Seattle Bike Share Guide

So you want to bike around Seattle on one of those bright orange, yellow or green bikes on sidewalks and bike racks? You can! All you need is an Apple or Android smartphone and a credit or debit card to get started.

Companies in operation:

You will need to create an account and input your credit/debit card info before starting. Rides cost $1 for each 30 minutes on Spin or LimeBike ($1 for an hour on ofo). Services often offer free rides to get you started.

How does it work?

  • Download a company’s app and find a bike near you on the map.
  • When you find one, use their app to scan the QR code posted on the bike to unlock the rear wheel.
  • Bike to your destination and find a place to park (see graphic below for help)
  • Slide the lock on the back wheel to end your trip.

That’s it! You’re done.

Where should I park this bike share bike?

Bikes can be parked in the “furniture zone” of a sidewalk or at any city bike rack. Make sure to maintain at least six feet of open walking space on the sidewalk, and don’t block driveways, crosswalks, loading zones, accessible parking spaces, bus stops or street corners. If the sidewalk is too skinny to leave at least six feet of walking space, you cannot park there. And don’t park it on the grass.

Basically, just don’t leave it in the way.

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

What do I do if I find an improperly parked bike?

The easiest way to deal with an improperly parked bike is to move it. Only the back wheel is locked, so you are encouraged to move bikes out of the way. If you support bike share, it’s a good habit to fix poorly parked bikes whenever you see them.

If you cannot move the bike yourself or if too many bikes have crowded into a place, each bike has a company phone number posted on it. Call the number and report the issue. Companies are required to respond.

What neighborhoods do the bikes serve?

City rules allow companies to operate anywhere in Seattle, though companies can limit their service areas if they choose to. You can check each company’s app to confirm your destination is covered. Because these services do not have physical stations, companies can modify their service areas and bike distributions over time.

Can I use these bikes without a smart phone or bank account?

Currently, not really. LimeBike will set you up with a call-to-unlock system if you go to their Fremont headquarters and load your account with cash. Spin and LimeBike have said they are looking into more options.

Is the city paying for these bikes?

No. Each company owns their own bikes and pays Seattle permit fees to operate. Unlike with Pronto Cycle Share — which shut down in early 2017 — there is no public investment in these services.

Do I need to wear a helmet?

King County has a rare all-ages helmet law (PDF). Companies will not provide a helmet for you, so bring your own or risk a $30 ticket.

How old do I need to be?

You must be 18 or older to check out a bike. LimeBike’s User Agreement and Spin’s Terms of Use say people 13 or older can ride the bikes if a parent or guardian gives permission and assumes liability. ofo’s User Agreement says you must be 18.

Is it legal to bike on sidewalks?

It is legal to bike on sidewalks in Washington State except where specifically prohibited (if there’s no sign saying you can’t bike there, then it is legal). However, you must yield to people walking. Go slow, be patient and use your voice (“On your left”) or the bike’s bell to let people know you are passing.

Is it legal to bike in bus-only lanes?

Yes, in general it is legal to bike in bus-only lanes on roads where bikes are allowed (bikes are prohibited on the upper West Seattle Bridge, for example, so bikes are also prohibited from using the bus lane there).