Greater City Providence

CNNtech: How Seattle morphed from bikeshare failure to industry leader in five months

Cyclists riding on a cycletrack in Downtown Seattle. Photo Seattle Department of Transportation

Fewer than five months ago, Seattle shut down its struggling municipal bikeshare system that had been propped up with taxpayer dollars. But in the last month, three innovative bikeshare companies have launched in the city, quickly eclipsing the past failure.

There are more bikes available, and more rides being taken. The price of a single ride — $1 — isn’t only cheaper — it’s the lowest price of any bikeshare system in a major U.S. city. The city government will be receiving substantially more data on these bike trips, to better plan local transportation. By year’s end, Seattle is on pace to have the U.S.’s largest bikeshare network. And all of this happened without a penny of taxpayer funding.

“The city has turned what was an abysmal failure into a huge success story just within a matter of months,” Tom Fucoloro, editor of the Seattle Bike Blog, told CNN. “Seattle is the gateway to the U.S. on bikeshare. A lot of other cities are looking at Seattle and watching.”

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  • I wonder if Seattle has bike lanes where they are actually most needed, like on overpasses, and whether the ones they have do not all begin and end at daunting multi lane intersections.

  • How does data about where people happen to ride tell us more than we already know about where people do not ride, and who is not riding, which we already know is where improvement is most needed?

    It is like looking for the keys under the streetlamp – GIGO

    But yes, it is all about the data. Does anyone think “funding from Silicon Valley” is doing this because renting bikes for a dollar is where the money is?

    This is not a complaint about bike share in general! I hope it works out well and that I have occasion to use it. But someone has to say “Beware of the Hype.”

  • Andrew I, Seattle eventually gets around to building protected bike lanes (with paint and plastic posts) in a few spot locations for a few blocks but has them end abruptly when it gets to a difficult location. Its kind of the worst of all worlds, they expend the political capital on bike lanes and rightsizing streets (and media bikelash) but then are of little use to occasional timid riders since they also require biking through problemmatic areas and are too complex for the fearless spandex warriors who rather just fight the cars in the standard traffic lanes.

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