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Does Seattle’s dockless system offer a glimpse of the future of bike-sharing?

Published on November 7, 2019

Dockless bikes at Montlake Cut, Seattle
Dockless bikes at Montlake Cut, Seattle. Image Credit: Cindy Shebley, October 2017. CC BY 2.0

In downtown Seattle, if you’re trying to find the nearest shared e-bike, you could check an app. But, typically, all you really need to do is look down the sidewalk six feet in front of you.

They’re on every street, standing next to light posts, up against railings on bridges and occasionally in the middle of the sidewalk.

In 2017, Seattle was the first U.S. city to allow dockless bike-sharing. Instead of leaving bikes in a docking station, like you do in cities including New York, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, you leave them, well, almost anywhere.

Seattle’s bikes, operated by Lime and Uber-owned Jump, appeared four months after Seattle shut down Pronto, its three-year-old docked bike-share system, because not enough people were using it.

Why did people prefer to go dockless in Seattle? And might dockless systems replace the stations we see in Canadian cities now?

“For Pronto, there weren’t enough stations and they weren’t close to where people were or where they wanted to go,” says Don MacKenzie, a University of Washington civil and environmental engineering associate professor who studied the docked system’s failure. “When the dockless services came in later, they were deployed at a greater scale, so in many places of the city there’s always a bike nearby and you can take it wherever you want to go.”


Continue reading at The Globe and Mail.

Originally written by Jason Tchir for The Globe and Mail.
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