OK I will confess that I haven’t actually tried it but I am hearing a lot of complaints from friends and neighbors about the bikes scattered around the city. It sounds like we were the first city to try the dockless system and now other cities are coming on board. The complaints I hear are that the bikes are littering the city and everyone that complains somehow believes the city of Seattle has put money into this system. People are also concerned that riders are going without helmets (which could set us up for a lawsuit or higher health care costs). It was my understanding that the city was allowing the bike shares to operate and was forgiving taxes on revenue generated. I will now try to poke around and find the real story and simplify it. This may take a few blog posts.

When I go to the city website  it sounds like this has been a pilot program scheduled to end at the end of this month (so if I’m going to try it I better get moving). When all the data is collected the city will make a recommendation to move forward.
You can view the permit requirements for the bike companies here.

There are a lot of common sense requirements that put the onus for bike parking, helmets and complaints on the bike share companies with the City of Seattle able to recoup costs of handling problems. It also requires a lot of data points be reported and reportable to the City. Here is the section on fees:

Requirement F1: Applicants shall pay $146 for an Annual Permit for the pilot bicycle share program. Noteif any stations or other structures are proposed, each site shall require additional review deposits andpermitting.
Requirement F2: Applicants shall pay SDOT’s Street Use division $209 for every hour of permit review andinspection needed. Estimated times for reviewing pilot bicycle share permits is eight hours; therefore,upon submitting an application, applicants shall pay $1,672 to Street Use. Any time not used shall bereimbursed to the applicant and any additional time shall be billed, upon permit closure.
Requirement F3: Applicants shall pay a program administrative fee of $15/bike to SDOT’s Transit &Mobility Division for the administrative time during pilot permit program.
Requirement F4: Any fees arising from the need for City crews to relocate or remove bicycles from anylocation where a bicycle is prohibited under this permit (Requirement O12) shall equal the City crews’hourly rate plus fifteen percent.

So in answer to comments about the city putting money into the system it doesn’t seem like that is the case. The city does provide public space to park these.

Nor does it seem like the city would be liable for helmet less riders.

Now let’s check out the actual bike share companies. I plan to sign up for one a week and try them out to see if I am receiving all the information I am supposed to regarding parking, reporting, location and maintenance. I am starting with Spin. I go to Spin’s website  and I see an option to ride spin for $1 per half hour or to become a member ($29 per month or $99 per year). This would entitle me to ride an unlimited amount of 30 minute or less rides. After 30 minutes I am charged the usual $1 per half hour.

Spin is a Delaware corporation based in San Fransisco. To use it you must have a mobile phone with the app loaded on it and internet connectivity. The fine print states users may be charged a refundable security deposit. There is also a section on damages.” User agrees to return the Spin Bike to Spin in the same condition in which it was rented. Until the Spin Bike is locked, the User shall be responsible for loss and damage to the bike. User will not be responsible for normal wear and tear.”
There is also a LOT of other fine print including the ability for Spin to bill you if you park the bike somewhere inappropriate. When I try to go to the referred to web page with rules I am simply sent back to the home page. Nowhere in the fine print do I see anything about the City of Seattle’s helmet laws and regulations.

In preparing to download the app I see that users of the app don’t especially like it and of course I am required to hand over control of my phone and lots of privacy settings (like most apps). It installs fairly quickly. It prompted me to scan my ride and did not guide me to set up a payment account. I assumed I would need it so I entered it even though I always hate having any financial information in yet another place. So tomorrow I will go for my first ride (if I can find a Spin bike). More next time.