Bellevue debuts new bike lanes and bike share pilot program

Tuesday, July 31, 2018, marked day one of the city’s one-year bike share pilot project with Limebike to get eastsiders out of cars an onto bikes you can rent on the spot, using a smartphone app. (Photo: KOMO News)

BELLEVUE, Wash. - Bellevue need look no further than across Lake Washington to Seattle for guidance on how to run a bike share program.

Tuesday marked day one of the city’s one-year pilot project to get eastsiders out of cars an onto bikes you can rent on the spot, using a smartphone app.

So has Bellevue learned from Seattle’s successes and failures. City leaders believe so.

First off, there is only one vendor, the only one that applied for a permit - Limebike - is one of the three original vendors operating over the last year in Seattle’s pilot program.

It will operate a fleet of up to 1,200 electric-assisted fleet of bikes in Bellevue, no traditional pedal bikes. Recognizing Bellevue’s hilly terrain similar to Seattle, city leaders wanted users to have a powered experience of going up a hill rather than a hot and sweaty one.

Watch: Ribbon cutting for Bellevue's new bike share pilot program:

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Limebike was more than accommodating with plans to migrate more of its fleet in Seattle to e-bikes and away from the pedal pushers.

“E-bikes represent about 40 percent of our bikes that are in Seattle and more than half of the rides,” said Issac Gross, General Manager of Limebike Seattle.

Another difference is how Bellevue will handle parking. According a survey done by the Seattle Department of Transportation earlier this year, the largest amount of complaints involved improper parking of the bikes.

Working with Limebike, Bellevue will try to incentivize riders to park in painted white boxes around downtown and use GPS technology connected to the Limebike smartphone app to train people where to park.

“People can use all the right of ways in the city, but they can’t park a bike in city parks,” said Andreas Piller, Bike Share Manager for the City of Bellevue.

“So if you try to park a bike share in a Bellevue park you won't be able to lock it, it will continue to incur fees until you remove it from the park and park it appropriately," Piller added.

A command from the Limebike smart phone app unlocks the rear wheel, beginning a trip. Manually sliding the lock close ends a trip.

Gross said that pinpoint technology is on its way, but won’t be available right now.

As with Seattle, Bellevue will use researchers at the University of Washington to capture non-personal trip data supplied by Limebike to evaluate the program.

Critics of Seattle’s program, like former Washington State Secretary of Transportation Doug McDonald told the Seattle City Council on Monday of SDOT’s apparent lack of transparency over the data it has collected on bike shares over the last year.

“SDOT has locked down almost all of the data relevant to this discussion both to the strengths of this program and more prominently to its weaknesses," McDonald said on Monday.

Piller said plans are to make Limebike more accountable and set milestones.

“As they demonstrate compliance, they will be allowed gradually up to 1,200 bikes by the end of this one-year pilot," said Piller.

Limebike paid an operation fee of $40,000 to Bellevue. Gross said the company is planning to pay Seattle’s new operating fee of $250,000 – the highest in the country. One of Limebike’s competitors in Seattle, Ofo, said on Monday the fee is too high and it will cease operations later this summer.

Spin, the first bike share company to actually put bikes on the ground last June, but now has just a few bikes in Seattle and has remained silent on its plans.

Limebike will have an exclusive arrangement for one year in Bellevue and could be the only bike share company left standing in Seattle if new competitors like Jump, funded by Uber decide not to pay Seattle’s hefty operating fee.

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