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Last update on Seattle dockless bikeshare pilot


Last update on Seattle dockless bikeshare pilot

BY   Alexandre Gauquelin   

I already wrote about Seattle’s dockless pilot program, one of the pioneers regarding regulation. Two times actually… Well it’s time for the second update, as some changes occured during summer!!


A short reminder about  the pilot: Spin, Ofo and Lime launched their services in july 2017, with around 10 000 bikes in total. In 2018, Lime also introduced E-bikes. They all get a one year permit, in order for the SDOT to evaluate: usage, regulation needs, operation rules, security measures and so on. So, after the first year, SDOT released its 2017 FREE-FLOATING BIKE SHARE PILOT EVALUATION REPORT. Here is what we learn:


The average number of rides/bike/day was 0.84, with a peak at 2.5. Well that is low, and I quite disagree with SDOT concluding that they have to focus on the number of trips only: if you need 1M bicycles to have 1000 rides, well, maybe that the system does not fit the needs of the population (not talking about the huge public space use for little usage).


The pilot covered all the neighbourhoods, and we see that the equity of use and access is… not bad. Compared to Pronto, the improvement is great! But for sure there is room for improvement for the northern and southern neighbourhoods.

With pronounced afternoon peaks, discernible morning peak usage, and comparable ridership on weekdays relative to weekends, it is clear that the system is being used for far more than as an additional recreation or exercise option. In addition, people are using bike-share to access Seattle’s transit options, with almost 75% having taken bike-share to access transit and 33% regularly accessing transit with bike-share.


One third only of the users are women. That is low, but it matches the national results regarding bike riding. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of users is aged between 18 and 44 years old. Finally, and this is nice to notice, with the same user rate between White, Asian and Afro-american + Latino + Other, the pilot seems successful in serving a diverse population of Seattleites.



Almost three quarters of Seattleites view the bike share program favorably, the main reasons being its eco-friendly image, and not having to bother with their privately owned bike safety.

On the other hand, troubles with parking, bad riding behaviour and lack of cycling infrastructures are pointed as the main issues coming with dockless bike-share. SDOT shares a number of 4% of bikes impeding access, impacting first of all disabled people. Round of applause for SDOT to put so much emphasis on helping them (both by improving the parking behaviour, and supplying specific vehicles)!


Based on these conclusions, SDOT wrote his Permit Requirements Version 2.0. The first evolution is financial:

The vendor must indemnify the city, maintain insurance, and take out a surety bond on the City’s behalf. Vendors must reimburse the City for all costs we incur dealing with noncompliance.


You might have already read about it, SDOT is introducing a US$50/bike flat fee, that has been used by ofo and Spin to withdraw their application for 2018-2019. As the maximum fleet size is 5000, the maximum fee is US$250 000. But we can be sceptical about the veracity of the argument as ofo almost entirely withdraw from the US (and other) markets, and Spin seems to focus on scooter-sharing only.


A portion of the fees will be used to address the main challenge faced with dockless bike-share: parking. SDOT already started to create specific parking zones and will carry on developing it in the coming year. Geofencing becomes mandatory as well, first to specify forbidden parking zones.


A focus is also made on equity:

Vendors offering a mostly electric assisted fleet must establish a reduced-fare program. And all vendors need to provide at least one low-barrier rental method for people who don’t have a smartphone or bank account.


In addition to a mandatory “proactive strategy” to improve equity (together with parking behaviour and riders education), 10% of the fleets will have to be distributed between 3 equity focus areas that had below average bike access during the pilot.


SDOT also want to use the bike-sharing systems to improve its cycling infrastructures. Great, that will benefit to all cyclists! They chose to ask vendors to  collect better trip waypoint data, starting in 2019.


As a result, Lime will be the sole and only survivor, while Uber (Jump Bikes) and Lyft (Motivate) are applying as well. For sure, a US$250000 entry fee is not much for these newcomers… Well, take time to read the full Pilot Evaluation Report and Permit Requirements Version 2.0, SDOT is paving the way for many other cities!

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