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Motivate is out. City picks young Quebec company for new e-assist bike share system

Could this be Seattle's new bike share bike?
Could this be Seattle’s new bike share bike? Image from Bewegen’s bid documents.

Though it’s not final, Seattle has indicated that it intends to select a young Quebec-based company to launch an all-new electric-assist bike share system.

That means both Motivate, the current Pronto Cycle Share operator, and the existing Pronto equipment are out if the deal goes through. The city is now negotiating directly with Quebec-based Bewegen to finalize a deal.

As we explore below, the differences between the bids are huge, representing very different theories of how bike share can work in Seattle. In some ways, the city’s decision to pursue the all-electric option shows a Seattle Department of Transportation still looking to innovate and experiment, though that comes at the expense of increasing station density and expanding the reach of the system.

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Bewegen scored highest among the six bids returned (PDF), according to analysis by the city’s bid review team. Motivate came in second and Shift Transit (using the same equipment provider as Citibike in New York and Divvy in Chicago) came in third.

Seattle’s City Council approved a buyout plan for Pronto in the winter, including $5 million to expand the system. One of the conditions was that there would need to be an open bidding process to ensure the city gets the best deal and to ensure that Motivate does not get any special treatment.

SDOT Director Scott Kubly has been recused from the whole bidding process. Kubly caught a lot of heat for failing to file an ethics disclosure related to his previous work as President of Alta Bicycle Share, the company later bought out and turned into Motivate. Kubly has never worked for Motivate, and the investigation found he has no financial ties to the company.

Last month, SDOT’s Chief of Active Transportation Nicole Freedman, who had been heavily involved in the bike share buyout process, left to become Director of Transportation in Newton, Mass.

The wonderful, smart and very friendly Kyle Rowe has moved from his spot as general bike planning superhero at SDOT (he has worked on many small-budget bike safety projects in addition to working on the city’s bike work plan and the much-improved bike map, which we just wrote about). So if Motivate is really out, then there will pretty much be a complete turnover in the bike share staffing from the ground up when the new system launches. Is that a good thing? Well, I can’t say for sure.

Bewegen: 100 stations, 1,200 bikes, all e-assist

Bewegen’s proposal (PDFs here, here and here) would include 100 stations and 1,200 bikes, all of them electric-assist. That means fewer than double the current 54 stations, so the service area would only expand a little bit. In addition to the current service area, there would be stations in Wallingford, Fremont, Queen Anne, North Capitol Hill, First Hill, some of the Central District, North Beacon Hill, Mount Baker, Columbia City and Othello. Here’s a sample map (station locations are approximate):

This system would have about 7 stations per square mile. Many are 1/4-mile apart, which is a pretty significant walk. They are also going to need to reassess those three “low-income” stations in North Capitol Hill mansion territory. Bewegen must have a lot of faith in their e-assist technology if they are including Queen Anne Hill.

The boxy-looking bikes can go about 40 miles on a charge, and it takes about 90 minutes to go from fully empty to fully charged. Even if the battery dies, the bikes still work like regular bikes (though probably a bit more sluggish).

“Bewegen’s Pedelec (electric assist) bikes introduce the user to a new bike-riding experience, and out innovative technology requires only a small amount of pedaling to travel a substantial distance,” the company wrote in their bid. “Further, Bewegen’s Pedelec bikes are equipped with automatic adjusting transmission, which will reproduce the proper gear ratio to accommodate the City of Seattle’s mountainous topography.”

The motor helps drive the pedals, not the wheels, so you still have to pedal while riding. The motor just kicks in to give you some help, essentially flattening hills. They can also speed limit the assist for safety.

But there is an additional catch with Bewegen’s stations: They all have to be hard-wired into the city power grid. This may limit their location options even further than solar-powered stations like Pronto currently uses. So many of the stations you are currently familiar with may need to move. Bewegen has budgeted $10,000 per station for location and power-connecting needs. But this should definitely be considered a variable.

And that’s perhaps the most important point to make with this proposal: It is an experiment. Bewegen has not yet created an all-electric system like this one. E-assist bike share is a young technology. Like any experiment, it could fall short. Or it could revolutionize transportation in super-hilly Seattle.

Bewegan is also a very young company. It has about as many bikes in action worldwide (about 480) than Pronto (500), though that is set to change when systems in Richmond (220 bikes) and Baltimore (500 bikes) launch. But while their proposal would install fewer stations than competitors, the all-electric fleet of bikes put them ahead in the city’s eyes. About 25 percent of the equipment costs will be paid for by Bewegen, which is anticipating $600,000 in profit annually above operational costs.

The cost and liability-sharing elements of the system are certainly a central piece of the city’s negotiations. Basically, the more liability for operational losses the city assumes, the more of the profits it would get to keep and vice versa.

The pay structure for users would be essentially unchanged from the current Pronto structure, though all “free” ride times would be 45 minutes instead of 30.


Above is Bewegen’s anticipated timeline for launching the system. SDOT’s Andrew Glass Hastings told the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board that if a spring or summer 2017 gets pushed back, the city will hold the launch until spring 2018. This would avoid the mistake Pronto made by launching in the rainy fall, which sapped energy from the system’s opening.

Motivate: 160 stations, 1,600 bikes, Portland-style

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Motivate opted not to submit a proposal building on their existing 500 bikes and 54 stations. And that may have been a good call, since 8D Technologies submitted a bid that would have built on the existing equipment, and they placed second to last.

While Motivate essentially abandoned what could have been a 500-bike head start, their proposal utilizes bikes that are incompatible with the existing system. Instead, their bid (PDFs here and here, some technical details redacted) proposed a system similar to Portland’s new Biketown system, which uses bikes that can be locked anywhere (though there is a small fee if you don’t use the official docks). Because the technology to access a SoBi (“Social Bicycles”) system is on the bikes and not at station kiosks, it is cheaper to install more stations using this model than with the current Pronto hardware.

Motivate’s proposal would have installed far more stations than Bewegen, clocking in at 160 stations and 1,600 bikes. And since you can dock a SoBi bike at any bike rack within the service area for a small fee, the flexibility of the system is even a bit better than the 160 stations would suggest. Here’s a look at their sample map:

motivate-technical-proposal_redacted-motivatemapNot only would Motivate’s map include some of Ballard, Mount Baker and more of the Central District, but each area where there are stations would have a higher density of them (12 stations per square mile). This means far shorter walks from many more homes and destinations compared to Bewegen’s seven stations per square mile.

And Bewegen could learn from their Rainier Valley map. Connecting Rainier Ave destinations for Link Stations on MLK could be a very popular use for bike share there.

Motivate would have far more stations in low-income neighborhoods than Bewegen.

However, only 100 of the 1,600 Motivate bikes would be pedal-assist. The rest would ride more or less comparably to the existing Pronto bikes.

Motivate’s plan would also revamp the pay structure to be more like Biketown in Portland. This means there would be a $2.50 single ride fare (30 minutes). Members would get 90 minutes of “free” ride time daily.

What about the current Pronto equipment?

