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Bike share is now live + A handy guide to the new $1 bikes – UPDATED

Annotations by Seattle Bike Blog. Base image from SDOT’s draft update for their Right of Way Improvement Manual.

Nothing costs a dollar anymore.

But that’s all it costs to ride one of those bright orange or lime green bikes popping up on sidewalks and bike racks around Seattle.

See our new Seattle Bike Share Guide for questions about how to get started and where to park. We will keep that page updated going forward as rules or services change (you can find a link in the navigation bar above).

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Spin (the orange ones) are already distributing their bikes around the city and have activated their app. The company has called a press conference at City Hall at 10 a.m. Seattle Bike Blog will be there, so stay tuned for updates.

LimeBike has also said it is ready to launch and confirmed Monday morning that they received their permit. UPDATE: LimeBike is rolling their bikes out this week, with a few in circulation as of Monday afternoon. They hope to be up to 500 by the end of the week.

The companies are allowed to have 500 bikes for the first month, 1,000 the second month, 2,000 the third month, then the cap is lifted. See our previous post for more details on the city’s pilot permit. The pilot will run for six months, giving the city time to see how things go and develop permanent rules.

Spin sent out a press release announcing the start of service and said they hope to ultimately have 10,000 bikes in service in Seattle:

Spin, the leading stationless bikeshare company in North America, today announced it is the first company to obtain a stationless bikeshare permit from the City of Seattle and is officially launching a city-sanctioned bikeshare fleet. Starting today, 500 of Spin’s orange-colored, GPS-enabled, self-locking smart bikes will be distributed across the city to provide an innovative, equitable mode of transportation for the people of Seattle. Unlike traditional bikeshare systems, Spin’s technology requires no fixed racks and allows bikes to be parked anywhere legal and responsible.

Following the company’s $8M Series A funding round in May, just months after the company’s founding, Spin’s Seattle launch continues the company’s rapid growth trajectory and marks an important milestone for stationless bikeshare in the United States, as the model gains traction around the world. Spin is planning launches in several major U.S. cities this quarter, including San Francisco and New York.

“We could not be more thrilled to launch in Seattle,” said Spin co-founder and CEO Derrick Ko. “Our policy team paved the way for the nation’s largest city-sanctioned stationless bikeshare program by leading industry discussions and working closely with the Seattle Department of Transportation every step of the way. Together, we brought bikeshare back to Seattle residents with an affordable, equitable system that won’t cost the city a penny.”

Spin will scale up its Seattle operations over the next four months with the goal of ultimately deploying more than 10,000 bikes across the city’s many neighborhoods. Spinplans to hire a local team of up to 20 in marketing and operations to ensure high service standards during this expansion.

“Spin’s launch in Seattle is a breakthrough precedent and proves that North American cities are excited to work with stationless bikeshare companies,” said Euwyn Poon, Spinco-founder and president. “The support we have received from Seattle residents has been overwhelming, and we have assembled a world-class team of business, policy, and engineering talent who believe strongly in our mission to continue our rapid expansion.”

UPDATE: SDOT has confirmed that the permits are approved.

We gave Spin a test ride from Capitol Hill to their City Hall press event. It was smooth riding.

At least as of now, Spin is giving new users $10 in credit when they sign up. That’s five hours of free biking.

Spin is not enforcing any kind of service area at the moment. So you can bike to any Seattle neighborhood (though not all neighborhoods will have bikes until someone rides there). The company will follow the data and let users demonstrate demand for areas. So if you want bike share where you live, catch a bus downtown and bike one back.

The company plans to grow from their current 500 bikes as city permits allow. So in a couple months, they should be up to 2,000 bikes. They say their ultimate goal is to reach 10,000 bikes across every Seattle neighborhood.

Cathy Tuttle, the outgoing Executive Director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, said she hopes these new services change Seattle’s “safety equation”:

  • My hope is the thousands of new Spin and LimeBikes riders will encourage people driving to become more aware and respectful of people on bikes.
  • I also hope SDOT will quickly build out a fully protected #BasicBikeNetwork downtown and a linked safe network throughout Seattle.
  • Most of all, I hope thousands of people will discover the joy of riding a bike for everyday transportation.

Hear, hear!

