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Spin is the first dockless bike-share program to launch in Seattle

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LimeBike isn’t far behind

One of Spin’s bikes in Downtown Seattle.
Courtesy of Spin

This morning, San Francisco-based bike-share company Spin started placing their bikes out on the streets, making them the first bike-share program on the ground since the demise of Pronto Cycle Share at the end of March.

Spin’s launch is part of a pilot program from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) that regulates private bike-share companies’ operations within the city, including safety rules and fleet-size regulations.

A row of LimeBikes in South Lake Union soon after permit approval.
Sarah Anne Lloyd

Spin is trying to get their first 500 bikes—the maximum allowed by SDOT’s pilot program—out on Seattle streets today. Another company, San Mateo-based LimeBike, also had their permit approved today. They’re putting their bright green bikes out on the street over the course of this week.

Spin’s bright orange bikes feature an onboard GPS with cellular modem; 26-inch, solid-foam tires; three-speed internal hubs, geared low-ish; a dynamo-hub-driven LED front light; adjustable-height seats; a front basket; and fenders. The bikes cost $1 for a 30-minute ride.

While it’s still illegal to ride a bike in King County without a helmet, the city won’t require Spin or other companies to provide the helmet. They just have tell riders that it’s the law.

Unlike Pronto—but like many other companies vying for Seattle’s cyclists right now—Spin operates on a dockless system. Riders unlock the bike using an app, and when they’re done, they park the bike in an authorized location. Per SDOT, that means, for the most part, the landscape-and-furniture zone of the parking lot between main pedestrian thoroughfare and the curb, with some exceptions.

SDOT staffers ride Spin bikes soon after permit approval.
Sarah Anne Lloyd

Dockless programs have raised some alarm in the states after similar programs in China led to the occasional pile of broken bikes. Under SDOT’s rules, bikes that are unsafe or inoperable need to be removed from the road within 24 hours of notice, or SDOT will remove the bikes for them at their expense.

Curbed Seattle asked co-founder Derrick Ko late last week about concerns, like those raised by mayoral candidate Cary Moon at Candidate Survivor, that private bike-share companies won’t maintain their bikes.

“No one’s going to use [the program] and we lose business” if the bikes don’t work, said Ko. “We’re incentivized [because] we get maximum revenue by ensuring people ride our bikes.”

At first, Spin is launching in the downtown area, Ko told us—but they’re interested in expanding into Seattle’s neighborhoods. “We're thinking about geographic equity from day one even before it's required [by the pilot],” Ko said.

Spin’s other co-founder Euwyn Poon told us at launch that they’re not strictly enforcing boundaries yet—they’re going to see where users are riding their bikes at first.

When we first spoke with Spin in early June, Ko expressed an interest in rolling their bikes out to Columbia City and Rainier Valley. The dockless system, he said, gives them more of a chance to expand to different geographic areas “We can kind of scale up and scale down the deployment,” he said, depending on “what makes the most sense.”

At the time, Ko said they’re looking at multiple issues of equity: “Right now everything is run by smartphone,” he said. “How do you engage people who don’t have smartphones, or even credit cards? These are goals we are trying to achieve.”

For now, though, Spin bikes are unlocked with a smartphone app. And at least during the beginning of the pilot, when Spin is limited to 500 bikes, they’re placing bikes around the downtown core. In the pilot’s second month, they’ll be able to expand to 1,000, then 2,000 the next month.

At the 2,000-bike point, they’re beholden to some geographic equity standards, although they’re not the most robust—they require that 20 percent of service area include Tier 1 Priority Hire areas, which includes most of downtown.

Both LimeBike and Spin’s apps are available for download on iOS and Android.

This article has been updated with additional information.