During Council deliberations, Councilmember Lisa Herbold called Pronto’s equipment a “flip phone” at a time when the city wants to buy a smart phone. So she opposed the city buying equipment that could already be outdated. So now that it’s clear the city will not be continuing to use the existing equipment when it relaunches, was Herbold right?

Yes and no. I will admit that she may be more right than I gave her credit at the time. To my surprise, even the equipment operator Motivate doesn’t seem interested in building on it, and it may not be the most flexible hardware for future expansion. So, Councilmember Herbold, you were right about that.

But the equipment Pronto currently has is extremely reliable and still has many, many miles left in it. The city will try to sell this equipment, and I bet a small city or big campus looking to get a 50-station bike share system will get a good deal on it. Seattle paid $1.2 million for it in the winter. There’s simply no way you could get a comparable system for that price (it’s obviously too early to know what price tag the city will put on it). It’s hard to predict the future, but there should be a good chance of the city recouping its costs.

And remember, people are still using the system every day to get around. So that investment is currently helping folks move around the city as Bewegan and SDOT figure out how to launch and expand the new system.

8D Technologies, the company that makes the kiosks and docking technology Pronto currently uses, submitted a bid that would build on the existing system and would have no downtime during expansion. Their plan would bring the total system to 130 stations and would include a mix of bikes like the ones currently in use, smart bikes similar to the Motivate proposal and e-assist bikes.

Unfortunately, their plan also called for creation of a non-profit to own and operate the system, which is what Seattle just worked so hard to get away from.

For comparison’s sake, here’s the 8D map:

8d-technical-response-mapIt’s kind of confusing, but the bid actually only commits to 130 stations, so the real station area would be somewhere between the middle and light green areas. Not that any of this really matters, since they got fifth out of six and have very little chance of winning.

Philosophical decision

The difference between Bewegen and Motivate here is pretty much philosophical. What’s more important, density and flexibility or e-assist? I have long been a skeptic of e-assist bike share, worrying that the added cost would mean fewer stations. And conventional thinking says that station reach and density are the most important factors in a bike share system’s success. But that thinking doesn’t factor-in the draw of e-assist power.

So I’m not so sure anymore. I mean, imagine if anyone could just hop on a bike downtown and cruise up to First Hill. That’s a whole new connection that doesn’t practically exist today, and it could appeal to a lot more riders than a pedal-only system. Same goes for biking from Gas Works Park to go shopping on NE 45th Street in Wallingford. Or biking from Columbia City to Jefferson Park. Or from Seattle Center to the top of Queen Anne (well, let’s see how strong these motors really are). Of course it’s possible to make all these trips today by bike (and people do). But e-assist bike share could make them more inviting to far more people. And that ain’t worth nothing.

Then again, the draw of an easier biking trip could be offset by a longer walk to get to a station.

So I put it to all of you: What do you think the city should do?

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97 responses to “Motivate is out. City picks young Quebec company for new e-assist bike share system”

  1. Eli

    First I had to listen to every bike store selling Dutch VANMOOF bikes pronouncing it like “Van-mohf” and try not to laugh.

    Now I admit I just can’t wait to hear how Seattleities mangle the pronunciation of the Dutch word “bewegen”.

    This’ll guarantee at least a year of comedy (until, of course, these new bikes also completely fail and are removed — as we still have no all-ages-and-abilities infrastructure for people to ride them on.)

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I’ve been saying “be vegan.” Am I close?

      1. Eli

        Sorta. Easiest is to just hear it here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bewegen

        The “G” is like the chet sound in hebrew.

        It’s a very clever, layered choice of name for a bike share system (see the definitions on the above page).

      2. Lisa

        I say that, both with soft “e”s though.. don’t know if it’s right.

      3. Eli

        Also, if you need the pronunciation burnt into your head, it’s also the title of an adorable (or depending on your taste, annoying) kids’ song I heard 10 years ago when first learning Dutch:

    2. Eli

      And sorry, I realized I mistyped the above.

      “VANMOOF” is indeed correctly pronounced “Van-Mohf”

      But everyone calls it “Van-Moooof” (as if it were “VANMOEF”)

      1. Isn’t “Vanmoof” closer to “Fahn-mohf”?

  2. Lisa

    I’m excited about the potential for an e-bike system, although still skeptical about those stations on Queen Anne. Can anyone tell me if there’s a max grade at where the pedal assist sort of gives up? I could see going up the backside of QA, or Capital Hill, but not up Queen Anne Ave, for instance.

    1. R

      I’ve ridden my girlfriend’s Cube ebike with a Bosch mid-drive motor and a 7-speed internally geared hub up very steep hills. The bike can do it but the range decreases. In normal use she (an infrequent cyclist) can ride up moderate grades as fast or faster than I (fit daily rider/commuter) can.

      An infrequent rider might break a sweat riding to the top of Queen Anne but they probably wouldn’t have to walk and push the bike.

      1. Of course there are aspects of steep climbing aside from raw power that an experienced rider will handle better than a novice. Balance at low speeds isn’t easy, especially when leaned way back… and on some poorly maintained roads, riders might have to deal with wheel slippage.

        And then there are the descents.

    2. Law Abider

      Choosing Queen Anne over a flatter, denser neighborhood like, oh say Ballard?, makes absolutely no sense. Luckily that’s just a small hiccup in an otherwise decent coverage. I think this has the potential to be successful, unlike Pronto’s eighth-ass attempt at a rollout.

      Now we sit back and see what giving inexperienced people an e-assist does.

  3. David Boneham


    I have not used my ebike in Queen Anne but I have used it to ride up Fairmont Avenue SW from the beach up to SW Admiral Way. This is a steep grade and required every bit of my pedal effort along with maximum electrical pedal assist. I did this as a test of the ebike’s power but have not cared to repeat the experience. As far as when the motor will no longer assist – I think the motor isn’t going to be the problem. It’ll be your own strength and the amount of charge remaining in your battery.

    The ride started at Fairmont Ave SW at Harbor Ave (Sea Level) and at Admiral Wy I had climbed 324 feet in about 3 miles. I had started with nearly a full battery charge (having ridden to the starting point from about 2 miles on level ground). By the time I got to the top of Fairmont Ave SW my battery indicator was nearly on empty. I had to switch off pedal assist and ride a very heavy bicycle home which is another reason I didn’t care to repeat the experience.

    If a manufacturer is advertising 40 miles of battery range they are estimating that you will be on level ground, you are not too heavy yourself and that you will use the least amount of pedal assist possible. The reality is that to safely operate a 40 mile range ebike in Seattle you need to realistically think more in the range of 20 to 25 miles before you have no electricity left. Our city is simply too hilly to get manufacturer’s estimated range from a battery.

    Ultimately what happens is that you end up riding the same routes you took as a cyclist without electric assist because that way you don’t run your battery out of electricity. Now it does allow that you can take some mild hills that you may have previously avoided but ultimately you’ll end up avoiding really steep hills even though you now can climb them.

    Of course one way around the range issue is to time your climbs and commutes to end somewhere where you can charge your battery. I do this at work and on occasion at coffee shops. But you’ll need to plan on about an hour to charge a partially discharged battery and much longer if your battery is really low.

