Just 21 months ago, Seattle turned American bike share on its head by permitting companies to launch free-floating bikes all over town, an effort that dramatically increased the number of bike trips all over town, turned heads in city halls across the country and helped demonstrate the popularity of so-called “micromobilty” companies, some of which are now valued in the billions of dollars.
Since Spin and Lime (née LimeBike) launched in summer 2017 the industry has pivoted and changed many times over:
- It started with pedal bikes from U.S.-based companies.
- Then Beijing-based ofo arrived, charging only $1 per hour.
- Then electric scooters arrived in other cities, with per-minute fees.
- Then electric bikes arrived alongside pedal bikes, also with per-minute fees.
- Then Uber bought JUMP and Lyft bought Motivate.
- Then Lime added car share to its bike and scooter fleets.
- Then ofo imploded.
- Then pedal bikes were completely replaced by electric bikes and scooters.
- Now, in most cities, bikes are disappearing altogether because scooters get so many more uses per day than bikes.
But Seattle is a notable exception to this final trend, due mostly to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s continued resistance to allowing scooters. An early free-floating bike success story, Lime and JUMP are still working to compete here for the bike share market. Lyft is supposed to join the fray at some point, too, though there has been little news about their efforts.
And according to a recent report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (“NACTO”), of which Seattle is a member, Seattle now stands out as an oddball in the country, and report authors essentially had to create a separate category just for Seattle. While other cities have sort of stratified into scooter cities and cities with dock-based bike share, Seattle is the only city noted as having only dockless bikes. At this point, Seattle is home to a huge percentage of all trips taken on dockless bikes in the country.
The report notes that 84 million trips have been taken on “shared micromobility” services in the nation, with the bulk split between the small handful of large docked systems and new scooter services: Continue reading