Finding a bike to rent in Seattle shouldn’t be a difficult problem come next week.
Bike-sharing companies Spin and LimeBike debuted in Seattle last month with 500 bicycles each as part of a six-month pilot program organized by the city. The regulations now allow for 1,000 bicycles per company, so expect to see more orange and green two-wheelers around town.
And now, as The Seattle Times noted today, two additional bike-sharing companies — VBikes and Ofo — have applied for permits with the city and could roll out their own bikes next week. They would also be able to operate up to 1,000 bicycles, meaning there could be 4,000 bike-sharing bikes on the roads in Seattle.
The per-company bike limit goes from 1,000 to 2,000 in September, and expands again in October. Spin says its ultimate goal is to have 10,000 bikes across Seattle.
So basically, get ready for a ton more bikes in the Emerald City.
All four companies are looking to offer a new dockless approach to short-term urban bike rentals — something that Seattle has struggled with in the past with the ill-fated Pronto program. The automatic locks allow users to leave their two-wheelers essentially wherever they want. They cost $1 per 30 minutes of riding and both Spine and LimeBike offer monthly deals; payment and reservation is done through smartphone apps.
Spin reported 5,008 rides through the first week of service; that’s about 10 rides per bike, with each being used once or twice a day. LimeBike reported 10,000 rides during its first week of service, which translates to about 20 rides per bike.
Here’s a heat map via Spin, showing pickup locations for trips during its first week:
Seattle Bike Blog notes that Pronto had 3,134 rides during its first week of operation in late 2015, but averaged 394 rides per week during its first year. Pronto had 500 bicycles on Seattle’s streets before it shut down in March.
One issue we noted in our review was the lack of available helmets for both services; it’s illegal in Seattle and King County to ride a bike without one. LimeBike plans to distribute 1,000 helmets at promotional events, but neither company is providing helmets to riders as part of the service.
If anything, the bicycles are surely attracting attention in Seattle. Spin even made an impromptu appearance when an employee showed up on the big screen during a live interview at Valve’s big Dota 2 esports event at Key Arena in Seattle. Asked what team he came to see play in the Dota 2 tournament, Spin’s Adam Mason said “I’m actually working right there at Spin bicycles, we’re trying to get customers.”