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Bikeshare parking problem is not unique to Seattle

As Seattle touts its initial success experimenting with private bikeshare companies, the other side of that success comes a challenge — parking.

Parking the free-floating bicycles is becoming a common issue with bikeshares; whether that means leaving the bikes in restricted areas, or placing them in rather inconvenient places.

The bikeshares are stationless, meaning that they can be picked up and parked nearly anywhere and are accessed using a smartphone. This has led to many bikes left in places they don’t belong — parks, the right-of-way, trees, the bottom of Lake Union.

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City officials are aware of the problem, especially when it comes to improperly parked bikes. During the Sept. 19 meeting of the city’s transportation committee, officials said they may require the bikeshare companies to use stations in the future. This would apply for areas where the free-floating parking issue is deemed a problem.

Seattle isn’t alone. oBike launched its bikeshare this summer — the same time as Seattle’s current bikeshare pilot — in Melbourne, Australia. As the following video shows, poor parking has led to a new craze in Melbourne — oBike fishing.

oBike’s experience shows that the free floating bike model comes with a parking issue wherever they are located. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the bikes have appeared on top of portable toilets, in grocery carts, in trees, hanging on street signs. As the video implies, the bottom of the Yarra River is also common. In fact, the city sent a boat to fish more than 40 bikes off the bottom of the river.

oBike has faced hardships elsewhere, such as London where its bikes were ticketed by the city for unnecessary obstruction — being parked in the way of others. The bikes were even frustrating other cyclists after clogging up bike racks — a spot where Seattle recommends users park bikeshare bikes.

Seattle’s free-floating bikeshares are also popping up in awkward spots. One bike was found on top of pilings in Lake Washington, another was on top of a glass awning at the convention center. There have been many found in grass areas of parks, some thrown over bridges, and yes, many have been tossed into Lake Union.

According to Seattle’s rules for the private bikeshare pilot, any free-floating bicycle that is parked in a spot more than seven days in a row must be removed. City crews can remove and store the bike at the company’s expense. The companies are also required to provide contact information for people to request a bike be relocated. The city also requires the operators to re-park bikes within two hours of notice, weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (within 10 hours all other times).

How to park a bike in Seattle

In Seattle, the bikeshares have also garnered attention for where the bikes are parked incorrectly. Seattle officials have noticed the bike parking problem and have even created a video solely on the issue.

To be clear: the bikes can be parked in what is called the “furniture” or “landscape” zone of the sidewalk. This is the part of the sidewalk where benches or trees are usually planted. If there is a clear spot, go ahead an park the bike. If the area is a grass strip, you can’t park there. If the sidewalk is too small for a bench, then you likely can’t park the bike there either. The bikes also can’t be parked on street corners or in parks.

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