Dockless in Seattle and the Future of Bike Sharing in Traverse City


The following guest post was written by Traverse City’s Bob Otwell after his recent trip to Seattle. His timing is excellent as we’ve just had some very early discussions with community partners about a possible bike share program here. Is Traverse City ready for biking sharing? Let us know your thoughts.

Dockless in Seattle

Need a bike for a short trip to get from here to there? Don’t have a bike? The one you have has a flat? Are you an out-of-town visitor? My wife, Laura, and I found the ease of using a bike in Seattle literally down the street. We just returned from a 10-day visit with our daughter Annie and son-in-law Maxim. Taking the light rail from the airport to the University District, we noticed a lot of bright colored bikes parked everywhere. It turns out Seattle is in the middle of a dockless bike share experiment. Dockless means there are no fixed stations that requires bikes be picked up or returned to a particular location. Bikes are where you want to be with locations identified on an app.
Started in July, Seattle boasts about 3,000 bikes, operated by 3 different companies. The bikes cost $1/half hour, accessed with a phone app that unlocks the rear wheel and starts the timer.

We used bikes from Spin and LimeBike five different times. The bikes are three to seven speeds, have fenders, lights, baskets, and solid tires (heavy, but no flats). Once we used them to explore the city and exercise, returning them to the same place we started. Another time we rode them with Annie and Maxim to visit the Seattle Arboretum. We parked them when we arrived, locked them up (shutting down the clock), visited the park, and then Laura and I took a bus home. Our last trip came about when we were going to take a water taxi to West Seattle. We took the light rail and walked to the downtown ferry dock, only to find that the water taxi only runs during rush hour. We grabbed two bikes, cycled the 7 miles to Alki Beach, had some lunch, and then took a bus back home.

Even though the program is new, we were amazed at how available the bikes were, conveniently located to fit our needs, all over the city. There are some issues they are working through – bike maintenance (one bike we were going to rent had a loose seat post, another had a rear axle nut missing), also, bikes tend to clutter the sidewalk, and may be found tipped over because of poor placement, or just strong wind. But I think the ability of these bike to compliment transit and walking to add to transportation choice for residents and visitors is huge. Maybe there is a place for a dockless bike share program in Traverse City’s mix?






Bob Otwell is a past president of the Norte board of directors. He now enjoys building bicycle frames in his garage, chasing his grandson Blaise, drinking coffee on his front porch, helping out at the Clubhouse and riding his bike as much as possible.

Passionate about a stronger, better connected and more walk/bike friendly Traverse City? Get involved with our grassroots Pro Walk/Pro Bike advocacy group HERE.