New Bikes for Seattle

Seattle gave one bike system a try — the kind you see in many cities here and around the world — and it wasn’t financially viable. So the city pulled all of those bikes from their pay-as-you-ride stands. Now, another concept has popped up: orange bikes.

“Spin’s bright orange bikes feature an onboard GPS with cellular modem; 26-inch, solid-foam tires; three-speed internal hubs, geared low-ish; a dynamo-hub-driven LED front light; adjustable-height seats; a front basket; and fenders. The bikes cost $1 for a 30-minute ride.

While it’s still illegal to ride a bike in King County without a helmet, the city won’t require Spin or other companies to provide the helmet. They just have tell riders that it’s the law.

Unlike Pronto—but like many other companies vying for Seattle’s cyclists right now—Spin operates on a dockless system. Riders unlock the bike using an app, and when they’re done, they park the bike in an authorized location. Per SDOT, that means, for the most part, the landscape-and-furniture zone of the parking lot between main pedestrian thoroughfare and the curb, with some exceptions.”

Basically, you grab a bike, unlock it with an app that you’ve downloaded, ride to your destination, then drop the bike anywhere other than in the middle of the street or sidewalk. I’ve seen a lot of the bikes around, and in use, and apparently they are about to be joined by a company using the same concept with lime green bikes.

Seattle isn’t an easy biking city: lots of hills, slippery cobblestone streets, and darting traffic less respectful of bikers than other cities like New York. But parking here is expensive, many of our urban residents don’t have cars, and with downtown congestion increasing all the time, walking or biking is often faster than driving or taking the bus.

I like the entrepreneurial energy that says “OK, that didn’t work. Let’s try this.” We’ll see how it goes when winter rains come and tooling along in the bright summer sun is no longer part of the ride.

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