    In my experience range is the Achilles Heal of ebiking. You gain much in terms of hill climbing ability but you loose that wonderful feeling that a regular bicycle gives you of never worrying about fuel. With an ebike your electrical charge will haunt your riding and when you do run out of electricity you’ll suddenly realize you are riding the heaviest bicycle you’ve ever had in your life.

  4. Bruce Nourish

    The density and coverage of the Motivate plan is obviously superior. Seattle will, therefore, fuck it up by choosing the other plan, and we’ll be having the same conversation again in 18 months.

    1. Lisa

      Yeah, I’m worried that, for example, Bewegen doesn’t fill out the gap in Eastlake, and has nothing on Dexter or Westlake. I would assume it’s just a preliminary plan and they’ll work it all out with the City.

    2. Alkibkr

      100 stations? Ridiculous. That’s it. I’m done supporting bike share in Seattle. My membership expires in two days. When West Seattle starts to be considered part of Seattle, maybe I’ll sign up again. What are the chances of that ever happening?

      On the plus side, I have now joined the pedal assist crowd and can get just about anywhere in the city on a charge and with minimal sweat, no headwinds, and shave off at least 1/3rd of my travel time. My experience has been much more positive than David Boneham’s.

    3. Yeah… in most of the areas for expansion in the Bewegen proposal the stations are typically a half-mile apart as you’d go on the roads. That means if you arrive to find no free docks you have to either wait an indeterminate time for someone to show up or ride a half-mile to the next station, then walk a half-mile back.

      This sort of thing happens all the time in popular systems, except that the stations are spaced much closer, so circling for an empty dock and walking a bit more is a much smaller inconvenience. In this way, the Bewegen proposal (like so much else of what Seattle proposes for cycling) is designed for failure: it can only be a convenient service if the system is so unpopular that dock availability is almost never a problem.

      The good news is that Bewegen’s proposal is not as specific as it looks — it doesn’t appear to have been made with any knowledge of Seattle’s geography, just by trying to maximize “coverage circles” on a flat map. This probably went without notice before the city council, which has probably collectively covered less of the city under its own power than I have personally. When it’s time to actually site real stations we’ll get some of them out of ridiculous places (e.g. spaced out on the ridge above Aurora on Queen Anne) and cluster them near clusters of destinations.

      But then if the good news is that they didn’t know what they were doing (sadly not the first time I’ve thought this in Seattle), the bad news is that we might persist in not knowing what we’re doing, and string stations out uselessly along corridors where lots of people ride through but few ever stop.

  5. Peri Hartman

    My first impulse is to support a full e-bike system. I think the city would be wise to conduct a statistically accurate survey and find out what people would use before making a decision. Guess work is just that: guess work.

    I’ll add this to my hypothesis: people who live here and bike already have a bike. (Perhaps that has something to do with the dismal use of Pronto.) Those who are too lazy to bike might be more inclined with an e-bike option.

    As well, I think it only makes sense to have the entire system e-bikes. Otherwise, if you’re expecting an e-bike and one isn’t there, you might stop trusting the system and give up. Why would you detour from your route to fetch an e-bike only to find you have to walk back and take some other transportation option?

    1. Lisa

      The “people who live here already have a bike” isn’t really an argument against bike share. It’s probably true, yes, but bike share is for

      a) you don’t have your bike with you for various reasons- had to take a car2go because you had something big and heavy, took the bus because it was super rainy, got a ride from a friend, etc. It’s just another mobility tool that works alongside everything else.
      b) Bike share is also for people who don’t already bike, and therefore don’t own a bike.

      If the system wasn’t full e-bike, I would assume there’d be some kind of indication (online and in the app) about whether an e-bike is available at any particular station.

  6. Kerri Walsch

    It seems as though the writer glossed over a huge component of Motivate’s bid stated right in the executive summary. All bikes can be upgraded to e-assist bicycles over time, and the 100 bikes is a pilot which would be expanded:

    “Our bid also includes the introduction of SoBi’s e-assist bicycle model, with a retrofit path available for every non-electric bike over time, if that is desired by the City. The lock technology will be moved to the front of the bike, emulating the front-locking experience of more traditional systems and simplifying the user experience. One hundred (100) v.5.0 e-assist bicycles will be piloted in 2017. By 2018, the v.5.0 e-assist product will be available in fleet quantities, having been optimized based on learning from the initial implementation. This will enable Motivate and SoBi to take a stepwise approach to rolling out the next generation system, mitigating risk for the City of Seattle while still delivering a future-ready system.”

    Given that this has never been done before, I think taking a stepwise approach makes much more sense than buying $5M of unproven technology.

  7. Michael Andersen

    Didn’t the founding CEO of Bewegen oversee, when he was running PBSC/Bixi, the catastrophic software decision that turned out to be a catastrophe for Alta Bicycle Share? I’ve never spoken with Ayotte, don’t know much about him personally and fully believe in second chances, but PBSC’s decisions under his leadership did turn out to be really really bad.

    1. Michael Andersen

      One too many catastrophes but you get the idea.

    2. William

      Perfect choice for Seattle then!

    3. Kerri Walsch

      Seems like Bewegen also trumped up the numbers in their proposal. This article conflicts with their stated trips/mileage numbers in Birmingham (their only launched system).

      63k trips in one year is fairly pitiful for bike share usage. BIKETOWN got 100k in 2 months, and New York City (10x in size to whats proposed for us) just celebrated 1M trips for just the month of September.

  8. Brock

    Bewegen’s station placement plan leaves much to be desired. Too much.

  9. Kirk

    But ebikes aren’t allowed on multiuse trails and sidewalks. How will the city deal with that?

    1. Brock

      This is a very interest question. Perhaps there’s an intent to reform King County’s bike laws, including getting rid of the helmet law.

      1. Josh

        But the sidewalk ban is from the Legislature, not King County, and is explicit enough I don’t think the City can just interpret its way around the law.

      2. Law Abider

        The helmet law and ebike ban on trails are doing just fine thank you. We stand to gain very little from repealing either and would make for a much less safe bike infrastructure.

      3. Peri Hartman

        For people who have bad knees or a weak heart and have extended their bicycling years with an e-bike, should they be banned from using trails?

        If so, would that mean they could not use the new Westlake bike path and would have to ride on Westlake itself at 20mph, blocking high speed traffic? How about Sand Point Way? They would be banned BGT and would have to ride on SPW in 40mph traffic.

        I do think there needs to be rules regarding what kinds of e-bikes are allowed. In my opinion, only pedal assist are acceptable, throttle style are essentially scooters. Also, to what degree of pedal assist? Not obvious how this would be drawn up. But, definitely, I see e-bikes as part of our bicycling community.

      4. Kirk

        I’m not able to swim very well but I love to be in a pool. Should I be allowed to bring my motorboat to the pool? I’m not able to row very well, should I be able to bring my motorboat to Greenlake where motors are prohibited? I can’t hike like I used to, would it be ok to get a motorcycle and ride it on hiking trails?
        If someone can’t ride a bike and wants to ride a motor vehicle, go for it. And ride them with the other motor vehicles. If that motor vehicle can’t keep up with the traffic, perhaps a motor vehicle that can keep up with traffic should be obtained.