UDPATE: LimeBike is also launching this week, though they are rolling out a bit more gradually than Spin. Like Spin, they also plan to get to 500 bikes during the first month. The company is hosting a series of test ride events all week:

  • Monday, 7/17, 11AM-1PMSouth Lake Union  (426 Terry Ave. N.)
  • Tuesday, 7/18, 11AM-1PMWest Lake Station  (4th & Pine)
  • Wednesday, 7/19, 11AM- 12PMSouth Lake Union (426 Terry Ave. N.)
  • Thursday, 7/20, 5PM-8PMGasworks Park (Fremont)
  • Friday, 7/21, 12PM-7PMSeattle Center, 2nd Ave N and August Wilson Way  (between fountain and Key Arena)
  • Saturday,7/22, 12PM-7PMSeattle Center, 2nd Ave N and August Wilson Way  (between fountain and Key Arena)
  • Sunday, 7/23, 11AM-3PMFremont Market11AM-3PM (west end)

UDPATE: There are some LimeBikes in circulation as of Monday afternoon. The company will keep adding bikes and hope to have 500 on the streets by the end of the week.

LimeBike also offers new users a free ride, but you have to pony up a buck for rides after that.

UPDATE: After riding both Spin and LimeBike today, I am simply ecstatic about the promise of these companies. Biking around, I already passed a lot of people taking Spin bikes. Anecdotally, I don’t know if Pronto ever got this kind of use. But, of course, it could be due to the novelty on opening day. Only time will tell, and I look forward to getting ride data so we can compare.

But being able to bike to your destination is a game-changer for bike share. It may be smart phone based, but I used my phone less for these bikes than I ever did for Pronto because I was always checking my phone to figure out where the closest station was. With Spin and LimeBike, you just go to where you’re going, then find a good spot nearby to lock it. I locked my LimeBike and walked away, and within seconds I heard someone yell, “Hey look, a LimeBike!” And like that it was gone.

Within a day or two, there will be more bike share bikes on Seattle streets than Pronto ever had after two and a half years of operations. By the end of the week, there will be twice as many bikes as Pronto. Next month, assuming things go well, there may be four times as many bikes as Pronto. My mid-September, there could be eight times as many bikes as Pronto. After that, who knows?

Today was the start of something very big for Seattle transportation.

Spin says they hope to go to 10,000 bikes eventually. Colin McMahon of LimeBike says 10,000 sounds like “a reasonable number,” but that the company does not yet know what number of bikes will work best for Seattle.

“We’ll keep adding bikes so long as people keep riding them,” he said, noting that other cities have found that ridership per bike increases the more bikes there are. That’s because the more bikes there are, the more you can depend on one being nearby when you need one.

LimeBike already has two dozen people on staff working on bikes and walking around doing marketing to help people learn how it works.

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68 responses to “Bike share is now live + A handy guide to the new $1 bikes – UPDATED”

  1. Alex

    A friend of mine who works for LimeBike has said that they expect to launch on Friday.

    1. That sounds interesting. Good luck to them.

  2. John Alden

    I tried to sign up for Spin but apparently you can only do it through a Facebook Account. I find that offensive beyond belief. Now Mark Zuckerberg controls our transportation system on top of everything else.

    1. Michael

      I signed up without using my FB account. This was on iOS, not sure if the android app looks different (unsure why that would be the case).

    2. Jay

      I was able to sign up on Android without using Facebook.
      Just needed my email address and to create a password.

    3. Josh

      Installed it on both Android and iPhone, registered two different email addresses, neither one required Facebook. They *asked* for FB, but you can register with just an email address.

      1. Chris

        I’m on Windows Phone, so I guess I’m just hosed.

    4. oh no. I can assure you that you dont have to have a facebook account. Just an email and a smart phone.

  3. John Alden

    I “lied” (well isn’t that the latest thing?). I couldn’t get it to create an account for me on my Android (without a Facebook Account) but I decided to just walk out and try and see what happens.
    First ride: First two bikes showing on the map were phantom bikes. Nothing there. Kept walking and there was a bike that didn’t show. Tried to check it out and all it asked for was that I input a credit card. Did that… no problem… I rode off.
    Bike is pretty good…. brakes are about 10,000 times better than Pronto brakes were… they actually stop the bike. 3rd gear is nice comfortable city cruising, very smooth.
    Got to end of ride — manually closed the lock. Looked at the phone… it said it was very sorry there had been an error (apparently CHECKING OUT THE BIKE) and to try again. Since there was no error, I just took a pic of the bike parked next to a bike rack in the parking strip and walked away.

    1. John Alden

      Me again– PS… checked my phone on getting home and my ride history says “No Rides”

      1. It happens that an Oscar Meyer Weiner Whistle sounds at 2600 Hz, exactly the frequency of a critical control tone at the Facebook login screen. Just blow the whistle, take a selfie, and you can log into any Facebook account you want (except those of vegetarians, for which you need the much rarer Field Roast Weiner Whistle).

