Freedom of Seattle's bike-shares makes them popular -- but also a target

SEATTLE -- You've seen them around all over Seattle. The city says new bike shares launched this summer are growing in popularity.

It's not the first time the city has experimented with bikes shares. The Pronto program failed  because of a lack of ridership but the new bikes are different. They are free flowing, meaning they don’t have docking stations and users can park them on sidewalks anywhere after they are done.

“It’s kind of like Uber -- you pick up and go,” Joseph Holifield said.

About 6,000  bikes from three different companies are offering cheap on-demand rides in Seattle, and the Seattle Department of Transportation says so far they are a rolling success. They come in orange, green and yellow bikes, depending on the company. The companies are Spin, Ofo and LimeBike.

You can track one down using apps that track every bike.

“Folks are using it a lot, that’s exciting,” Kyle Rowe with SDOT said.

In just two months, the number of trips for these bikes everyday have tripled. SDOT briefed the City Council on Tuesday in hopes of expanding the bike shares after December when the pilot program is over.

Since July, there have been more than 118,000 trips and the average distance traveled per bike is 2.6 miles.

“This is really a key option for folks to have in our dynamic transportation environment,” Rowe said.

But what makes these bike shares so popular is also making it a target.

“Taking off the bars, I guess, and let people just go free,” Holifield said.

Some are taking advantage of that freedom, however -- parking bikes on poles, blocking parking garages, hovering over lakes and displayed atop the convention center.

“We are collecting data on how often bikes are being parked incorrectly,” Rowe said.

And they are reminding users of the proper way to park the bikes. They should be parked on the edge of sidewalks -- not blocking any ramps or where pedestrians walk.

Some say even parked properly, they don’t like the colorful bikes.

“It’s interesting, yesterday I was walking to work downtown and one of those bikes were missing the front wheel so people are now stealing it,” Micheal Bailey said.

But others hope a few bad users won’t spoil the program for the rest.

“I think it’s pretty cool -- a really smart idea,” Holified said.

The city says if you see a bike parked improperly, give the companies or the city a call.

Ofo, one of the three bike-share companies, says they are seeing an expected level of issues in a major city. They say there is always a learning curve.

Also, these new bike shares are not costing the city, or taxpayers, any money, as opposed to the Pronto program, which cost more than $1 million.