Seattle to the World: Bikestation Seattle

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The Story
The Bicycle Alliance of Washington prides itself on finding ways to increase the number of cyclists on our streets. Largely, this means making biking safer, easier, more accessible and generally more practical. So it came as no surprise when in February, 2009 the Alliance adopted responsibility of managing the innovative public (read: biking public) service, Bikestation Seattle.

Bikestation, part of a coalition started in Long Beach, California, sprouted from a simple concept: provide safe and accessible bike parking, along with services beneficial to bikers, especially those that commute, and more people will ditch their combustion engines for their manpowered machines. A relatively new practice in the United States (Seattle's is one of the first,) and yet another idea we borrowed from overseas (Europe and Japan have long used similar programs), public bike stations are catching on in response to a growing cyclist-commuting population.

So what makes Bikestation better than any old bike rack outside your office building? Besides being a safe and guaranteed place to lock up your bike, Bikestation Seattle offers additional services that make it special.

For example, one of the biggest factors holding potential bikers back from commuting to work on two wheels are the additional steps that drivers don't need to consider, such as changing clothes. Bikestation members have 24/7 access to lockers and a washroom/changing room that eases the transformation from stylish neon yellow jersey and spandex to more traditional business attire. Another large advantage is Bikestation’s close proximity to nearly all of Seattle’s public transportation (the bus tunnel, train depots, and waterfront ferries). This allows commuters whose commutes are too long for cycling alone to use Bikestation as a midway point.

Andrea White, the executive director of Bikestation, reports that 30 percent of Bikestation’s users would not commute by bike if it weren’t for the services offered by Bikestation facilities. Similarly, surveys have found that many potential cycling commuters would choose to ride their bikes if they had accessible secure bike parking and comfortable facilities for changing clothes.

Since opening the Bikestation in 2003, Bicycle Alliance has has continued to add services to enhance the facility. In addition to providing free use of a self-service stand and basic tools, Bikestation Seattle now shares a facility with JRA Bike Shop – a full service repair and sales vendor that also offers bike rentals. Is your bike feeling out-of-sorts on the way to work? A Bicycle Alliance representative says that JRA makes every effort to have Bikestation customers’ bikes repaired in time for the commute home. And the Bikestation even has a biker’s dream vending machine, which dispenses everything from small tools and inner tubes to PowerBars. Bicycle Alliance plans on continuing to expand the building's offerings in response to their user demands and requests.

Why it’s Worldchanging
While biking continues to grow more popular as an alternative to driving, many who understand its environmental and health benefits still have concerns about safety and practicality. Bikestation is an innovative solution because it meets the requests of commuters eager to bike to work, but who are unwilling to do so because of the additional difficulties brought on by a longer and sweatier commute to work. By providing the infrastructure to make bike community easier, the Bikestation transforms commuters from drivers to bikers, and strengthens the community between the cyclists who use it. Neighborhoods, towns and cities that encourage solutions like this will in turn reap the many benefits of cycling: less traffic, cleaner air, safer streets, and at the very least for those opting to bike, healthier lifestyles.

We look forward to seeing more Bikestations popping up across the globe, as well as additional services like showering facilities that will push more workers to leave their gas-guzzlers at home and help usher in a Bright Green future.

Bikestation Seattle is located at 311 3rd Avenue South in downtown Seattle in Pioneer Square. Free parking is available weekdays from 9am to 5pm, but members can access the facility 24/7. To get more information contact Bicycle Alliance of Washington at (206) 224-9252 or email Bikestation [at]

This post is part of the series, "Seattle to the World: 100 Best Innovations from the Emerald City."

Photo credit: Flickr/Creative Commons theslowlane.

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