Recently, the SDOT (the Seattle Department of Transportation) has awarded permits to two private bike-sharing businesses called respectively Spin and LimeBike.
In a matter of hours, a lot of orange Spin bikes were available in the streets of the city for all the wanna-be riders. On the contrary, LimeBike has taken its time to roll out its fleet of lime-green bikes. Sharing a bike is an excellent idea and the program is rather easy to use—the app, that you can download on both iOS and Android, looks for bikes that you can unlock and ride immediately—but not many bikes are available for now and most of them are far away.
“We want to be extra careful and follow a scientific process at the beginning before rolling out the program elsewhere,” they said.
This preliminary process is applied even when they work with smaller communities such as small town or universities where the risks taken are a lot less important than in bigger cities such as Seattle.
“Before taking the idea to the next level, we are looking to be 100% sure that we can manage the day-to-day operations in a smooth manner,” they told us. “Our goal is to apply the same idea to Seattle by applying what was learned in different cities and markets”.
The way it is done is pretty simple: if they can deploy 500 bicycles, they’ll put them mainly in the city center and see what people are doing with them and where they are taking them. It has to be a natural process where bikes flow from one place to the other.
No limits and no boundaries: that’s the way the founders of these bike-sharing companies see things. Just letting the bikes go from one neighborhood to the other and observing customer’s behavior is the best way to learn a lot in a short period of time. The bikes can be dropped off wherever you want to and the only plans made were made based on the available data and predicted usage.
Some people take their bikes to West Seattle or even to neighborhoods that were not even considered before by the initial deployment team. It is a great way to learn what works and what doesn’t work, and also a way to learn about what customers really want. The data collected will be extremely useful when they finally dump 500 bicycles or more in the streets of Seattle. By being responsible and studying carefully the market, they make sure that this upcoming experience will be a success.