SEATTLE – Two private bike-share companies will likely soon have 1,000 shareable bikes on Seattle streets.
Earlier this year, the city folded Pronto, the money-losing bike-share system it owned. The Seattle Times reported that two big differences between the new bikes and Pronto are the new bikes have no stations where bikes must be picked up and returned and the bikes are privately owned and are receiving no government funding.
The companies – Spin and LimeBike – are based in the Bay Area and funded with millions of dollars of venture-capital money.
Both companies say they’re ready to launch and are waiting on approval from the Seattle Department of Transportation. SDOT says it expects to approve the company’s applications this week. Once approvals are in, bikes will start showing up on the streets.
The companies say they’ll start with bikes placed around downtown, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union and other center-city neighborhoods, and will branch out more to other neighborhoods as they’re allowed to expand.
LimeBike has started smaller bike shares in South Bend, Indiana, and at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Spin did a trial launch in Austin, Texas, earlier this year, but Seattle would be its first permanent city.
Bike shares are booming in the United States. Nationwide, riders took about 320,000 rides on bike-share bikes in 2010, according to the National Association of County Transportation Officials. Last year, that number was 28 million.
An earlier experiment with bike sharing in Seattle ended in March when the Pronto system shut down. Pronto launched in fall 2014 with $2.5 millionin private sponsorship and $1.75 million in state and federal money. Ridership remained low as would-be customers found they didn’t want to ride around Seattle’s rainy, hilly streets. The city purchased the flagging program, but couldn’t find more riders.
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