After weathering a sponsorship drought and the bankruptcy of a bicycle vendor, the new Puget Sound Bike Share should be ready to hit the streets by late summer, its director says.
The opening phase will cover Seattle Children’s, the University of Washington, Eastlake, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, downtown and the central waterfront, with 500 bicycles at 50 roadside stations. Customers can subscribe online, or use a credit card to rent the shared-use bicycles from a kiosk, similar to using the city’s parking pay stations.
Holly Houser, executive director, said Thursday new sponsors will soon be announced, and her nonprofit will meet its $4.4 million startup budget. Previously the group has been awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. government, $750,000 from the Washington State Department of Transportation, and $500,000 from Seattle Children’s. In addition, operations contractor Alta, based in Portland, is replacing a Montreal-based bicycle vendor that sunk into debt.
Puget Sound Bike Share earlier announced it would launch service this spring, after the City Council voted last September to allow stations on city property.
The benefits include helping commuters pedal the last mile or two from a transit station to the workplace, college campuses or sports events; adding convenience for cross-town errands; or giving tourists new ways to reach Seattle Center and the waterfront.
A major problem is the treacherous state of crowded downtown streets — where Puget Sound Bike Share will be encouraging new users and visitors to pedal alongside cars and buses. Supporters hoped the city would establish protected bike lanes this year to coincide with bike share, but that’s not happening yet. Riders will obtain helmets at the bike-share stations, and be told to accept an online liability waiver, displayed in the kiosks.
“We’ve seen in other cities that once bike share launches, it tends to encourage bike infrastructure, then they both tend to develop together,” Houser said.
Stations can be as large as 60 feet by 6 feet, typically built on a sidewalk, in a private or public plaza, or in curbside no-parking zones, she said. Prices aren’t determined yet, but the Washington, D.C. system charges $7 a day, $25 per month or $75 a year.
Within a few days, the Puget Sound Bike Share website will post a draft plan and invite the public to make suggestions.