Imagine this in Seattle:

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The recent announcement by Puget Sound Bike Share that it is moving forward with the next phase of bringing bike share to Seattle should be hailed with the sort of fanfare that might be given to an announcement that King County Metro’s budget has been doubled (were it so!) or that light rail will connect Seattle to the eastside (make it happen!): it is a game changer in our urban transportation landscape.

Bike share is a network of shared bicycles that are available for rental on a short-term basis. From its audacious beginning in 1965–50 bicycles were painted white and dispersed around Amsterdam for anyone to use free of charge—to today, where some describe bike share as the “fastest growing” mode of transport in our planet’s history, bike share has a lengthy and mostly positive history of contributing to community transportation, culture, and climate. The organization, design, and operation of the system vary widely around the world (some are run by local community groups, others by public-private partnerships, still others by government agencies), but the fundamental concept is similar: bike sharing extends traditional transportation systems (solving the “last mile” problem), provides faster and more convenient access to areas underserved by those systems, and increases opportunities for multimodal transportation. At the same time, bike sharing does not create pollution or add to global warming (unless you believe that bicyclists pollute the environment simply by exhaling, as some apparently do), improves congestion, is less expensive to implement and requires less infrastructure than other transportation modes, provides a low-cost, on-demand transportation option, promotes physical activity, and generally “enhances livability and neighborliness” of an area. (For an excellent survey of bike share generally and assessment of its introduction in Seattle, take a look at Seattle Bike Share, which links to a 2010 feasibility study conducted by UW graduate students and commissioned by SDOT.)

With all of this going for it, how can bike share be wrong? There are some obvious hurdles to overcome—most point to King County’s mandatory helmet law, others to our region’s topography—but Puget Sound Bike Share has teamed up with Alta Bicycle Share, one of the most experienced operators of bike share around the country, and has been studying this issue for several years. I applaud their efforts and look forward to joining at first launch in 2014. We may not beat NYC’s recent bike share success—5,000 signed up for bike share in the first hours of registration—but we can come close.

For six years running, Washington has been named the most bike friendly state in the U.S. by the League of American Bicyclists, an organization that has been around longer than Washington has. Puget Sound Bike Share provides an opportunity to further enhance that hard-earned, well-deserved reputation.