Two bike-share companies are operating in Seattle under permit rules cemented late last year: Lime and Uber-owned Jump, both with an all-electric (or soon to be all-electric) fleet. The bikes are growing in both popularity and quantity, and both companies have their own bikes, specs, and pricing. There are also some basic rules users must follow, although they’re not quite as complicated as the rules for operators.
We’ll update as we learn more information, including new companies, new specs, and new details. In the meantime, here’s what we know about the companies getting ready (or not) to unleash their bikes here—and about what bike-share users need to know.
Bike-share operators are subject to a lot of rules—including fleet size, safety notices, and attention to the right-of-way—which SDOT can enforce in a number of ways, including fleet reduction. As the end user, though, there are a ew highlights for how to navigate around town.
- Parking: Bikes need to be parked on a sidewalk “landscape/furniture” zone—where you frequently see bike racks, street trees, and sandwich boards—three feet wide or larger, or on an SDOT bicycle rack. You are never allowed to block ADA access.
- Helmets: It is the law in King County to wear a helmet.
- Where to ride: Lime and Jump e-bikes are “Class 1” electric bikes, meaning they can be ridden on the street, sidewalk, and certain multi-use trails in addition to bike lanes. When operating on sidewalks, however, bikes must yield to pedestrians. Seattle’s municipal code also dictates that “bicycles must yield to pedestrians and shall operate at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the existing conditions.”
Bike shares currently operating in Seattle
When did Jump launch? Jump launched in Seattle on November 19. 2018.
Bike specs: Unlike Lime, all of Jump’s bikes have been e-bikes from the beginning, although they’re still geared. A 250-watt motor boosts bikes to speeds up to 20 miles per hour, although Seattle bikes have been adjusted down to 15 to meet permit requirements. Front and rear lights automatically come on when it’s dark out. A skirt guard provides extra protection against rain, mud, and trapped clothing. The bikes weigh about 70 pounds, and have built-in locks for attaching them to bike racks—something that allows stopovers and could help tackle the parking problem.
The battery, located in the step-through frame, has about a 30-mile range. A user interface mounted on the back fender allows for users to unlock bikes without a smartphone, either with a user ID, an RFID chip (an ORCA card, for example, will work), or a QR code.
While the initial generation placed in Seattle has U-locks for locking up the bikes, a new generation has retractable cable locks for more flexibility. Speaking of the locks: This allows for stopovers, so riders don’t have to end a trip to, for example, duck into a grocery store.
Cost: Jump bikes cost 25 cents a minute to ride (it used to be a base price is $1 to unlock and 10 cents a minute). Lower-income riders may qualify for the Boost program, which gives users 60 minutes of ride time every day for $5 a month. Users can pay cash by purchasing an Uber gift card and adding that to their Jump balance.
When did Lime launch? Lime, or Limebike at the time, was second to launch in Seattle—not too far behind Spin during the original pilot. It’s the first company to launch electric bikes, though; those started rolling out the weekend of February 10, 2018.
The company also operates cars—called Lime Pods—in the city. Lime may also bring electric scooters to Seattle someday, if scoots are more your thing, although SDOT has no plans to allow them anytime soon. You can try them out in Tacoma or Bothell.
Bike specs: Electric bikes, dubbed Lime-E, have a maximum speed of just under 15 miles per hour, well within the city’s limit. Those bikes’ batteries last for 62 miles, and can either be charged while on the bike—they take about four hours to get a full charge—or swapped out entirely.
The original eight-gear bikes are being phased out in favor of going all-electric.
Cost: Typically, Lime’s electric bikes cost $1 to unlock and 25 cents for every minute of ride time—although some users have reported seeing rates as high as 30 cents. Seattle Transit Blog asked Lime about the changes in pricing, and the response was vague; a spokesperson said that Lime has “adjusted... pricing in some markets to ensure that our service is reliable and that we can continue to offer excellent operational support where riders demand it most.”
Users that don’t have credit cards can load up their accounts with cash by using Pay Near Me at CVS or 7-11. Low-income riders—those that qualify for any local, state, or federal assistance program—qualify for a discount.
Permitted bike shares
Ride-hailing app and Uber competitor Lyft bought Motivate—the company that operated Seattle’s defunct bike-share program Pronto—and rebranded it as Lyft Bikes. We’re still waiting on more details, but SDOT’s website announces that they’re “coming soon” (and has since... November).
When will Lyft Bikes launch? We don’t know yet—although the permit is approved, so theoretically Lyft could put bikes out anytime. (But, like other companies, Lyft seems pretty busy with scooters at the moment, something Seattle has yet to allow.)
Bike specs: The pedal assist bikes that Lyft described in its permit application are aluminum bikes weighing about 67 pounds, with integrated lights, a front basket, and full fenders with a skirt guard. Batteries have about a 25-mile range. An indicator ring tells users at a glance whether the bike is free, reserved, or out-of-service. Lyft Bikes have a lock-to system with an integrated U-lock.
Cost: Lyft applied for its permit with a price structure of $1 to unlock and 15 cents a minute, but both Lime and Uber have changed their structures since launch, so who knows.
Bike shares that have expressed interest
This Texas-based company already has bikeshare operations in the Lone Star State—but they’re still waiting for their permit to be approved in Seattle.
When will Vbikes launch? While company spokespeople confirm that Vbikes will be coming to Seattle, they tell us there’s not a firm date yet. It’s applied for the permit, but hasn’t been approved. It has some staff on the ground, and the system is in testing—opening the app will find a couple of bikes in Seattle, although you can’t ride them yet. Vbikes did not return a request for comment on the new bike-share rules.
Other cities that use them: Garland and Dallas, Texas.
Bike specs: In Dallas, the bikes have a dynamo rear hub that powers a front light, rubber seats, “flat-free tires” (which may mean foam rubber), a front basket, and a “splash guard”—like a tiny fender. We’ll update if we hear anything about specific specs for Seattle.
Cost: In Dallas, Vbikes charges $1 per hour with a daily cap of $10. Previously, Vbike riders had to pay a $99 deposit, but they recently axed that requirement.
The company is hiring around these parts—but has no plans for a launch. Yet.
When is Mobike launching? A Mobike spokesperson told us back in June that the company has “no immediate plans for Seattle.” We could not reach Mobike for comment after the new bike-share rule launch.
Bike specs: It depends on the bike.
Cost: In Washington, D.C., Mobikes cost $1 per every half hour.
Bike shares not launching in Seattle—and bike shares that have left
Spin was the first dockless bike share to launch in Seattle on July 17, 2017, but noting high fees and a lack of provisions for electric scooters, the company decided to not renew its permit. It could be back if scooters are eventually allowed in the city.
Ofo launched its yellow bikes in Seattle in mid-August 2017—making it the third and final to participate in the pilot—but it was first to announce its departure. Ofo cited high fees as its reason for leaving Seattle, although the announcement came during a national scaling-back.
At one point, Bluegogo was poised to be the only company running dockless bike shares in both Seattle and Beijing (an honor later taken by Ofo). A source told us soon after the pilot started that Bluegogo is “taking a step back to reassess” their rollout in the States.
Koloni is somewhere in between a stationed and stationless bike share. Instead of having a physical dock or a leave-them-anywhere policy, Koloni uses “geofenced hubs.” And while co-founder Brian Dewey initially expressed interest in a Seattle launch, the new bike-share rules, he said, take the city off the table.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 27, 2017. It has been updated multiple times with the most recent information.