Seattle Bike Share; Death Be Not Proud

Well here we go again, another effort at getting people out of their cars and on to bicycles. The idea of a bike share enterprise, private or publicly funded, refuses to die in Seattle.

Why is it called “Bike Share” when in reality it is “Bike Rental”? Because in collectivized Seattle it is considered poor taste to use capitalist terms like “rent”.

In July this bike appeared along the Burke Gilman trail.

This summer orange and lime green bikes began showing up all over town. I thought they were abandoned. It turns out these are two competing companies that have “deployed”, ( their term ) bikes throughout the city for rental. A yellow competitor entered the market late in the season.

Each has a chip in them which can be located by the app that is downloaded to your cellphone. This accounts for the randomness of them.

The basic idea is you locate a bike with the app, walk to it, then scan the digital media somewhere on the bike to bill your credit card. The locking mechanism located behind seat post that slips through the rear wheel lets go and you are off. That is if someone hasn’t stolen the bike seat.

No helmet is provided, inviting a violation of a local ordinance. But gosh, what could go wrong?

Of course you will not be moving very fast. I stopped and picked up a Lime Bike while out on the road riding my Trek Apex 2.1 – compared to the Trek the Green Rental Machine weighs about as much as my Dad’s Buick.

Velo L’Orange; the Spin bike.

The orange bike says you can ride it for a buck. One dollar. So how does this business model work out? Does the lock suddenly engage when time is up, regardless of whether the bike is moving?

Some people have written favorable reviews, but for every positive there is one like this  from the orange Spin Bikeshare FB page:

I road (sic) the Spin bike to work. Just tried to zip off to a meeting on the same Spin bike and spent 20 minutes trying to get the thing to scan, or take a number or anything. I missed my meeting and am NOT happy. If it is not reliable then it won’t be used. Also there is no one to call or e mail or contact to try to solve the problem. Worthless. And this crowd sourcing won’t solve the problem.

I love the last line: and this crowd sourcing won’t solve the problem.

This is a complete non-sequitur. Or is it because it is a fresh approach to capitalism we have achieved some Copernicus moment and this sort of funding necessarily means all that follows it will actually work? The world is no longer flat, when you use crowd sourcing.

Lime Bike Ditched

Well Seattle isn’t flat and these iron maidens are going to be a tough pull up Capitol Hill. I think the people in charge of these companies are going to find the bikes tend to congregate in Pioneer Square or the bottoms of other hills no matter how many they distribute around the Broadway district.

Pronto Stabled

This was a problem with the city owned bike share program called “Pronto”; people rented one long enough to coast down the hill, then the city had to send a truck to haul them back up while the rider caught a Metro bus or Uber to the top again.

This city owned system was previously a privately owned non-profit that failed in 2016. Of course our city bought it, never able to accept the reality that there are a lot of hills here, there are many dry and effortless alternatives to bikes. Did I mention it rains a lot in Seattle?

And just because the city bought it the hills didn’t get any less steep nor did the rain stop. But these new start ups, crowd sourced apparently, will not accept this and have thrown more money at the idea whose time has come, and passed, but like a bad penny keeps coming back.

Of course this review would not be fair if I had not tried renting one of the bikes myself. In the 16 minute podcast I talk about my experience renting one of the Lime Bikes on the last dry day in September.  At the end of the ride I left it in a bike stall at a public park, but you can leave it anywhere, which is a bonus. For all my tongue wagging here the experience was actually quite enjoyable. But then I like riding bikes.

Music by Ford Giesbrecht


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