entered negotiations with Bewegen to completely replace the current city-owned Pronto system. The move would prove an expensive mistake in Seattle’s first attempt to create a successful share but also clear the road for faster progress in giving people a simple alternative for getting around the city quickly and safely.

With plans to bring 1,200 electric assist bicycles and 100 stations with 2,400 total docking points, Bewegen says it could make the transition in 16 weeks and be operational by April 2017. Several new stations along 23rd Ave would push the Capitol Hill coverage area eastward, allowing the electric bikes to be put to full use traversing the backside of Capitol Hill. UPDATE: We confused the service proposal’s plans for the eastern Capitol Hill, Central District area. The proposal from Bewegen would utilize 19th Ave to serve the 23rd Ave corridor. The stations proposed would not be located on 23rd Ave. Sorry for the confusion. UPDATE x2: Or maybe not. Here’s where station planning stands according to SDOT:

“The locations on the map are approximate – blocks and streets for the station locations have not yet been defined. Bewegen’s intent was to show general city coverage with its proposed service area and station density. Service area and station siting is a task for the City and Bewegen to complete collaboratively after a contract is signed.”

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Bewegen’s proposed coverage area. (Image: Bewegen)

If the city moves forward with Bewegen, the Pronto bikes and stations would be sold off through the city’s surplus procedures.

Bewegen’s bikes include an enclosed drive train and multiple e-assist levels. The electric motor helps move the pedals, not the wheels, so riders will still have to pedal to move the bike. Bikes charge in 90 minutes and are powered by grid electricity. Batteries hold enough power for a 40 minute ride, but the bikes can continue to operate the old fashioned way.

“Bewegen’s Pedelec (electric assist) bikes introduce the user to a new bike-riding experience, and out innovative technology requires only a small amount of pedaling to travel a substantial distance,” the company wrote in their bid. “Further, Bewegen’s Pedelec bikes are equipped with automatic adjusting transmission, which will reproduce the proper gear ratio to accommodate the City of Seattle’s mountainous topography.”

Bewegen will install helmet dispensing units at each station. The pay structure would be essentially unchanged from the current Pronto structure, though all “free” ride times after purchasing a pass would be 45 minutes instead of 30.

Bewegen operates bike shares in Baltimore, Birmingham, and Richmond, Virginia.

SDOT officials believe an all-electric bike system can be a game changer in terms of boosting ridership and would allow more riders to make the longer trips required through less dense areas. It was the clear

About 25% of the equipment costs will be paid for by Bewegen, which is anticipating $600,000 in profit annually above operational costs.

As for Motivate, its plan also called for scrapping the existing Pronto equipment — 500 bikes and 50 stations — in favor of a new 1,600 bike, 160 station system. However, only 100 bikes would be electric assist. Motivate did propose more service area coverage in low income areas as compared to Bewegen. A proposal to keep the existing Pronto system placed second to last.

Here is what Seattle Seattle Bike Blog had to say about the two top proposals:

The difference between Bewegen and Motivate here is pretty much philosophical. What’s more important, density and flexibility or e-assist? I have long been a skeptic of e-assist bike share, worrying that the added cost would mean fewer stations. And conventional thinking says that station reach and density are the most important factors in a bike share system’s success. But that thinking doesn’t factor-in the draw of e-assist power.

SDOT director Scott Kubly has recused himself from the selection process after he admitted to an ethics violation by not obtaining permission to work with Motivate. Kubly had previously ran the company that became Motivate.

In March, City Council members approved a plan for the City to takeover Pronto with a $1.4 million investment while reserving another $3.6 million for future expansion of the system next year under a new operator contract.

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23 thoughts on “Seattle gearing up to take bike share all-electric, to Central District in 2017

    • Agreed, Dave. I can take a cab to work for $11. Why would I bike for $8 when I have to walk up one of the largest hills in Seattle just to find one of these bikes?

      • Del. You’re confusing things :) More common scenario for people who live in city is annual membership. Current system costs $85/year for unlimited rides (45 minutes or under).

  1. Will they eventually sell the Pronto Bikes? That could off-set some of the cost. I’ve never ridden one but they look pretty nice.

  2. will they be back to the trough every year for another huge cash infusion, to pay for the bikes that are trashed, stolen, vandalized, etc? Too much to hope for that this boondoggle would be self-supporting. Oh, hell, what’s another tax levy to dump onto homeowners, right?

    • Hey Jim,

      Just how many Pronto bikes have been “trashed” or stolen? Do you even understand how these systems work? You have to pay to use them, using a credit card.

      They know who uses them! So if one becomes unridable, they know who to talk to!

      So, what percentage of the Pronto bikes have been destroyed?

      Or are you just making shit up?

  3. According to the map shown above, the new stations would all be along 19th, not 23rd, but the article says 23rd. Do we know which it will really be? 23rd seems like it would make much more sense.

  4. This is a great idea. I love Pronto bikes, I’m in my second year of annual membership and have over 700 rides. I’ve ridden them up hills all over the city, but the electric-assist bikes will make it much easier and hopefully attract ridership.

    • These changes are what will make it worth me to finally join. As well as a bunch of other folks I know. Now if they had just put more bike stations right at light rail stations and other transit stops like they do in every other city I’ve ever done bike share in…..

    • Ditto. I don’t have a membership now but would once the system goes electric. Cruising up Pike rather than huffing would make a world of difference.

  5. “However, only 100 bikes would be electric assist”. is that right? I am unclear about many things. First being why cant we transition the ones we have?
    “As for Motivate, its plan also called for scrapping the existing Pronto equipment — 500 bikes and 50 stations”. why cant we just sell it back to the previous owner that why its a win win…