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Spin and LimeBike are first to apply for bike share permits, ready to launch once approved

Spin and LimeBike appear to be the two bike share companies most ready to get an early start on the streets of Seattle this summer.

SDOT has confirmed that the companies are the only two who have yet submitted complete applications, though both permits are still under review. The city said it could take a week or two to process permits, which means if the companies have crossed all their Ts they could have bikes in operation any day now.

If both LimeBike and Spin launch with a full 500, Seattle could have bike share services twice as big as Pronto within the next week or so.

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Spin released a statement saying the company has 500 bikes ready to go as soon as their permit is approved:

On Monday,  July 3, Spin officially submitted its application to SDOT and pending approval, Spin plans to launch in Seattle as quickly as possible. This means Spinbikes could be on Seattle streets as early as this Friday, July 7 or early next week. So far, Spin has 500 of its orange-colored smartbikes on the ground in Seattle, ready for distribution across the city, as soon as SDOT’s approval comes in. In addition, Spin plans to hire up to 20 people in Seattle, to help manage and maintain Spin’s dockless bikeshare system.

LimeBike is also ready to go “as soon as we have permits in hand,” said Gabriel Scheer, the company’s Director of Stretegic Development. Scheer said they wish they could go even bigger than the city’s pilot permit will allow.

“As for launch numbers, as you likely know the City has been fairly prescriptive in their expectations for launch numbers, and we will of course comply,” he said. “I think the City is wisely taking a thoughtful approach to launch numbers, but wish we were able to launch more broadly from the get-go. Launching with greater scale would enable us to immediately contravene some of the network-related challenges that most hurt Pronto.”

The city’s pilot permit requires that company’s launch with 500 bikes the first month, with the option of expanding to 1,000 bikes the second month, 2,000 bikes the third month and then more than that the fourth month.

The Tier 1 Priority Hire neighborhoods are highlighted in green.

Once a company reaches 2,000 bikes, they are required to make sure at least 20 percent of their service area covers “Tier 1 Priority Hire neighborhoods.” However, this is a pretty low bar, since many of the central neighborhoods where bike share seems most obvious count as Tier 1. But basically, a company can’t only serve the Burke-Gilman Trail and wealthy Northeast Seattle, Green Lake, Greenwood, Wallingford, Montlake, Madison Park and Alki.

Both Spin and LimeBike have iOS and Android apps available for download. And both companies are offering rides for $1 per 30 minutes.

Both apps also have referral systems in place to encourage you to invite your friends by giving both of you free rides. LimeBike also gives you extra “free” rides if you deposit $20 or more into your account (unused funds are refundable). The upfront, out-of-pocket cost for your first paid ride is going to be more than $1, since you have to put at least $10 in your account at a time.

Smartphones are the only way to access the bikes. To find a bike near you, pull up a company’s app to see a map with all available bikes. Once you get to a bike, scan the QR code on the bike with your phone’s camera to unlock it. Then just ride to where you’re going, find a place to park it and flip the lock. Once locked, you’re done. Just walk away.

The city’s permit application lays out the allowed parking requirements like this (I sure hope the companies are working on a more user-friendly set of instructions):

Here’s a video explainer of how it works, from LimeBike:

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22 responses to “Spin and LimeBike are first to apply for bike share permits, ready to launch once approved”

  1. Erik

    The LimeBike app has a helpful feature that shows nearby bike racks on the map.

  2. sb

    So if it’s an SDOT rack is it always okay to park? Does that override all the things mentioned in section P3?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      P2 says “or at an SDOT bicycle rack.” So I would read that as saying bike share bikes are permitted in in-street corrals or any SDOT bike racks outside the other rules. Note, however, that this does not necessarily cover private bike racks or bike racks in parks, etc.

      1. Greg

        How is this possibly going to work? Are people not supposed to ride their own bicycles in Seattle anymore? I can’t imagine there’s going to be any rack space left in any busy neighborhoods if you let bike share bikes park there.

      2. Josh

        How about we take the money the Council decided not to spend on Pronto and spend it on racks instead. Having too many bikes for available rack space is a really good problem to have, and a really easy problem to fix.

  3. sb

    I look forward to a comparison between the two services and apps. Looks like Spin requires facebook login, boo.

    1. asdf2

      Just create a dummy facebook account specifically for that service. No need to use your real account.

  4. BB


    We went from a broken half ass system , to several world cutting edge systems. As with the old I will love it.

    I hope it works. I see so many bike balancing/finding issues.

  5. Ginger Esty

    Limebike was at the Ballard Seafood Fest today. I test rode a bike and it was fine except seat height may be a problem for long-legged folks like myself. They will be rolling out in the next couple of weeks with 500 bikes. Go check them out (they’re by the skateboard park).

  6. Eli

    This will be a great opportunity to actually test whether bike density alone was the primary root cause reason for Pronto’s failure.

