A Final Ride In The Waning Hours Of Seattle's Bike-Share Program

Mar 31, 2017

Seattle’s bike-share program is in its final hours. The city tried to bail out the little-used system about a year ago, to the tune of $1.4 million. But in the end, there were not enough riders to make a go of it.

This week, three Seattle architects were taking a final spin during their lunch hour. With sturdy cruiser-style frames, the green Pronto bikes are easy to spot, and according to Nathan Messmer and his colleagues, easy to ride –more leisurely and social.  So he’s a fan.  And yet he admits he didn't use the service much.

"I've ridden once before, I guess, at the conception of the program," said Messmer.

That’s just two rides in the two-and-a-half years the bike-share has been in operation.

The three Seattle architects were taking a final spin during their lunch hour on Thursday. Between them, only Elias Gardner, who organized today's ride on the Pronto bikes, has ventured out a bit more. But, he says Seattle’s streets aren’t as safe as those in other cities where he’s used bike shares, including Boston, Montreal, Washington, D.C. and Mexico. When asked if he felt safer on the roads of Boston than he did in Seattle, he said he did.

"Oh, for sure. Absolutely," responded Gardner.

Gardner says Seattle’s shared lanes are nerve-wracking and Tim Richey regularly commutes on his own bike and says between that and all the one-way streets, you really do need to know the city.

"We noticed, when were picking up the bikes, there is a map on top of the helmet storage bins that shows the bike lanes and it is not at all clear. There is not an easy way to get from north to south or east to west," said Richey.

Some say, in spite of the streets, the hills and, yes — the rain — the bike share is destined to return, but Messmer says it would require some tweaks to attract novice riders.

"Bikes are, in a way, marketed to people who are ultra-athletic and I think that there are a lot of those people in Seattle, but there's obviously a big market for people who can ride casually and that's where the infrastructure we're talking about would make a big difference," Messmer said. 

The bikes will be going into storage, while the city shops the equipment around, so that maybe another city can give bike sharing a try.