Bike share companies, such as Lime, have products lined up around larger cities to help provide transportation. Photo courtesy of Anna Tegelberg.

Bike share companies, such as Lime, have products lined up around larger cities to help provide transportation. Photo courtesy of Anna Tegelberg.

Bikes or scooters? Micro-mobility in Kirkland transportation remains undecided

Council expresses mixed reviews about bike and scooter-share programs.

It is still undecided whether or not Kirkland will be establishing a bike share pilot program this year.

The plan was approved by the City Council for a one-year trial on March 4. By April 17, not a single bike share company had submitted a proposal to Kirkland.

According to a memorandum by the Department of Public Works, many companies had previously expressed interest in coming to Kirkland, however, responses from the organizations varied when contacted by the city.

Lime suggested a shorter pilot duration or a possible scooter-only system, arguing that Kirkland’s market would not be profitable without scooters. Uber’s company, Jump, and Lyft’s company, Motivate, were both interested in launching on the Eastside, yet this would not happen until much later in the year. Other scooter-only companies, such as Spin and Bird, do not have programs in this region presently.

“I think this micro-mobility is potentially a solution for us, and regardless of what we do with a pilot program, we should continue to craft policies around these vehicles,” said councilmember Tom Neir at the June 4. council meeting. “Whether or not we have a pilot, they are going to come to Kirkland.”

Gotcha is another rental app that offers electric bikes, electric scooters and ride sharing. The company reached out to the city and expressed interest in coming to Kirkland, however, it required more time to launch its business model.

The memorandum expressed that Gotcha would be a reasonable fit for the city because of the company’s hub-based system. Councilmembers and the general public have expressed concern regarding bike parking due to small sidewalk space, therefore bike “hubs” would be helpful to minimize random parking around the city.

Another standout quality of Gotcha is the temporary hold feature, which allows customers to briefly hold their reservation and park the bike in a “free floating” mode while completing a task or eating lunch. The bike hubs are only required when permanently ending the trip, as referenced in the memorandum.

Gotcha has invested in technologically advanced gadgets for each of its products. It is currently developing an attached screen on which users can see parking hub locations. Additionally, the company is working to create signal blinkers for scooters to improve safety for riders. There is a potential for GPS technology to be added to the equipment as well.

The memorandum states that scooter-share programs are presently being used in more than 60 U.S. cities. According to a report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials, people took 84 million trips on shared mobility devices nationally in 2018 and 45 percent of those trips were on scooters.

Neil highlighted the importance of scooters to provide additional options for people to get around the city. He thinks scooters are primarily desired by the public.

“I view scooters as a way to work away from single-occupancy vehicles, but it is also a way to expand our ten-minute neighborhoods,” said Neir. “These scooters can get you a further distance.”

At present, council does not recommend the implementation of a scooter pilot program. They will be continuing conversations with Gotcha to evaluate the probability of incorporating hub-based parking.

“It’s hard for me to get past some of the safety aspects,” said councilmember Jon Pascal at the meeting.

He expressed concern about the safety of citizens if forced to ride scooters in the streets, especially when roads may be in poor condition.

Councilmember had previously used the ride sharing products in Spokane, where scooters are currently present. He explained the difficulty and danger of signaling while keeping both hands on the handles.

Next steps include continued research and waiting to see how the industry alters and changes before revisiting the issue.

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