    1. RossB

      How so? It is a different model, with station density that will fluctuate with no apparent plan for actually achieving the recommended level of station density through a wide area. It is better than nothing, but at times you will have exactly what you want (a bike within a block or two of where you are) and other times you won’t. That is not how very successful bike share systems work, and so in that regard, it will be interesting to see how successful it is.

  7. JB

    1) Great news!

    2) Casts the hand-wringing about Pronto shutting down in a fairly ironic light :-)

    3) Also casts a pretty bleak light on the lack of imagination or progressive thinking in the thoroughly uninspired and uninspiring Murray administration.

  8. […] Urban Milwaukee reports that city kids are appealing to council members for safer streets. And Seattle Bike Blog reports that after the city-funded Pronto bike-share system shut down, two private firms are […]

  9. […] Urban Milwaukee reports that city kids are appealing to council members for safer streets. And Seattle Bike Blog reports that after the city-funded Pronto bike-share system shut down, two private firms are […]

  10. Matthew Snyder

    I’m not sure I understand the rules about parking on blocks with no sidewalks (including, for example, many of the blocks in my Columbia City neighborhood). The parking rules above state that on blocks without sidewalks, bicycles may be parked “if the travel lane(s) and 6-foot pedestrian clear zone are not impeded.”

    What 6-foot pedestrian clear zone are they referring to? SMC 11.14.570 says that “…there is always deemed to be a sidewalk not less than three (3) feet in width, whether actually constructed or not, on each side of each street except where there is less than three (3) feet between the edge of the roadway and a physical obstruction which prohibits reasonable use by pedestrians.”

    In practice, most of the time there is no sidewalk, regardless of what the SMC says. There’s no pedestrian clear zone at all — doesn’t matter if it’s supposed to be a 6-foot or 3-foot zone; functionally it’s non-existent. But let’s say I do want to park one of these bikes in front of my house on a no-sidewalk block. What do I do? I don’t think I can put it in the actual roadway. I can’t put it to the side of the roadway, as that’s technically the sidewalk (even though everyone parks their cars there). And beyond that is private property.

    Or maybe requirement P3.2, which says there’s no parking on blocks without a landscape/furniture zone, would apply here? Wouldn’t this basically disqualify any block without a curb and a constructed sidewalk?

  11. Chamois Davis Jr.

    Wow, I am truly surprised at the lack of rigor by SDOT and the bike community here in Seattle.
    SDOT tries to make the case for this as a last mile access and includes a requirement at a threshold to have bikes in “Tier 1 priority hire” neighborhoods but use and access is limited to those who have smartphones? Really?
    Has SDOT budgeted for all new signage for bicycle parking requirements and restrictions? Just look at other countries where bicycles are a big part of the transportation mix and they all have bicycle traffic control and parking restriction signage. Even with new bike parking signage, the onus is on the user to follow these rules which visitors will not know and just how many bikeshare users does anyone think will be conscientious about parking bikeshare bikes in the SDOT designated areas? Who will be enforcing this?
    As mentioned in other comments here, most regular cyclists with their own bikes to ride, park and lock will have to deal with private companies taking advantage of a limited public resource.
    I really hope that this will be a success but it looks to be set up to fail in different ways than Pronto was but just as badly and reflect poorly on the the city, SDOT and the bike community.
    Get out the popcorn, as it will be fun to watch SDOT, the bikeshare companies and the users figure out how this will work, what to do and who to punish when it doesn’t work.
    At least those who aren’t in the smartphone demographic might count their specific denial of access as a blessing.

  12. Matthew Kozuch

    “At the end of the pilot, SDOT will analyze bike rental data and performance metrics, which include several measures such as safety, operations, and neighborhood distribution equity.”

    How exactly will SDOT measure the safety of specific companies with solely the ridership data? I’m assuming the safety analysis will take a look at both cyclist accidents using these bike shares as well as helmet violations, but how will ridership data inform safety analysis of specific companies? Will the name of the company be recorded anytime a user is cited for not using a helmet and will companies be docked if there users are often found to not be using helmets?

    And as for neighborhood distribution equity goals, it seems pretty clear that SDOT has set the bar pretty low. However, I was also wondering how a company fulfills “servicing” a particular zip code, since these bikes can be picked up and dropped off anywhere in the Seattle area. Will Spin and Limebike not allow you to lock a bike in a zip code they don’t technically service yet? Or do they have to leave a certain baseline of bicycles in a zip code for use before it technically services the zip code?

    1. Central Districtite

      If SDOT considers helmet use an indicator of success we’re really, really lost.

  13. […] Two bikeshare companies are ready to go, pending permits. But the foolish helmet law could mess it all up. Here are some do’s and dont’s. […]

  14. Chamois Davis Jr.

    Just launched ‘uber’ style bikeshare in Oz.


    1. Chamois Davis Jr.

      Sorry, it’s actually London not Australia.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      Success or failure is going to depend on the very uncertain science of gaining public acceptance and understanding. I hope these companies, by working through the city permit process, are able to do better than a company that just launched without any of that work. I guess we’re about to find out.

      I expect there will be a social adjustment period. The question is whether popularity can outweigh the negative.

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