Coast Guard forced to launch search operations anytime someone forgets a bike on a ferry

SEATTLE -- The convenience of bike-shares is what makes them popular.

Riders pick up and drop off  the bikes at their discretion, but the Washington State Department of Transportation wants people to know ferries are not sidewalks.

“We are starting to see more bikes left on ferries; one of the reasons is probably the bike-share companies here on the Seattle side of the water,” said Ian Sterling with WSDOT.

There have been 12 cases over the last 18 months where people simply forgot to take their personal bikes or bike-shares off the ferries.

“I can understand at the end of the day people forgetting,” Coast Guard Capt. Mike Baldwin said.

But the simple mistake has big consequences for other travelers as the Coast Guard is required to launch a full-scale search operation.

“We have to treat that like a person in the water so we end up launching helicopters, boats,” Baldwin said.

Like the one over Easter weekend when someone left a bike-share on a ferry, causing a sailing delay as the rescuers searched the waters.

“Due to the helicopter use alone, we are talking about $17,000 price tag,” Baldwin said.

In response, bike-share companies like Spin and Limebike are asking customers not to take bikes on ferries at all.

Instead, they say to leave it behind before boarding a ferry and then get another bike-share when you get to your destination.

Bike-shares are not the majority of the 12 cases. But WSDOT says it’s important to get the message out because with the summer approaching, bike-share uses are expected to increase.