      2. We are fixing the app and updating it quite a bit until it’s spot on.

  4. ScottA

    I signed up for both services on the iPhone app this morning. Easy! Anyone know if a bike can be reserved similar to how Car2Go allows reserving for 30 minutes so you don’t walk to the bike and it’s been taken by someone else?

    1. Michael

      Curious about this as well. Would suck to go out of your way for a bike only for it to disappear.

      1. No reservations yet. But that is at the top of the list for updates. If you want a bike, you will be able to reserve it in 15 min. But that will be coming soon.

  5. Kolbe

    I am so excited about these services! I can’t wait to use them. I was an avid, casual user of Pronto and I’ve been eagerly waiting for this service to show up.

    a) I agree with the need for a reservation system like Car2Go and ReachNow. Maybe 5m or 10m instead of 30m, but something to make it possible for me to plan to walk a few blocks and actually find the bike I wanted to use. I’d even pay to start the reservation from a distance and only unlock when I got to the bike.

    b) I just don’t see how these bikes are not going to become fodder for miscreants to throw in lakes or the ocean or down hills in parks. Beyond simple mischief, wheel locks and GPS systems alone can easily be defeated by someone who really wants a free bike for some reason.

    I desperately hope these systems succeed, and I really hope the existence of competition will drive quick iterations to some of the details of the model. It’s very exciting to have Seattle be the epicenter of all these goofy new, privately-funded shared-resource businesses!

    1. Dave

      Wonder if the plan to add a lot more bikes (10,000 bikes according to Spin!) will avoid this issue. At the least we’ll probably see a couple thousand bikes in the second month as I bet both Spin and Limebike will at least each go to 1000 following the SDOT expansion plan.

    2. The reservation system is coming very soon! Promise. And hopefully other people would respect the property. But there is always a risk. Happy spinning!

  6. dave

    I tried out Spin at lunch today and I locked my bike but the app keeps ticking away the time. I sent an email to Spin about it but couldn’t find a phone number to call. Also, the front brake didn’t work and I couldn’t get it into the lowest gear. Otherwise it was great!

    1. Kyle

      Same problem today and no response on their help system. Brakes squeaked, seat mounted number plate rattled. Not really impressed… And what is with not supplying bike helmets; that was a major factor for Pronto as I recall.

      1. Did you try [email protected]? Keep trying and they will definatly refund any charges you didnt make. Plus, as an added bonus, I am sure they will give you some free rides for your trouble. If not, put in code SPINRIDE14 and you should get 10 free rides. Thanks for using Spin, together we will get around town faster and with less headache.

  7. Chad N

    Anyone have any recommendations for thin, light bike helmets that are easy to carry around in a bag all day?

    1. ScottA

      Are these airbag helmets available in Seattle? They seem somewhat more compact than a regular helmet.

      1. Bobby

        While it’s a pretty cool technology, it is impractical. I found they are far too easy to set off with just a normal bit of aggressive city riding, and it costs a $100 to replace each time it goes off.

    2. Dave

      Heres a recent update on folding helmets:


    3. Alkibkr

      I always used my Bandbox “Dubliner” as a low profile helmet to carry around in case I wanted to use a Pronto bike. Bandbox has several models fairly low profile, the “Ascot”, “Daytona”, “Basque” and “Dubliner”. Plus they look less like a helmet and more like a hat. http://bandboxllc.com/catalog/c23_p1.html

      1. Breadbaker

        Bandbox is designed by a friend of mine. I’ll pass along your compliment.

    4. Alkibkr

      I can’t get the apps for Spin and Limebike to work on my iPhone. I guess I need to update to IOS 10. Not enough space on the phone I’ll have to offload a few photos I guess.
      If I do get the apps to work and start using the bikes, I will have to order an “Ascot” Bandbox helmet cover for a better visor and more of a summer look.
      A few Spin bikes have started to appear in West Seattle. I think there is quite a latent demand here as an article about the Spin bikes in the West Seattle Blog generated a popular thread with mostly positive comments. http://westseattleblog.com/2017/07/new-bike-share-program-spin-launches-in-seattle-but-not-here-yet/

    5. Chad N

      Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve ordered a Closca folding helmet on Amazon.

