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Originally published Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 8:37 PM

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Bike Share gearing up for Seattle streets this summer

After weathering a sponsorship drought and the bankruptcy of a bicycle vendor, the new Puget Sound Bike Share should be ready to hit the streets by late summer, its director says.


Seattle Times transportation reporter

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After weathering a sponsorship drought and the bankruptcy of a bicycle vendor, the new Puget Sound Bike Share should be ready to hit the streets by late summer, its director says.

The opening phase will cover Seattle Children’s hospital, the University of Washington, the University District, Eastlake, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, downtown and the central waterfront with 500 bicycles at 50 roadside stations. Customers can subscribe online or use a credit card to rent the shared-use bicycles from a kiosk, similar to using the city’s parking pay stations.

Holly Houser , executive director, said Thursday new sponsors will soon be announced, and her nonprofit will meet its $4.4 million startup budget. Previously the group was awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. government, $750,000 from the Washington State Department of Transportation and $500,000 from Seattle Children’s. Operations contractor Alta, based in Portland, is replacing a Montreal-based bicycle vendor that sank into debt .

The startup will be a few months late. Puget Sound Bike Share earlier announced it would launch this spring, after the City Council voted last September to allow stations on city property.

Benefits include: enabling commuters to pedal the last mile from a transit station to the workplace, college campuses or sports events; providing a convenient way to run crosstown errands; and opening new routes for tourists to reach Seattle Center and the waterfront.

“You get people who weren’t riding before, and you change the culture on the streets,” said Barb Chamberlain, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.

A big problem is the danger of crowded downtown streets, where Puget Sound Bike Share will beckon new users and visitors to pedal alongside cars and buses. Supporters hoped the city would build protected bike lanes this year, but that’s not under way yet. Riders can obtain helmets at the bike-share stations and be told to accept an online liability waiver, displayed in kiosks.

“We’ve seen in other cities that once bike-share launches, it tends to encourage bike infrastructure, then they both tend to develop together,” Houser said.

In addition, Seattle could be adding streetcars to First Avenue, as well as bus and car traffic after the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s downtown exits are demolished — making downtown more congested.

Chamberlain said several cities have much larger bike-share territories, but it makes sense to her that Seattle will grasp the “low-hanging fruit” first, by beginning the service in the most densely populated areas.

Stations can be as large as 60 feet by 6 feet, typically installed on a sidewalk, in a private or public plaza or in curbside no-parking zones, Houser said. Prices aren’t determined yet, but the Washington, D.C., system charges $7 a day, $25 per month or $75 a year.

By the end of this week, the Puget Sound Bike Share website will post service-area maps and invite the public to vote for preferred station sites.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @mikelindblom



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