EDITORIAL | As new bike share arrives, infrastructure needs remain

In the coming weeks, bike share is set to return to Seattle.

After the untimely demise of Pronto! earlier this year, a bevy of reasons were tossed out to explain why the cycle share entity couldn’t succeed: The helmet law. The terrain. The weather. The relative lack of stations and bikes to create a comprehensive network. Little to no easy connection to mass transit, but especially light rail. Budgetary mismanagement and miscommunication on the part of the city. And on. And on. And on.

There was some level of merit to every one of those critiques. But to us, the biggest problem was, and remains the lack of bike infrastructure throughout Seattle.

The best way to get people on bikes is to make it safe to do so. A haphazard amalgamation of protected bike lanes, neighborhood greenways, sharrows, and the like are great for what they are, merely a foundation for what must be a much stronger, safer network.

As of last year, cities like Washington, D.C. and San Francisco had at least 50 percent more bike lanes per square mile than Seattle. And as recent data has shown, build it, they will come. And ride. 

Earlier this year, the nonprofit Commute Seattle released an analysis that showed the seven employers in the city with the highest rates of bike commuters were all situated within one block of a protected bike lane. The Seattle Times took that further, and found that of the 15 companies with the highest biking rates, all were within just five blocks of either a protected lane or a trail.

That sure makes it sounds like there’s an appetite for bike commuting, providing it’s safe and convenient to do so.

Yes, we know, it’s not for everyone. But making it safer for those that want to bike benefits everyone. It may do a bit to alleviate traffic and parking in certain locations (many of you have likely seen the poster that compares the amount of space it requires to hold 60 cars versus 60 bikes, if not, you can envision it easily), but even more importantly, everyone deserves to have a safe commute, whether they drive, walk, take public transportation, or bike.

We wish the likes of Spin, Limebike, and reportedly Koloni Share the best of luck as they try their hand at a different approach to bike share, essentially serving as the cycling version of Car2Go (no stations).

Here’s hoping they have success, and that it encourages further build out of the kinds of protected lanes and greenways that make biking safer for all.