As bike shares spread coast to coast, cities look to Seattle for clues on how to regulate the industry

With about 10,000 bikes now on the streets in Seattle, the city’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) has been working for months on how to make dockless bike share a permanent presence here.

The agency’s proposed regulations, which have been delayed repeatedly, are expected to be presented to the City Council this month. SDOT says the regulations will focus on how much to charge the companies in fees, how to make sure they serve all neighborhoods of the city and “a strong proactive approach” to keeping sidewalks clear. Bike sharing is big business. The two biggest companies operating in Seattle each have well over $100 million in private funding. The ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, seeking broader roles in urban transportation, both recently bought bike-share companies for sums reported to be around $200 million or more.

The two people most responsible for Seattle’s relatively lenient bike-share program — former SDOT Director Scott Kubly and former bike-share program manager Kyle Rowe — have both left government and now work for bike-share companies.

Shouldn’t these massively funded, private companies looking to profit off of publicly owned space be tightly regulated?

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