The Washington Department of Transportation has $750,000 burning a hole in its pocket and it wants to give it to a new bike share program in King County (the county in which the city of Seattle resides). The Department’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Program is hoping for legislative approval when the issue is presented in April 2013.
If approved, the bike share program would make Seattle look a little more European in that there would be numerous bike stations located throughout the city. Folks could check out a bike (and a helmet) and use it to commute from one location to the next. The program is expected to cost $3.7 million in its first phase, so WSDOT’s $750,000 contribution wouldn’t cover all of the expenses, just get the ball rolling. Bike Share executive director Holly Houser is hoping that corporate sponsors will provide additional funding.
A Bikeshare station in Boulder, CO offers a possible glimpse at Seattle’s future.
The initial phase would introduce 50 stations (about 100 bikes total) in popular Seattle areas like the University District (which contains the main campus of the University of Washington), South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and parts of downtown. In 2017, the program would expand to other cities in King County. The program currently has the support of the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Microsoft, and REI, among others.
The idea is certainly a great one, especially for Seattle, a city where one can generally cycle year-round (if the cyclist doesn’t mind a little rain every now and then). However, the area’s numerous hills can introduce the possibility that renters would grab a bike at the top of a hill and return it at the bottom. Seattle could emulate some bike share programs in Europe, which offer discounts or incentives for returning bikes at the top of hills (plus, they can stress to cyclists how much healthier they’ll feel after all that climbing!).
Seattle’s hilly neighborhoods can also present some safety considerations. Back in June a teenager was killed in Seattle when he ran a red light and collided with a van. New commuter cyclists who participate in the city’s bike share program, should it get implemented, may be unfamiliar with cycling in traffic or not know how to stop at intersections at the bottom of hills. It would be great if the city’s bike stations included some basic safety guidelines or a handy cheat sheet/checklist for cyclists to read through before checking out a bike; that way, they’re a little better educated on how to safely traverse through the city while riding a bike.
Safety concerns aside, as long as both the bike station employees and the bike share customers are responsible and safety-conscious, this program should be a great addition to the Emerald City. It’s promoting a healthy lifestyle, being environmentally friendly, and a cost-effective transportation solution all at once.