Pronto has become synonymous with failure in Seattle. So some may wonder why a company like San Francisco-based Spin bikeshare would be racing into town so soon.
“It’s unfortunate that Pronto didn’t work out, but based on our analysis Seattle is a great city for biking,” said Spin co-founder and CEO Derrick Ko. “There’s a huge, robust biking community.”
“The (Seattle) culture is very health conscious, environmentally conscious,” he said. “There are amazing groups like Bike Works … Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Cascade (Bicycle Club), all these really strong organization pushing for ambitious projects … all these factors combined make Seattle not just great for biking, but a bikeshare. Anywhere there is a great bike community, bikeshare will succeed.”
Ko has heard of the “hills and rain” criticism. But the Emerald City is no different than other cities across the globe in this respect.
“San Francisco has hills, San Francisco has rain,” Ko said. “And San Francisco is also a really strong biking city. It will be a challenge, but we don’t see it as a challenge that we can’t overcome (in Seattle).”
“In New York City, for example, station-based bikeshare does extremely well, and they go through harsh winters. You also see European cities — London, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen — all these cities have harsh weather as well, but the bike culture there is so strong people ride through the elements. That’s what we foresee happening in Seattle.”
There is no official date for the Spin bikeshare to launch in Seattle. There are some bureaucratic hurdles to jump first — Seattle has to figure out how to permit the system. That’s because the Spin bikeshare model is not like the recently-failed Pronto system.
“Essentially, you can pick up the bikes anywhere around the city, leave them anywhere that’s responsible and legal, and all for $1 a trip,” Ko said, noting there are no bike docks.
The smart bikes that Spin uses include GPS, cellular modems, and solar panels. They also have solid tires. A bike sits locked when it’s not being used. Customers use an app to scan a QR code on the bikes to unlock it and pay. Ko would not say exactly how many bikes Spin bikeshare has slated for Seattle, but he did say they aim to have a bike available in any part of the city.
Spin bikeshare investing in Seattle
While the bikeshare company has not yet started on Friday, it put up $10,000 to start its Spin Cities Project to benefit bike programs in Seattle.
“Broadly speaking, it’s our effort to fund urban infrastructure throughout all cities we operate,” Ko said.
Seattle is Spin’s first city for the program. The Spin Cities Project aims to fund bike awareness, safety and to build up bike culture. The first beneficiary is Bike Works Seattle, an organization that promotes youth biking. As Spin gets into gear, it will form a Seattle advisory board to determine where future funding will benefit biking. Once the bikeshare is up and rolling, a portion of the Seattle revenue will continually contribute to the Spin Cities Project.
“Our goal is to continually work on a bunch of projects ranging from putting in more bike racks to funding safety initiatives and even contributing to work that encourages more protected bike lanes,” Ko said.
“We really want to bring a convenient, affordable, equitable mode of transportation to Seattle and cities throughout the U.S. and we want to do it right,” he said. “Unlike some of our competitors, we are working closely with Seattle officials to not skirt the law or be overly aggressive, and really work with city officials to be a partner to bring benefits to the city and riders. And the great thing is that we don’t cost the cities and taxpayers a single penny.”