  8. […] shade on dockless bikeshare pointing to problems in London and elsewhere. But plunging ahead, private bikeshare is now live in Seattle appearing on blocks across the […]

  9. Joseph Singer

    Who is going to lean on seattle.gov to rescind the all ages helmet law?

    1. ScottA

      It’s a kingcounty.gov law.

      1. another jay

        I believe it is a King county Health Department rule, not a “law” enacted by elected representatives. My understanding is it originally did not apply in Seattle (since Seattle has their own government) but Seattle did chose to let it apply, presumably they could reverse that choice if they wanted to (not that they would)

    2. Alkibkr

      3 in West Seattle right now, Alaska Junction, Avalon and Alki

  10. Populating the Burke Gilman —

    I brought a SPIN bike from SLU to Fremont this morning and it has already been moved at least once. I see there is another bike at Zoka’s Coffee above U Village. If just a few folks moved one bike per day from SLU to the Burke Gilman we could have two dozen bikes along the BG by the end of the week.

    Given the gear ratio of the SPIN bikes I’m pretty sure none of them will ever be biked up even a 5% grade. So let’s get them where I think they belong — on Seattle’s flat, separated bike paths.

    1. Tuesday 9:30am report

      SPIN bikes north of the ship canal:

      * Ballard — Leary and NW Market (1), 9’th and NW 62nd (1)
      * Fremont — BG and NW 40th (1), Leary and 2’nd NW (1) Fremont and N 44’th (1), downtown Fremont (3)
      * Gasworks (2)
      * U District — NW Blakeley (1)

      Not surprisingly, Fremont wins.

      Also interesting — All the bikes that started yesterday on Broadway or 15’th on Capitol Hill are no longer there. Presumably, the law of gravity is still in effect.

      See the “Average Elevation Change” plot in this review of the Pronto data:


  11. Clark in Vancouver

    I spotted a Spin Bike in Vancouver, BC yesterday and one the day before. (It might be the same one.)
    I don’t know how it got here or if Spin knows about it and is okay with.

    1. That’s hilarious! I’ll have to watch for this.

  12. Urban Villager

    Does anyone know whether the bikes can be parked in residential neighborhoods of Seattle where there is a parking strip? Only if it is paged (or bricked) I suppose?

    1. Urban Villager


  13. Alkibkr

    Are they light enough to lift onto a bus rack? For me that would be about 40 lbs or under.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Light enough, yes. Not sure if A: The racks on the front of the bikes will work with the bus racks or B: It’s against the terms and services.

      1. Drew

        I asked Limebike if there was a penalty if you put a bike on a bus and was told no (assuming you have the bike checked out). My guess is that if this becomes an operations nightmare, the rules will change. There are certainly many places where this could be a useful way to ensure you have a last mile connection so I hope it continues to be acceptable. I am sure there is only a small group of people who would go through the trouble of doing this so hopefully that keeps it from being a big issue.

  14. NickS

    The Spin app on iOS tells me that “service is not yet available in your city.”

    This is in South Seattle, just north of Rainier Beach. Teething problems with the new service, or geofencing excluding areas of the city?

    1. Just scrolling around in the app it looks like they only go north as far as about 80th, and only south as far as about Graham. I can’t find any official statement about the system boundary.

      1. Matt Tilghman-Havens

        The LimeBike person on the street told me they won’t have a system boundary for now.

    2. Jay

      I still get the “service not available” screen when I open the app sometimes. Force closing and reopening the app *usually* works and then shows me the available bikes.

      The app still needs some work.

  15. asdf2

    What’s to stop someone from parking one of these bikes in their garage or living room?

  16. 10 free rides with Spin. Activate using spinride14 and recieve your first 10 rides free.

  17. Lynne

    Tried to ride a Spin this morning. The app told me there were two bikes at 3rd & Bell. I can see all four corners of 3rd & Bell from outside my front door. There were no bikes. Walked over to investigate anyway. No bikes. Quit/restarted the app. App insisted that there were two bikes where I was standing.

    The app needs work, Spin.

    1. Drew

      I had same problem on the iphone app. It turns out it doesn’t refresh on its own so you have to close it and reopen it to see the latest map of where bikes are.

      1. Peri Hartman

        May I suggest that you report these problems to Spin. I reported a problem by phone and they were very grateful and polite. Yesterday the app displayed a phone number to call. Currently, I see it is offering chat but no phone number.

    2. ScottA

      I had the old map problem today in my first serious attempt to use either service. Lime showed a bike at the UW Triangle garage that wasn’t there. Similar near Agua Verde. Next time I’ll restart the app. I looked for a refresh button but didn’t see one.

