Dockless in Seattle

In the year since a new kind of bikeshare was launched in Seattle, the bikes have been found in many interesting spots. But is there a place for them in the region’s future?

In summer 2017, thousands of brightly-hued bikes started covering Seattle streets. Unlike Seattle’s previous bikeshare program, Pronto, which required users to return the bike to a designated parking station, these don’t have a station. You unlock the bike with your smartphone, then leave it at your destination. It’s more convenient, so the program has been seeing a lot more use and overall enthusiasm than Pronto ever did. But all that freedom sometimes leads to… well, chaos. The bikes have been hung off of bridges, stop signs, and trees; they’ve been drowned in lakes, thrown in bushes, and holed up in people’s houses; they’ve been tossed in piles and mangled and tagged. This week, as Seattle releases its initial evaluation of a year with dockless bikeshare, Seattleland intern Aidan Walker takes stock of all that vandalism and mayhem—and explores what bike companies and city staffers are doing to stem the tide of careless parkers.

Music by Ask Again, Kevin MacLeod, Jahzarr, and Leeni Ramadan

This week’s cover photo is an image of a remarkably orderly line of Ofo bikes, taken by Aidan Walker.