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Rider habits revealed in new Seattle bikeshare study

Seattle experiments with bikeshare parking stalls in Ballard. (SDOT)

Private bikeshare bikes have been on Seattle streets for nearly a year and city officials are now learning what many already suspected — customers don’t ride much in rainy weather.

Of course, they knew this.

RELATED: What happens with vandalized bikeshare bikes in Seattle?

When Seattle’s previous bikeshare effort, Pronto!, hit the streets riders’ habits became apparent after one year. Pronto! customers didn’t take the bikes uphill too often. They also mostly biked in fair weather. That’s essentially the revelations from a new study out of University of Washington.

The Seattle Times reports that ridership on the stationless bikeshares — Limebike, ofo, and Spin — declined as the weather worsened through fall and winter. At that same time, the companies were placing more and more bikes onto the street. In the end, each bike was used an average of .84 times each day. All three bikeshare companies have been giving usage data to UW for analysis as part of the pilot program set up by the Seattle Department of Transportation. That information will be used as the city finalizes its permitting system for the bikeshares, likely in July — one year after the pilot began.

What has been learned is that the stationless bikeshare companies are achieving in Seattle what Pronto! never could.

  • In 5.5 months (July through December 2017), people took about 470,000 rides on the new stationless bikes. Pronto’s entire first year only yielded 142,832 trips.
  • That’s about 400 trips per day for Pronto! and 2,600 trips for the three stationless bikeshare companies currently in Seattle.
  • Most bikeshare trips start in the University District, followed by (in no particular order) downtown, South Lake Union, Capital Hill, Wallingford, Fremont, Green Lake, Ballard, West Seattle, Central District and Rainier Valley.
  • Bikeshare destinations match the locations where trips start, indicating riders either start and end in the same locations, or that these neighborhoods are where bikeshares are most popular.
  • The University District is the most popular neighborhood for the stationless bikeshare. This location was the least popular area for Pronto!, however.

The three bikeshare companies also come with a few advantages that Pronto! didn’t have. Pronto! required customers to ride from station-to-station to pick up and drop off bikes. The current model is stationless (which can lead to some parking frustration). The companies also launched citywide. Pronto! only placed a small number of stations in a very limited space between downtown and the U-District.

The private bikeshare companies are also addressing the issue of hills. Spin’s models in Seattle are different than their bikes in other cities; geared more toward tackling hills. Spin calls this Seattle-specific model the “Twelve.”  Limebike offers electric-assisted bikes with its Lime-E model — hills aren’t as much of a challenge with an electric boost.

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