It’s official: bike share is on its way to Kirkland, at least for a one-year pilot.
The Kirkland City Council had initially talked about the possibility of dockless bike share last summer, when Seattle, Bothell and Bellevue already had programs or discussions in progress.
Since then, staff members have done extensive public engagement, both in person and digitally. Assistant City Manager Jim Lopez said that after the community outreach process, the city ended up with almost 1,000 responses to its bike share survey.
About 64 percent of respondents were in favor of bike share, with support in every Kirkland neighborhood, as well as from people who live outside the city. Frequent cyclists, renters and people in the 20-35 age group were strong supporters.
But there were some concerns, especially with safety, “clutter” and clogged bike lanes and racks. The positive aspects of bike share are that it provides a first/last mile transportation option, and is better for road and parking capacity and the environment than single-occupant vehicles, according to the city.
“The most significant potential positive impact of regulating bike share was reported as being easier access to transportation options,” according to a staff memo from Jan. 22, however, “staff received many comments about safety concerns, mostly around the lack of helmets as well as the presence of bikes on sidewalks.”
After getting approval for the pilot at the Feb. 19 council meeting, city staff said the program could be up and running by May, which is Bike Everywhere Month.
Mayor Penny Sweet said that she was in favor of the pilot, but wanted to explore a fleet of electric bikes, along with another growing trend in transportation: scooters. Other city councilmembers weren’t convinced.
Councilmember Jon Pascal noted that while they scooters are “a lot of fun,” he was worried about “an increase in hospital visits.” About 48 percent of Kirkland’s survey respondents were in favor of a scooter pilot, with 42 percent opposed and 10 percent unsure.
Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold supported the bike share pilot, but said he was most concerned with “egregious” situations where bikes end up in trees, or in Lake Washington. He said the city should have a response plan in place.
Councilmember Tom Neir said the city should do what it can to make sure the program is successful, for example, by installing temporary signage, publishing a map of safe routes around town and clearing up debris and other obstacles.
City staff also identified three major themes to make the pilot a success: working with Kirkland’s regional partners, making sure everyone has access to the bikes and obtaining data from the bike share companies. The fact that bike share is already present in neighboring Eastside cities was a selling point.
“Bike share will be here no matter what Kirkland decides, so we might as well get on board,” the staff memo said.
See www.kirklandwa.gov for more.