Within the next few weeks, Ballard could have a small, prototype bike sharing system with a couple stations and 10-20 bikes. Mark Hulscher of the Bike Share Group originally described the organization’s plan as a “pilot” program, but said he probably should have used a different term.
The project is not necessarily intended to be functional, like pilots often are, but more like a technology demonstration. It will be “a small group of systems to show people what a bike sharing program might look like,” he said.
The station locations have not yet been nailed down, but Hulscher said it does not really matter since the system will not exactly work. A usable pilot would need many more stations and bikes.
Starting a bike share program in Seattle has some unique challenges that must be overcome if it is going to be successful. For example, if one station is at the bottom of a big hill, how will the program redistribute bikes to the top of the hill? Seattle has a lot of hills, so finding a consistent and dependable solution to this problem will be key to success here. Hulscher said the group has a couple ideas for redistributing the bikes, such as making some of the bikes be round-trip-only or providing a discount to return bikes to docks where they are needed. But nothing has been decided for sure yet, he said.
Another challenge is King County’s mandatory helmet law. For a system that is dependent on not needing anything in order to be used, having a helmet may not always be possible. Hulscher would not disclose his group’s solution. “We will have a helmet solution for it,” he said.
After the first stations this month, more stations will be added a few weeks later. The program will go through the winter and will likely end in the spring.