Seattle’s floating bike shares: Most are parked just fine, thanks, and pretty much nobody is wearing a helmet

Standoff on the Green

There are 10,000 orange, green, and yellow bikes available for rent on the streets of Seattle — and, the city says, around 7,000 of them are parked without blocking the sidewalk, presumably upright, and not underwater.

The City of Seattle’s chaotic but kinda fun test of floating bike shares is ready for its next step — regulations to help the clearly popular but still a work in progress component of the city’s transit system work even better. It’s one urbanist adventure where Seattle is firmly in the lead over many other big cities in U.S.

CHS looked at many of the options on the table including designated parking areas here in January. Tuesday, the Seattle City Council’s transportation committee heard an update on program and the next steps on forming new permitting requirements for providers like Limebike, Ofo, and Spin. The full presentation from the meeting is below.

As of June, Seattle’s floating bike share population has hit 10,000 — with 1,400 of those being electric-assist bikes from Limebike. Tuesday’s presentation focused on ridership data from the rollout of the floating shares in the city through December:

Ridership data shows a few interesting takeaways for who, what, when and where the bikes are being used. Areas around downtown show the most usage but the city says Rainer Valley and Georgetown outperformed expectations while Southwest Seattle lagged. The bikes have been most popular as a commuter tool on weekday evenings.

Survey says people like the idea of the floating shares — but most people who call about them have complaints… mostly about how they are parked:

Lots of people also complain about riders using the bikes without helmets but, so far, it hasn’t been a safety issue. Many advocates say Seattle and King County’s helmet requirements will hold back usage of bike share systems. But don’t expect the city council to act on that one anytime soon.

The City Council will discuss new permit regulations through June with plans for a final vote on June 29th and a new permit in place for the providers by the end of July.

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13 thoughts on “Seattle’s floating bike shares: Most are parked just fine, thanks, and pretty much nobody is wearing a helmet

  1. I am an avid walker and jogger, all over the CD and Capitol Hill and beyond. Although I’ve seen bikes parked incorrectly many times, I have never once had my ability to continue on my route without leaving the sidewalk prevented by a bike share bike. On the other hand, I regularly have to leave the sidewalk to get around cars, by folks parking in their driveway across the sidewalk “just for a minute”, or because they want to squeeze in an extra car, or because their garage is full of stuff.

  2. The primary concern with bike parking is when the bikes block access for wheelchair users and people who use other mobility devices. I’ve seen them far too often blocking ramps or limiting the width of sidewalks.

    • Why is this only a concern with bikes? As Steve pointed out above and as holds true in my experience as well, people with cars do this much more often than people that utilize the bikeshares.

      • It isn’t only a concern for bikes. But it is a particular concern for bikeshare bikes because the model allows people to leave them anywhere–not in a bike rack like they might with their own bikes. And many people are unaware that they are blocking access for people with disabilities when they leave them on narrow sidewalks or too close to ramps.

  3. I think the dockless bikeshare program is pretty awesome. Yes, people need to park them better and not be jerks about it. But hopefully those are norms that evolve.

    Glad the city killed pronto and created space for this to happen, and to study the results!

    Just anecdotally, I see way more of them being used early this summer as well, all over the city. I bet the stats are significantly higher within a year.

    Now for more/better bike lanes to help people feel safe and use it more! There really needs to be a good, safe route between capitol hill and south lake union — such an obvious way for people to get to work!

  4. I believe it is illegal to cycle in Seattle without wearing a helmet, so why does the City look the other way when bikeshare customers are helmetless? It is only a matter of time before there is a serious injury, or worse.

      • Paul, you good sir need to get a life. I appreciate you comment, but you are most likely a communist. I am a member of the Sierra Club and we require all members to wear helmets. Further, we basically dictate policy to the entire city council. So, everyone will be wearing a helmet when we decide it will happen.

    • Some people just care so little about what’s inside their skull that they don’t make the effort to wear a helmet. I’ve put too much time, money and energy into my brain to risk damaging it over something as petty as my hair or convenience. But hey, to each their own, or something.

  5. “Only 24% of bikeshare users reported wearing a helmet”
    The inherent safety increases that come from using bikeshare (brighter bikes, users sit more upright/visibly, users ride slower, etc) have a much bigger safety impact than helmets. Helmet laws only serve to reduce bikeshare usage. #unpopularopinion