      5. Peri Hartman

        Kirk, with all due respect, I find your analogies absurd. A motorboat, no. What does a motorboat have to do with swimming? Maybe some flotation devices, sure. Or, for rowing, I could imaging a row boat with electric assist oars. That would be absolutely fine with me. Hiking versus a motorcycle? That’s crazy. There may be some things that are simply off limits. But you could use a wheel chair on an ADA trail, even an electric one.

        With e-bikes, we’re not talking about providing the experience of being on a bike trail, as we would for being on a hiking trail. We are talking about being able to experience bicycling. While you could experience being in the woods, you cannot experience hiking if you are on a motorcycle. You can experience being on a lake but you cannot experience swimming if you are in a motorboat.

        I see e-bikes as a means to get our bicycling percentage from around 5% to a much higher number. This will be the next big wave of people who get out of their cars and onto bikes. It will be a big win and add support to getting more cycling infrastructure.

      6. The Netherlands allows e-bikes on their bike paths on the condition that their top speed is governed to 25 km/h. I can’t imagine how something similar wouldn’t work in Seattle. E-bikes like that are definitely not “a motor vehicle.”

      7. Kirk

        Peri, with all due respect, my analogies are as absurd as allowing motor vehicles on sidewalks and bicycle and multiuse pathways. What do motor vehicles have to do with bicycling?
        In the Netherlands, gasoline powered mopeds and scooters are allowed on bicycle paths. eBikes are most certainly motor vehicles.

      8. Kirk

        And in addition, I must say, I’ve seen and talked to quite a few people with eBikes. Many, many, many of them are hot rodded and modified to travel much faster than 20 MPH. I had an ebike blow by me going at least 30 MPH on the Elliott Bay Trail yesterday while I was going 20 MPH. Allowing these motor vehicles where we ride our bikes is not a good idea.

      9. Tom Fucoloro

        This recurring theme of banning e-bikes (or standing up for bans technically on the books) in these comments is very troubling to me.

        A bike trail or bike lane is a public good. It’s there to allow for safe and comfortable movement for “bicycling,” but the term bicycling doesn’t need to be so dogmatic. I support people using mobility scooters in bike lanes, for example. And I support people riding e-assist bicycles.

        A bike lane is not there to support some moralistic concept of pure, pedal-powered bicycling. Someone using an ebike deserves safety, too. Telling someone who can’t or doesn’t want to ride a pedal-only bike that they should buy a scooter or motorcycle and ride with car traffic is pretty ignorant and presumptive. You don’t know why someone rides an ebike, and it’s really none of your business. They are getting around town in the way that makes the most sense for them, and they aren’t causing big new safety problems.

        In fact, I get a lot of complaints about dudes on carbon bikes training on the Burke and almost no complaints about people on e-bikes. Yet it would be pretty silly to ban carbon fiber bikes, too.

        An overpowered electric motorcycle sold as an ebike? Sure, maybe that should be banned from bike lanes and trails. And laws should be written to separate a electric scooter or motorcycle from the much more common e-assist bicycles used by families, people who need some help getting up hills or people who simply prefer it. Capping assist speed seems like a common way to do this (and this bike share proposal does limit assisted speed).

        If there’s a documented safety issue associated with ebikes, then we can work to address the cause. But banning ebikes just because people aren’t moving completely by pedal power? That’s drawing lines where lines aren’t needed.

      10. A few people modifying their e-bikes to be able to go faster doesn’t make a good reason to ban e-bikes altogether. Some people do exactly that in the Netherlands. I know that for a fact as my Dutch friends have told me. Has the Netherlands banned e-bikes on their bike paths? That’s as absurd as saying let’s ban all cars from the roads because some people disobey the speed limit, or ban bicycles from the MUP because they blow by people on foot at 20 MPH.

      11. Kirk

        Tom, I’m not ignorant nor presumptive. I know why people ride ebikes because I talk to them all the time. Some ride because of bad knees. Some ride to be trendy. Some ride for the thrill of having a fast bike.
        eBikes are allowed in bike lanes and on streets. That’s perfectly fine. That’s what the laws are and for good reason. The bans on motorized vehicles are not “technically” on the books, they are on the books. And also for good reason. The Burke Gilman Trail was created for non-motorized transportation. Motorized bicycles have been around for a long, long time. Merely because the motive power may now be electric doesn’t change the fact that they are motorized.
        Sure, it seems fine for a slow moving cargo bike to have an e-assist. But like you said, where do you draw the line? Who is going to police that line? Do we think the line should be based on a speed limit? We’ve seen how well that works with automobiles. Why would the line be arbitrarily drawn to include an ebike but not a gasoline powered bicycle?
        For me, and for those that have made the laws, the line is drawn based upon the motive power. It’s easy to discern at this point a bicycle with a motor and one without.
        If we open bicycle and MU trails and sidewalks to ebikes, we may as well open them to motor driven cycles and scooters. I think that’s crazy.

      12. Peri Hartman

        Kirk, are you sure you can discern an e-bike? Most of the time, sure. But check out bike doping. Here, for example:

        While this isn’t prevalent now for urban riders, I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing more of it in a few years.

        I think all this is inevitable. It hasn’t been an issue. It will be. Unfortunately, it will probably mean we need enforcement, whatever rules we adopt, a complication I’m sure most people would rather we didn’t spend money on.

      13. Alkibkr

        So because not everyone obeys speed limits on roads we shouldn’t have speed limits on trails? What’s the fear here?

        E assist on bike share bikes, however…I think you need to be experienced in using manners and safety in traffic on a regular bike before safely using an ebike for the first time, since you get higher speeds and faster trips. Not guaranteed when renting these out to people who haven’t been on a bike since they were a kid.

      14. Law Abider

        With all due respect, Tom, it is absolutely my business that people on ebikes are riding on trails, illegally. I am a pretty adept rider and can maintain a pretty high speed on flat ground. When ebikes go flying past me, on curves, without so much as a verbal warning, that is very much my business.

        Effectively 100% of the ebikes I see on trails are traveling at unsafe speeds in unsafe manners, the one exception being the Bite Squad delivery bikers on the Elliot Bay Trial, but I have a hunch they are under strict orders to behave due to their illegal use of the trial. And I won’t even start with the jaw dropping ebike behavior I see on the roadways that few car drivers or motorcycle riders would dare doing.

        I have no idea why people riding ebikes are doing so, but my perception is that they are able-bodied people, who are lazy and taking advantage of less congested cycling infrastructure to avoid traffic and/or public transportation during commutes. My other perception is that they don’t care about trail etiquette or safety of others that human-powered cyclists seem to have.

        There is pretty much zero valid reasons to allow ebikes on trails. Allowing dangerous behavior for a few edge cases is a terrible slope to go down. I understand that there are people who would like to bike our trail system but cannot. I feel for them, but am not willing to give up my safety for their desire to partake in a pleasure activity. I would suggest sitting in the back of a tandem bike if they want to experience cyclist.

