Kirkland residents have likely already seen the green, yellow and orange bicycles from Seattle’s dockless bike share program making their way to the Eastside. At its July 3 meeting, the Kirkland City Council explored the possibility of partnering with a bike share company on a pilot program.
A majority of the council was excited at the prospect of the bikes being used as a first/last mile connection to transit, or as a recreation opportunity on the Cross Kirkland Corridor. Some challenges were noted, including with the county’s helmet law and the “clutter” of the bikes in the city right-of-way.
City Manager Kurt Triplett said that bike share is “evolving rapidly” and launching in many neighboring jurisdictions, including Bothell, Bellevue and Redmond. According to the council’s agenda bill, bike share “provides people with a bicycling option even if they do not own a bike, allows a user to ride a bike and leave it at his or her destination without concern for the bike being damaged or stolen, is pollution free and supports the health of the community.”
Each bike share company is independent and has its own system of bikes and smartphone applications. The apps are used to find bicycles, unlock a bicycle and pay for rides. Riders are generally charged $1 for the first 30 minutes, said Kirkland’s Transportation Manager Joel Pfundt.
The bikes are dockless, meaning that they can be picked up and dropped off anywhere. Dockless bike share started in Seattle last year, and Seattle staff will be recommending to make the program permanent. Kirkland, Redmond and Bellevue are working together to coordinate requirements for safe operations and vendor responsiveness, and have been communicating with Seattle to learn from its experiences.
“Seattle has nicely gone through a whole lot of growing pains for our benefit,” said Kirkland City Council member Dave Asher.
Bike share companies are responsible for removing bikes that have been vandalized or are causing a nuisance. They’re also in charge of “inventory rebalancing,” to prevent the bikes from clustering in certain areas.
Seattle staff reported that during the first six months of its pilot, there were 468,000 rides completed on 10,000 bikes, and that an estimated one-third of the city population had tried bike share.
Bellevue plans to launch its program in July 2018, which is designed to be up to 400 exclusively electric-assist bikes per permitted operator. Asher said that the program would not be successful in the city without electric-assist.
Council member Toby Nixon agreed, noting that some of the city’s hilly terrain is “difficult for casual, inexperienced riders,” and that wider sidewalks and more bike lanes are needed.
Nixon said he asked Kirkland residents on social media what they thought of the idea, and received 70 pages of comments with split positive and negative reactions. Nixon said he was “skeptical but still willing to listen further.”
Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold said that he tried a bike share program in Washington, D.C. on a family vacation, and that it has benefits as a last mile solution and tourism opportunity.
Mayor Amy Walen, along with council members Penny Sweet and Tom Neir, said they would support the pilot but had concerns about safety. Most of the council members agreed that more public outreach is needed. Neir and Arnold said that they would like to see scooters included in the pilot as well, but had different ideas about whether the city should work with multiple bike share companies, or just one.
During the pilot, the city would require companies to track and share data on the total number of rides, average ride duration, average time to resolve a complaint, number of reported collisions and more. The cost of the terminable right-of-way use permit for bike share companies is estimated to be $2,032 annually.
City staff said they would return to the council on July 17 for discussion on permits and fees, and on Aug. 6 for action on the bike share pilot.
See www.kirklandwa.gov for more.