Hopping off a Lime or Jump bike in Seattle, you might think leaving it against a building will keep it out of the way of pedestrians. Think again.
“Don’t dump your bikes against the wall of a building because my arms get caught in the handlebars,” says Jacob Struiksma, who is blind, in a video released by the city Wednesday, “and it makes it difficult for blind and low-vision people to find the entrance to the building.”
The 90-second spot, created by the advocacy group Rooted in Rights and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), is aimed at cutting down on improper parking that disability-rights advocates say makes Seattle’s prolific rentable bikes a hazard to some sidewalk users.
“I’m here to talk about the dreaded bike blockers,” says Dorian Taylor, who uses a wheelchair, in the video.
In the first three months of 2019, about 14% of free-floating rentable bikes checked by city staff were parked in a way that could be hazardous to people who use wheelchairs or are blind or low-vision, including blocking curb ramps, leaning against buildings and obstructing bus zones.
The video instructs riders to park the bikes at bike racks or in the space at the edge of the sidewalk between the sidewalk and the street. Riders should avoid blocking driveways, doors, transit stops, curb ramps and benches. If you see a poorly parked bike, move it.
“Use common sense,” Taylor says.
Lime and Jump, the two companies that rent the bikes in Seattle, will email the video to their users, according to SDOT. Lime will also distribute the video in its app, the company said in a statement calling parking a “top priority.” As one way of discouraging improper parking, Jump has about 20 “no parking zones” in Seattle, areas where riders are charged a fee for ending a trip, a spokesman said.
Advocates for people with disabilities have raised concerns in Seattle about not only bikes on sidewalks but also about drivers blocking crosswalks.
Rooted in Rights backed an effort to allow Seattle to use automated traffic cameras to catch bus-lane cheaters and drivers blocking crosswalks. A widely watched video from the group showed how cars blocking curb ramps can force people using wheelchairs into the street. State lawmakers failed to vote on the bill before the legislative session ended.
In permitting the bike companies, Seattle requires them to ensure the vast majority of their bikes are properly parked, but recently expanded the definition of what constitutes an obstruction.
While about 14% of bikes checked during SDOT’s audit were parked in a way that could be a problem, about 2% — nine of 545 bikes total — were found leaving less than 4 feet of clear pedestrian passage, as required under Americans with Disabilities Act rules.
Starting in the second quarter of the year, SDOT planned to begin cutting the companies’ fleets by 20 bikes for each obstruction that violated the ADA. The city has not yet issued any of those fleet reductions, according to an SDOT spokeswoman.
City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the transportation committee, said during a committee meeting Tuesday that while the rentable bikes are adding “an outstanding mobility option,” he was considering formally asking SDOT to “step up enforcement” of the companies and riders.
“Folks with certain disabilities can’t use these and for a lot of them what they’re experiencing is actually a degradation of our transportation system,” O’Brien said.
The bike companies “will find ways to hold their customers accountable or kick them off the system if necessary if they’re not parking right,” O’Brien said. “It’s something that we have to do.”
In the first three months of this year, between 5,000 and 7,000 Lime and Jump bikes were on the streets of Seattle each week, down from 10,000 in the first quarter of 2018, according to SDOT. Now that Lime has removed its pedal bikes from Seattle, both companies are offering a fully electric-assist fleet.
A third company, Lyft, has delayed its launch here and declined to say when its bikes will be deployed.