        The ebike situation is nowhere near a ‘crisis’, but I have a feeling that with the worsening traffic and the influx of money in our region, coupled with the lack of enforcement, it could become an issue in the near future.

        Now pedal-powered assist on the other hand…

      15. Alkibkr

        The behavior you ascribe to ebikes should be attributed to the people riding them (bad 100% of the time, really?). People riding electric pedal assist bicycles can be shaving about 1/3 off of their commute times, clearing intersections more quickly and safely by reducing exposure to cross traffic, counteracting strong headwinds and taking some of the challenge out of steep hills often while hauling heavy loads. They are still getting some exercise at their discretion while arriving at their destination not drenched to the skin in sweat. It’s a very practical and efficient form of transportation, but if you want to call them lazy be my guest.

      16. Law Abider

        @Alkibkr: Great. They can get a scooter, license it and drive it on the road. You can even get scooters small enough to fit in bike racks. Again, I don’t want my safety compromised because someone wants to “bike” faster and without sweating.

      17. Law Abider,

        Has it occurred to you that there are people who walk/run on Burke-Gilman and tell you how they feel unsafe with all the “manual” bikes zipping by them at 20 MPH? I’m sorry you have so much disdain for e-bikes. I ride on both Burke-Gilman and Interurban regularly. Never once have I felt my safety threatened by e-bikes. If anything, I’d much rather see the group riders who consider the MUP their training roads go.

      18. Law Abider

        @daihard: I run-commute on the Burke-Gilman on a regular basis. I don’t feel threatened by the manual bikes (is that what we’re calling them now?) ‘zipping’ by me. Why? Because the cyclists that can get and maintain their speed above 15 MPH tend to be more experienced and (in my opinion) more in control; I like to think that by peddling, they are more ‘in sync’ with their bike, the ground and their surroundings. Someone shoving a throttle forward to go 15-20 MPH is not likely to be in control or ‘in sync’ with their bike and surroundings. It’s no different than cars.

        You don’t by chance have some financial stake in ebikes do you? Because you and a few others in this comment thread seem a little too over-passionate about ebikes.

      19. Alkibkr

        Lawabider, have you tried riding an e-bike and found you couldn’t control it as well as a unassisted bike? If not, maybe you should before making generalizations that they are harder to control, that 100% of people riding them at bad actors, people who have tried them and praise their virtues must be selling them. Proof of these claims, please.

      20. Law Abider

        @Alkibkr: I asked, I didn’t claim anything. It’s just the only reason I can figure for your unwavering support.

        I do claim that people that ride them are not conducive to a safe environment on our trails. I back that claim up with my observation that 100% of ebikes on the trails use them in an extremely unsafe manner. Going full throttle around sharp corners, passing close to other people, passing with no warning, using headphones, etc.

        You still haven’t offered any reasons for allowing ebikes other than they can go faster and not sweat. Those are very much not valid reasons to reduce trail safety and they are very valid reasons to just buy a scooter and ride on the roads.

      21. Alkibkr

        There’s no throttle on my bike and I turn off the pedal assist if I encounter people walking on the trail (our trail is split into a bike path and a sidewalk, but pedestrians and joggers often use the bike side). So on the flat, or mild hills or when passing someone, my bike is only powered by me and my sweat. I bet you have encountered many e-bikes on the trail this way without even knowing it. Isn’t the BGT trail also split between foot and wheel traffic in some locations?


      22. Law Abider,

        I support e-bikes because I believe they help more people bike. I personally know people who ride e-bikes to carry kids, to compensate for a post-surgery knee, or to simply be able to ride up the hills with more ease. I’ve never seen them, or anyone else for that matter, ride their e-bikes in an unsafe manner.

        I find it sad that some people can only seem to associate passion with material or financial incentives. I don’t claim to be an altruist, but there are people who support things for the betterment of the society.

      23. Kirk

        I’ve seen unsafe behavior by people riding ebikes, carbon bikes, steel bikes and even Pronto bikes. But I’ve also seen ebikes that can go 35- 40 MPH. If you haven’t seen these fast ebikes, you will within the next year. And these bikes are heavy. I certainly would hate to get into an accident with one of them. With the speed these ebikes travel, they’re always passing other trail users which puts them onto the other side of the trail directly in the path of oncoming users, but the ebikes are travelling a minimum of 20 MPH.
        I’m all for ebikes in bike lanes and on roadways where there is ample room to pass with traffic travelling in the same direction. I support the current laws that ban ebikes from narrow MUTs and sidewalks.

      24. Peri Hartman

        It probably will come down to enforcement. Even if e-bikes are illegal in such places, what stops someone from riding one there? What about an e-scooter? Doesn’t look like a bike but without enforcement, guess what will happen?

        It’s a new area – enforcement of style of bicycle riding. Speed limits are easy to check. Other things, such as reckless riding, are subjective. We do it on streets, though, so I think it will probably happen on trails too.

      25. Law Abider

        @Alkibkr: That’s great that you are a model ebike citizen. I don’t believe I claimed that ALL ebike riders ride dangerously like complete asses, and if I did, I was in error. What I said was that all ebike riders I OBSERVE ride dangerously like complete asses. There’s always going to be exceptions to the rule.

        What I’m trying to make a point is that other than lazy people taking advantage of an open infrastructure, there’s very few cases of people legitimately needing to ride ebikes. Families, injuries and hills are the biggest ones I heard. Families and hills are pretty weak reasons, as families seems to get around OK and our bike population is pretty high despite the hills. Injuries is a head scratcher, because I’d question how many people that are injured would ride if they could ride an ebike. Most bikers I know that get injured tend to drive or bus until healed to avoid further injury.

        If that means barring a couple families from using an ebike full of kids that might actually ride with caution, to keep the floodgates of irresponsible asses off the trail, then that’s life. 99.9% of trail user would gain nothing and lose the safety of being separated from motorized vehicles if we catered to these edge cases.

        If it ever came up in the council to rescind the law, I will be front and center with a list of facts and observations. If you want an electric powered bike, get a scooter and ride on the road. I don’t get why that’s such a big deal. Why should you get some extra privilege to ride on the trails versus the road? When I rode a motorcycle, I would have loved to skirt the law and ride on trails or bike lanes, but I guess I just wasn’t anti-social enough to do it.

      26. Law Abider:

        “What I said was that all ebike riders I OBSERVE ride dangerously like complete asses.”

        That mean nothing to me, who has personally observed zero such e-bike riders. From my standpoint, I just don’t understand why you’re so passionate about keeping e-bikes off the bike paths and MUP. If I had my say, I would much rather ban those racing pelotons on the weekend.

        “What I’m trying to make a point is that other than lazy people taking advantage of an open infrastructure, there’s very few cases of people legitimately needing to ride ebikes.”

        Obviously your definition of “legitimately needing to ride ebikes” is very different than mine. I see a parent wanting to ride one with kids so he/she can save some energy to be a totally legitimate reason. So is wanting to ride an e-bike while rebuilding the strength of a post-surgery knee. I sure could have used one while recovering from a fractured kneecap. That way I could have ridden my regular hilly route instead of limiting myself to flat routes.

