There were 10,000 dockless bike share bikes scattered across Seattle at the end of 2017, nearly a quarter of all units nationwide.
That was one of the findings in a new study of Seattle’s bike sharing program released Monday by the Seattle Department of Transportation. It comes as the city is determining long-term regulations for dockless bike sharing companies. The study found that the 10,000 bikes from Spin, LimeBike, and Ofo were ridden 468,000 times from July 2017 to the end of the year.
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The study underscores the rapid growth of bike sharing in Seattle and the city’s status of a nationwide proving ground for the concept. The program only kicked off last summer, when the city granted permits to Spin and LimeBike starting with 500 bikes a piece, a threshold that was increased later in the year. In August, Chinese bike share company Ofo jumped into the fray.
The excitement over bike sharing has spilled over into new programs for shareable electric scooters, which have been deployed in San Francisco and Southern California, to mixed reviews, but they are not yet sanctioned in Seattle. The city is reportedly waiting to consider the issue of permitting for electric-scooter sharing until determining the long-term plan for the related bike-sharing initiatives now operating under a pilot program.
Nationwide, the survey found there were 44,000 dockless bikes in 25 cities at the end of last year, managed by five companies. Seattle’s approach has drawn national attention, and the study was undertaken earlier this year to find out information about who uses bike share, how they use it, and what they don’t like about the services.
The survey found that most people using bike share are biking to transit or work directly, with very few using the bikes for exercise. Most users were between the ages of 25 and 44 and 62 percent of users were male, according to the survey.
The survey found that 74 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the program, however 85 percent of comments received via phone and email were negative. The biggest complaints concerned poorly parked bikes, that the companies weren’t responsive and riders didn’t wear helmets.
About a third of residents have tried the program, another third hasn’t tried it but is open to doing so and the final third is unwilling to give bike share a shot.
The study found that bikes are often concentrated around downtown and the University District and that the companies need to do a better job of making sure bikes are distributed toward the edges of the city and in Southwest Seattle.