Seattle, the City of Bikes

Photo by Sally M. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Sally M. Some rights reserved.

Earlier this year (May 27th, to be exact), the privately-owned bike rental company CitiBike unveiled their service to the people of New York City. For the first time, following the lead of DIY car rental services like Zipcar and Car2Go, NYC residents had the option to rent a bike for the day (or week, or year) right off the street, to run the kind of stealth commuter errands that a car simply won’t work for. The service has taken off there, and other major American cities scrambled to jump aboard the trend – as of 2014, over 30 major North American cities will have such programs in place. Overall, these easy bike-rental services seem like a great idea for the average city dweller – whether you don’t own a car, don’t want to park, or just want to feel the wind in your hair on a beautiful day, these services allow an easy, cost-effective way to promote urban cycling.

Of course, there are bound to be issues. Complaints regarding CitiBike have trickled in since its launch, pointing out that there are major areas where there are no rental stations, and also that the program is having an adverse effect on local bike shops. In Chicago, where a similar service was recently unveiled, local residents are complaining that the rental stations in residential areas are disrupting the otherwise tranquil atmosphere and potentially leading dangerous people to their sleepy burgs and into their otherwise-secure buildings.

While these complaints seem a bit snoody and out-of-touch, here in Seattle we are struggling with launching our own bike-share program with a different set of obstacles (I’ll give you a hint – $$$) in the way. Yes despite Seattle already being a very bike-friendly city, especially amongst the younger, tech-employed masses, the newly minted Puget Sound Bike Share program is running into funding issues even before getting off the ground. It seems local mega-employers like Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft have (thus-far) refused to sponsor the program despite  support from the mayor and city council. The effect this under-funding would have on the program could be dire – the company would have to vastly reduce its number of rental bikes AND rental stations, therefore practically eliminate certain Seattle neighborhoods from their coverage area and drastically lowering the usefulness of the service for many bikeless Seattlites. Local alternative paper The Stranger has the full scoop.

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