        I see this as a simple matter of accommodating the needs of as many people as we can.

      27. Law Abider

        Again, not willing to give up safety for a fringe, speculative market.

      28. Allowing e-bikes on the bike paths and MUP wouldn’t make me give up safety at all. Sorry if you feel as though it would make you give up yours.

    2. Kirk

      Without enforcement the rules are meaningless anyway and we may as well not even discuss the issue. That’s pretty much where we are right now – no enforcement of the current law. Anybody can ride anything anywhere and at any speed. But with increased speeds and more and more motorized vehicles on MUTs, we will see more conflicts and collisions.

      I’ve already seen on the trails many electric scooters, both sit on and stand on, and electric longboards. Policing speed limits would be much more difficult than enforcing the current ban on motorized vehicles on MUTs and sidewalks. If it has a motor, it’s not allowed. And that is the current law.

      1. Peri Hartman

        …unless you can’t tell if it has a motor.

  10. Jean Amick

    Let tourists enjoy our ferries and dump E bike idea. Bad use for our taxes. Locals own their bikes and know hills. Put these $Millions into improving city infrastructure and safety for 1000s of locals who ride regularly

  11. Let me get this straight:

    * Seattle joins the bikeshare bandwagon by launching Pronto in the midst of a massive downtown building boom which makes many downtown streets bike un-friendly.
    * Pront launches before Seattle completes some key downtown biking infrastructure.
    * Pronto launches without identifying who it is supposed to be serving or what problem it is trying to solve.
    * Pronto sets up a website for people to suggest station locations but ignores the most highly suggested locations in Fremont.
    * Pronto uses a decade old heat-mapping exercise to choose station locations based on density of people and density of jobs, completely ignoring the growing body of evidence on the importance of topography and safe, low-speed, low-traffic bike routes.
    * Pronto fails to meet even modest first-year ridership estimates.
    * Pronto fails to meet even modest first-year income estimates.
    * The city council bails out Pronto only to learn afterward that the ridership and income estimates provided to the city council were misleading at best.

    Now, with a chance to start over from scratch:

    * The city council does little to encourage Pronto to more carefully identify its intended audience or the problem it is trying to solve.
    * The Department of Finance has somehow come to the conclusion that it is in the city’s best interest to start over again with a small number experimental e-bikes from a tiny new company.
    * The suggested expansion includes, believe it or not, the top of Queen Anne. (You can’t make this stuff up!)

    I was originally a very enthusiastic founding member of Pronto even though I had no personal use for it. By my second year renewal I was getting frustrated with the apparent ineptitude of those in charge of Pronto. At this point I have let my membership lapse and and can finally see the humor in the cluster-f**k that is bikeshare in Seattle. Just … Wow!

    It could have been so different:

    1) Identify a target audience — people visiting neighborhoods connected to downtown by transit but with bike-friendly side streets.
    2) Identify a problem to solve — neighborhood last mile between light-rail/bus and final destination.
    3) Identify important low-speed, low-traffic, low-gradient routes — Alki, Burke Gilman, Myrtle Edwards, Westlake
    4) Serve bikable neighborhood destinations in Alki, Ballard, Capitol Hill, Columbia City, Fremont, UW

    Oh well. Perhaps other cities can learn from our mistakes.

    1. Andres Salomon

      At this point, I’d rather see the money go towards building bike routes than bike share, if this is what we’re going to build. The proposal has too few stations at way too low densities. Same mistake we made last time, except now we’re using completely experimental bikes. What could possibly go wrong?

      1. Eli

        Also, to Andres’s point —

        I liken Seattle building a bike share system to our government (hypothetically) building a ‘computer share’ system for families in the early 1980s, prior to the advent of GUIs.

        Computers weren’t not-ubiquitous back then because families couldn’t afford them. They were not-ubiquitous because they were unusable and largely irrelevant to normal people.

        I’m sure that the 3% of hobbyists who enjoyed their cryptic green command line interfaces would have enjoyed the convenience, just as a tiny handful of bike enthusiasts will enjoy bike share — but certain not enough to lead to a solvent system.

        I agree this is nothing more than a distraction from the politically uncomfortable work of actually building safe streets.

    2. William

      This is an extremely negative post. Somebody involved in Seattle’s bikeshare must have done something sensible at some point.

      1. Eli

        We did lots of sensible things in designing Windows 8, as well.

        But it was moot, because our core assumptions were untested, and our leadership was filled with hubris that people wanted what we were making in the absence of evidence.

        Luckily, I work at another tech company now, headquartered in the Bay Area. Our bike share system primarily covers just 3 buildings. We invested in all ages & abilities infrastructure to connect them, so our bike share is always the fastest, easiest, and most enjoyable route between them.

        I would not be surprised if these 3 buildings generate more ridership than all of Pronto — bikes get claimed within minutes of being put back.

    3. It is, of course, better to target a wide audience than a narrow one, to solve many problems by being somewhere than one specific problem. That’s what most systems do by going downtown, the place where the most people are out on the streets over the widest range of the day and week.

      Bike-share focused on peripheral neighborhoods is still pretty much unproven, particularly neighborhoods that drop off into small-scale residential as quickly as Seattle’s. Doing it this way could just as well have ended up a mistake — results in the U District haven’t been super encouraging.

      1. Eli

        Somewhat tangential, but…

        “If you’re building something for everyone, you’re building it for no one.”

        At my company, we always start with an MVP to cheaply hypothesis-test our product assumptions with a small audience, before spending a billion dollars on the full product. Bike share was no exception.

        Conversely, Seattle didn’t need to build bike share all over different neighborhoods to discover that there aren’t clusters of places where:
        – we haven’t built all ages infrastructure
        – biking offers a material time advantage
        – there isn’t a large, untapped audience that isn’t going to use it.

        But Scott Kubly uses his ill-matched cell phone coverage metaphor — which only applies if you actually have validated that you have a product you know people want.

        Had we (say) built an initial bike share pilot exclusively in SLU and downtown — and connected the two with high-quality protected bike infrastructure — I think Pronto would have been a huge success.

        There are thousands of people a day making that trip, and it sucks.

      2. Peri Hartman

        Completely agree. MVP is essential, although not always easy to establish what that is.

      3. Eli

        Ergh, I meant:

        Conversely, Seattle didn’t need to build bike share all over different neighborhoods to discover that there aren’t clusters of places where:
        – we built all ages infrastructure
        – biking offers a material time advantage
        – there is a large, untapped audience that isn’t going to use it.

      4. For those that don’t know, “MVP” in this context means “Minimum Viable Product”. MVP is one way to guide intermediate steps to building something big, suggesting that the first thing you build is the quickest thing you could build that’s actually useful to someone and gets you along the way to what you want to ultimately build. So if you’re designing the modern bicycle but starting from scratch the MVP philosophy might suggest starting by inventing the hobby horse, rather than starting by inventing derailers, because the hobby horse is a viable product on its own, and lets you build many components in roughly the same proportions as those used on modern bikes.