      1. Lynne

        I did actually report this to Spin this morning and I second Peri’s suggestion. A buggy app will definitely reduce usage. I can’t imagine releasing an app with map data that does not refresh without a restart, but maybe they did not think it would be a problem.

        I don’t see a refresh button on either app.

  18. Robin

    Firstly, I am a huge bike share enthusiast and am really excited about these two new services. But..I had a pretty spectacular fail with a Spin bike yesterday. I specifically didn’t ride my own bike to work so that I could try out a Spin bike on the way to my post-work destination. I happily found one just a few blocks away and was riding in no time. Elevation is definitely a lot tougher because of the weight of the bike, and that it has only 3 (!) speeds, but I was pretty impressed that I didn’t have to get off at any point (though I didn’t go all the way up Cap).

    THEN, not a few blocks after the small hill climb (only ~ 10 blocks after starting), the chain SNAPPED! Good grief! I was at least pleased that since it is dockless, I could just abandon it on the closest appropriately-wide sidewalk (and notify the chat line to take it off the map). Also, their distribution is already good enough that I wouldn’t have had that far to go to pick up another..but I went for a different plan B. I also noticed after dragging it to the sidewalk that the handlebar had become very misaligned with the front wheel because it was loose. There had been no crash when the chain snapped, just a surprised exclamation from me, so the handlebar had been loose all along. (But cheers to the bicyclist who stopped to see if I was alright and wanted to help!)

    So that’s my story. Give those Spin bikes a once-over before you pedal away!

    1. Lynne

      I rode one this morning and it was a bit rattly. I’ve seen another comment that the headlamp bolt needs locktite and yes, it does. I’ll make sure I throw a multi-tool in my bag next time.

      OK, chain snapping and loose handlebars? That’s scary. My co-worker rode one yesterday; it was stuck in 2nd gear.

      Please, Spin, make sure these bikes are maintained. It’s only day 3.

      1. It only a buck. Thats why they are only 3 speed. It’s meant to safely get around. You can still go up hills, but its better to go down.

      2. Lynne

        I get that it’s only a buck. But why bother even calling it a 3 speed when many of them have shifting problems? Two of my coworkers got bikes that would not shift. On Saturday, after FOUR tries, I finally got a bike to unlock. It was stuck in 2nd gear. Later, I rode one home from Seattle Center. After about two blocks that bike decided that 1st gear was no longer an option.

        I suspect the problem is the cheap twist shifters. I bought one for my 1970s Raleigh sport and it was a pile of excrement. I put the 40 year old thumb shifter back and never had another problem.

    2. Great point. Thank you so much for sharing this experience. That is good advice. I think after some kinks get worked out the bikes will be fine.

  19. […] Bikeshare is up and running again. […]

  20. Keep trying guys. This is going to work. For only a buck. Plus get 10 free rides with code spinride14.

  21. check out my full day with spin.
    plus, 10 free rides with promo code spinride14

  22. Are neither of these systems publishing to GBFS? Having to use two separate apps is a hilariously inefficient system. C’mon, Seattle.

    1. Lynne

      Don’t blame Seattle. We did not write the apps. Also, at least Spin might want to get their mapping a bit more accurate before publishing to GBFS. And, ok, I did not know there was a bikeshare feed spec…

      That said, I agree. I’m tired of using Google maps, Apple maps, OneBusAway, and so on.

      1. Peri Hartman

        GBFS – that’s cool, I didn’t know about it.

        I do blame, gently, Seattle. It’s up to the city when reviewing permitting to consider services like this. They could even require it as a condition getting a permit.

  23. I live in Wallingford right by the Burke-Gilman, and these things litter my neighborhood.

    In the past week I’ve found two of these bikes with their rims stomped right in front of my door. When I move them so I can leave my house, an automated message informs me that the bike is calling the police on me (just to add a little insult to a little injury). Are these bikes really tying up police resources like that?

    I watched one abandon bike sit tipped-over about a foot off Pacific Street for the better part of a week before someone finally moved it.

    It sounds like the bikes are great for people who need a low-grade bike at $4/hr (in all honesty, walking isn’t very much slower than riding one of these things). For the rest of the city, I believe they’re a net negative.

  24. ninja

    So. These bikes being dumped just anywhere, such as public parks and properties such as road side medians strikes me as littering. These bikes are everywhere but where propped bike parking is available. Illegal dumping of ANYTHING on public property is a crime, so why are these companies allowed to destroy my beautiful scenic view of my favorite park???

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