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Leader of Seattle’s bike programs quits job, heads back East

One of the proponents of Seattle's bike-share program quit and went back to the East Coast. (AP)

The person tasked with helping grow alternative transportation methods in Seattle is heading back to the East Coast after less than two years on the job.

The Seattle Times reports Nicole Freedman quit her job with the Seattle Department of Transportation to take the job as director of transportation for Newton, Mass.

Freedman began working with SDOT in the spring of 2015, after nearly seven years as director of Boston’s bicycle program.

Among her efforts, Freedman — along with SDOT Director Scott Kubly — pushed for Seattle’s $1.4 million purchase of the Pronto! bike-share program. That purchase, which two council members opposed, turned out to be fairly controversial.

Despite a budget restriction placed on the program before its purchase, SDOT sent Pronto! $305,000 to pay for operating costs. The payment was not disclosed to the city council until a month later.

Later, an investigation into the conduct of Kubly yielded two series violations of city ethics rules. That included a clear conflict of interest, by which he was found guilty of “participating in a city matter in which a prior employer has a financial interest.” He was fined $10,000.

An investigation also found that the city council bailed out Pronto! under false pretenses. After it was reported that Pronto! membership was around 3,000, the program’s parent company, Motivate, admitted membership was far below that. Motivate acknowledged membership was closer to 1,600 before the city made the purchase. Not even Freedman or Kubly were members. That came to light after the city purchased the program.

Before she left, the Times reports Freedman was “leading the city’s efforts to expand Pronto.” That includes — potentially — using electric bikes instead.

The Times published an email that Freedman sent to announce her departure:

“I am in awe of the SDOT’s drive towards its progressive transportation vision, and of the tireless work from so many staff, advocates, consultants and individuals to help make this vision a reality,” Freedman said in the email.

Freedman seems almost as positive about the program as she was before coming to Seattle, when she said she could “guarantee” the bike-share program was going to be “a huge success.”

What isn’t clear is if she ever became a member of that hugely successful program herself.

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