        In hindsight, the big MVP-shaped takeaway from Seattle is that generally accessible bike routes are part of the minimum product of a bike-share system. If we note the disjointed state of the cycling network in Pronto’s initial service area and are disappointed with Pronto’s initial usage, we might then suggest we’d have been better off starting our bike-share network in peripheral neighborhoods with better cycling conditions.

        But we aren’t measuring success by how happy bike-share users are with the product, we’re measuring success by how many people use it. And we don’t need to test that the general idea of Pronto-style bike share is viable — other cities already have!

        And the peripheral areas just aren’t big or busy enough to get a lot of people using it. You can easily state why someone might want bike-share in Columbia City: last-mile transit access. Residents want to get to the train from home; visitors want to get to the business district from the train. Maybe residents want to get to the business district from home. All that applies in Eli’s suggested Downtown-SLU area, but in many more combinations, involving two of the biggest transit nodes in Cascadia and several distinct activity centers that are busy throughout much of the day and week, all close enough to bike between. I could list the combinations… King Street Station to financial-district jobs, Pike Place Market to Pioneer Square, International District apartments to retail-core shopping… but my fingers would get tired. This is a good kind of breadth for physical transportation infrastructure: by building in one contiguous area you can serve a wide variety of trips made by large numbers of people.

        Where did Pronto go wrong, where other cities succeeded? Maybe in building out the U District satellite instead of installing stations densely in the core area. Maybe in timing, launching while particularly bad road construction was chopping up bike routes in the core area. There have been some problems with station locations at the small scale. And then we just have to remember that two things limit our short-term bike-share numbers in any case. First, that steep hills within the core area make cycling unappealing for some trips. Second, that our core service area is only particularly busy and vibrant places compared to other parts of Seattle, not compared to other cities.

      5. Jonathan Callahan

        I generally agree with Al’s last comments. And I understand the desire to place bikes in a dense downtown neighborhood. But I really feel that two points are worth re-emphasizing:

        1) steep hills are a deal killer for bike share (plenty of evidence in data from other bikeshare systems)
        2) high-traffic streets without separated bike lanes are a deal killer (ditto)

        Planners should have had started the planning exercise by generating a map of Seattle streets, omitting those with a gradient > 5% and high traffic volumes but no bike infrastructure. This map would paint a picture of the network of safe, interconnected bike routes. On top of this you can layer density of jobs, housing, tourist destinations, whatever you want. But it is this base layer of safe and easy bike routes that is fundamental to figure out before you start placing the docking stations (nodes) on top.

        Data for creating this map is available. SDOT has a street grade database whose link I cannot find at the moment as well as the following:

        street classification layers: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/streetclassmaps.htm
        bike infrastructure layers: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikemapOnline.htm

        This is the vital homework that neither Pronto nor the city performed before siting docking stations.

      6. If we eliminated all the places without well-connected bike networks, and then eliminated all the places not nearly dense enough to support a bike share system, and then eliminated all the remaining areas too small/isolated/skinny to support a bike share system (this is where the areas along the Ship Canal bow out), we would have essentially nothing left. The conclusion wouldn’t be “build bike share in the neighborhoods”, it would be “build bike routes downtown”.

      7. Jonathan Callahan

        Realizing that we need to put bike share on hold until we build a network of protected bike lanes downtown would have been and would still be a much better outcome than building a system that is doomed to failure for lack of that network.

      8. We’re in violent agreement on that. All Pronto operations budget goes to bike infrastructure in the planned service area until that’s fixed? Sign me up!

    4. poncho

      Amen, in total agreement. I’m in a similar boat, my membership is about to elapse and I don’t intend to renew. I was sold on bikeshare after using in DC and NYC so much so that I was a founding member here in Seattle. Its been so poorly run here in Seattle that I lost faith in bikeshare until I tried Biketown a few days ago. There is almost always a bikeshare station in view in downtown Portland, that is the level of station density needed, the stations are also in great locations where they want to be located along bike routes and at destinations, and Portland actually has bike infrastructure. Voila, it is doing great despite being $12/day or $144/year.

      I can not believe this winning/leading proposal does not hit Ballard and has one station in Fremont. The Burke Gilman Trail combined with ULink is what bikeshare is made for. Ride on the fantastic flat separate from auto traffic trail from Fremont or Ballard to UW Station and take Link into Downtown.

  12. LWC

    How about this for a station placement metric: if you can imagine someone taking a direct, one-way trip between two adjacent stations, they’re too far apart. By that measure, I’m pretty discouraged by all of the above plans.

  13. I’ve always voiced my support for an e-bike based system for a hilly city like Seattle. I’ve written to Nicole Freedman about it a couple of times. It’s sad that she left, but fortunately, the decision to give Bewegen a try is here.

    As an annual Pronto member, I would see myself using the bike share a lot more if I they had e-bikes available now. I *could* ride up the hill to Capitol Hill on the current Pronto bike, but an e-bike would make the trip a lot more tempting.

  14. Ryan Packer

    Motivate proposing a smart bike system is so clearly the superior choice. We can follow Portland’s example, it’s not too late!

    Want to run into the store on your way home? Put the bike on hold and store it at a regular bike parking spot. Decide your plans changed and need to ditch the bike? If you’re in the service area, pay an extra $2. Not that close to a station? Check the app to see if someone left a bike closer to where you are.

    It creates an infinitely more flexible system. I don’t understand how it’s not the clear choice. Rather than trying to “flatten” our city, we should be trying to make our city smaller.

  15. […] Seattle opts to replace their failing bikeshare system with a city-wide fleet of ebikes. […]

  16. Brendan

    That map looks bad, especially in terms of density. No one is going to bike anywhere if you have to spend 15 minutes walking. It totally negates the advantage.

    Also, queen anne, but no ballard? What?

    One is on the burke gilman, the other is up a terrifying incline that will likely lead to fatalities. This seems like incredibly poor judgement.

  17. Sean Roulette-Miller

    this is classic seattle waste, spend millions and get very little public benefit, reminds me of the self cleaning public restrooms, which ended up being removed and we still dont have public restrooms. This is the last chance to get it right for bike share in Seattle,, need to build the Portland loo not the self cleaning restroom equivalent

  18. Dave

    If you’re correct and the city sells the Pronto bikes at a break-even price (or better), I’ll tip my cap and call you “Daddy.” But, as of right now, I think you’re high.

  19. Gary

    Boise ID, and Portland OR have the stationless bicycle systems. That actually works because you don’t have to walk once you park. And you can just add more bicycles as the ridership increases. Stations are nice, but become non-essential.

    That’s the core problem with an ebike. It has to have a recharge station.

    Also those batteries will all degrade by 20% every year. Since we need bikes with full range, we will be replacing batteries nearly every year even though they are “not fully worn out.”

    If only we could add the locator system to the existing Pronto bikes, lock anywhere, find with your phone. And add some ebikes for the downtown core area for the ride up the hill.

    But I’m with the pessimists, the city will make a mess of this. As what is essential to a bike share program is lots of bikes everywhere and these proposals don’t do that.

