I have a confession to make. The last time I was on a bike was in 2004 when we had to ride around a farm as part of a treasure hunt for a company team building weekend. You can imagine how much fun that was.
Fast forward to 2018 and I arrive in Seattle with eight other people, most of which like to be healthy, all of which wish to save money and three Dutch people. Now the Dutch are special because they come out of the womb on a bicycle. We were going to ride a bike whether we liked it or not!
Seattle Bike Share
In Dublin, the shared bikes are collected from racks around the city and when you’re done you put it back on another rack. In Seattle, it is different. The two wheeled demons are strewn about the streets quite randomly.
This works really well in practice as it’s relatively simple to find a bike. Once you’re done risking your life on the mean streets of the city, you can just park it up and leave it for the next victim – I mean person.
How Does It Work?
There are three companies operating the share service in Seattle. Handily, each one uses a different coloured bike so you can tell which one to look for. Ofo have bright yellow bikes and we used them a lot, LimeBike use green such is their name, and Spin use orange. LimeBike also have electric bikes for the lazy among us. You pedal up and off it goes – a bit like cruise control on your car.
You are required to download the particular company’s app and register as this is how you pay for your ride. More importantly, it is how you unlock the bike in order to be able to use it.
In practice it is all rather simple however you are going to need to use data when unlocking your bike as you need to scan the code on the back of the machine to unlock it. This may present issues for tourists who don’t have roaming data.
New users to the app generally receive a number of free rides. This meant that as visitors to the city we did not end up paying at all, though we did have to register our credit cards.
The Riding Experience
Apparently it is law in Seattle to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or else risk a $30 fine. It seemed some people wore helmets and others didn’t. We didn’t and we did not face any fines. Plenty of people seem to ride and it felt safe all the time.
Bike lanes are present throughout the city so riding was quite simple, though I certainly prefer going downhill rather than uphill. Locating a free unit was also simple as the apps showed you the nearest available bike on a map. Again, you need to have data on your phone.
While I freely admit to being out of practice, it didn’t take long to get used to riding around the city. It is enjoyable and far quicker than walking. For those on a budget, it is easily the best compromise between price and time.
Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Those pesky Dutch friends of mine wouldn’t let me get away with not riding with them. You should also give it a whirl next time your touring a city with shared bikes.
Have you used the communal bicycles when travelling or in your own city? What do you think of them? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by Alvan Nee on Unsplash