  20. ODB

    Overall, I like this blog, but I think it should own up to the fact that it advocated for the Pronto bike share system and the bailout/buyout, and I think we can say now that both have failed. So, I guess what I was looking for in this post was that acknowledgement, maybe some expression of regret, and more specifically: (1) a further acknowledgement that the failure of current system has very seriously damaged the reputation of bike share in Seattle for years to come, (2) an analysis of why it failed, (3) an analysis of what specifically the new system would do differently to address the likely causes of the prior system’s failure, (4) an analysis of what additional risks of failure the new system presents, and (5) assuming electric bikes will address the prior system’s shortcomings, some thoughts as to why it’s worth taking a risk on this technology now, rather than letting bike share die and revisiting it in a few years when the electric technology is more proven.

    1. (5) I believe more and more cities have bike-share systems using e-bikes. Doug mentioned Copenhagen. I know Kobe and Yokohama do. E-assist technology isn’t anything new. People have been riding e-bikes in the Netherlands at least for the last 7-8 years.

      1. Eli

        In NL, they’re used almost exclusively by elderly people.

      2. “Almost” is probably the key. The friend I was referring to was in his 40s when he told me about the e-bike situation in Utrecht, and he was one of those who rode an e-bike to work every day. :)

        That said, what does age have to do with our discussion here?

      3. Eli

        Actually, you’re right.

        I just called it out because I wanted to be sure nobody got the misconception that people in the Netherlands are broadly using e-bikes.

        That’ll probably happen in the long-term, with middle-aged people now (somewhat embarrassingly) using them.

      4. Why do you think it’s embarrassing to ride an e-bike? To me, that’s no more embarrassing than driving an automatic vs stick shift.

  21. Just spent a few days in Copenhagen and used their Bycykeln bike share extensively. Despite being a pretty much flat city they also went with 100% e-assist bikes. Since there weren’t any big hills I can’t really say how such a bike would deal with Queen Anne hill but it sure seemed like it had a lot of power, especially when you fiddled with the settings and turned the assist up to the maximum (they have a full iPad sized tablet mounted on them with a uselessly bad navigation system but also lets you access settings like that).

    I would generally pick greater system size and frequency over an e-assist system but I think Seattle is an exception. E-assist bikes are needed if you really expect people to move these bikes between the hills rather than just within the same small neighborhood. It should also help with bike repositioning otherwise you’ll be doing nothing but moving bikes back uphill by truck constantly.

    Seattle should also take a look at what Vancouver’s experience has been. I live in Vancouver and we started with similar disadvantages (helmet law, hilly terrain although not Seattle level) but the uptake on the system has been much better even though the rollout is still far from complete. Keeping a helmet with each bike though has worked well even though when they first identified this solution I thought the helmets would be gone in a week but it doesn’t seem to have been a problem. If you don’t want to use the helmet or you brought your own you just pop it into the carrier and relock it when you arrive. Vancouver should have looked at the possibility of allowing bikes to be locked outside stations though, this does seem a wasted opportunity which the new systems generally support (except for e-bikes which need the charging…)

    1. I wish there was a way to “like” a post. This one gets my vote, for sure.

      I don’t understand why there’s so much negativity about the e-bike system here. I totally agree with Doug on the advantage of e-bikes in a hilly city like Seattle. The city of Kobe has a bike-share system that has features I’d love to see in Pronto, such as an integration with mass-transit payment cards (much like Orca), mobile payment, and last but not least, e-bikes. They only have 10 stations, all near train stations and tourist attractions. Having been to Kobe as recently as half a year ago, I can’t say their bike infrastructure is any better than Seattle’s, but I did see quite a few people riding those red e-bikes around town.

      1. Eli

        There’s negativity because, in Seattle, it solves a non-problem while diverting substantial staff time and money away from solving real problems.

        I haven’t been to Kobe. But when I lived in Japan, my town had a high mode share due to characteristics that make it wholly unlike Seattle:

        1. Traffic-calmed, narrow streets
        2. Strong social pressure to conform to speed laws
        3. Slow speeds that made every street (or sidewalk) into a safe space to bike
        4. A large elderly population looking for gentle, social exercise
        5. Frequent need to get to a central train station (with no parking)


      2. Eli,

        None of the points you made except for (5) apply to the city centre of Kobe, where the e-bike-based bike share system seems to be working well.

        Strong social pressure to conform to speed laws… are you sure it is Japan you’ve been to?

  22. […] Here is what Seattle Seattle Bike Blog had to say about the two top proposals: […]

  23. […] Seattle has selected a vendor to replace Pronto, the bike share network that became insolvent last year and required a $1.4M taxpayer bailout.   Tom at Seattle Bike Blog did a fantastic run-down that I highly recommend. […]

  24. […] 2.0: Seattle appears to be setting sights on Bewegen as contractor for Pronto over incumbent operator […]

  25. […] my mind about the philosophical differences between the top two bike share expansion proposals, but I’m basically still in the same spot. Sure, an e-assist bike can climb James St, but is that better than having more stations in more […]

  26. […] had been contemplating an expansion that would have roughly doubled the size of the system and added e-bikes supplied by Bewegen, a supplier with major question marks (it’s the descendant of Montreal-based Bixi, which […]

  27. […] had been contemplating an expansion that would have roughly doubled the size of the system and added e-bikes supplied by Bewegen, a supplier with major question marks (it’s the descendant of Montreal-based Bixi, which […]

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Details from Seattle Parks: On scheduled weekends from May to September, a portion of Lake Washington Boulevard will be closed to motorized vehicles from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday. “Seattle Parks and Recreation[…]
all-day Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washing…
Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washing…
Jun 23 – Jun 24 all-day
Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washington Blvd
Details from Seattle Parks: On scheduled weekends from May to September, a portion of Lake Washington Boulevard will be closed to motorized vehicles from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday. “Seattle Parks and Recreation[…]
10:00 am NE 8th St Bridge Opening @ Totem Lake Salt & Straw
NE 8th St Bridge Opening @ Totem Lake Salt & Straw
Jun 23 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Join us for a relaxed group ride along EasTrail to the NE 8th St Bridge Opening! This is an All-Ages and Abilities event, we will not be leaving anyone behind and we will all be[…]
1:00 pm Redmond History Ride @ Marymoor Park Velodrome Parking Lot
Redmond History Ride @ Marymoor Park Velodrome Parking Lot
Jun 23 @ 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Redmond History Ride @ Marymoor Park Velodrome Parking Lot | Redmond | Washington | United States
Join this 13 mile bike ride around Redmond at a Leisurely pace. We’ll visit various sites both old and new as I tell stories about the city that was once known as Salmonberg.ShareMastodonTwitterFacebookRedditEmail
7:15 pm Point83 @ Westlake Park
Point83 @ Westlake Park
Jun 27 @ 7:15 pm
Point83 @ Westlake Park
Meet up in the center of the park at 7ish. Leave at 730. Every Thursday from now until forever rain or shine. Bikes, beers, illegal firepits, nachos, bottlerockets, timetraveling, lollygagging, mechanicals, good times.ShareMastodonTwitterFacebookRedditEmail
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