Seattle City Council makes bike-share program official, with fees; Chinese company says goodbye

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle city leaders have decided to expand a bike-share program that allows people to rent and leave a bike anywhere in the city.

The City Council on Monday unanimously passed legislation that makes permanent a one-year pilot program started last summer.

The Seattle Times report s under the legislation, the city plans to charge up to four bike-share companies $250,000 a year for a permit for about 5,000 bikes each.

The expected $1 million in annual revenue from the permit costs is slated for building parking corrals and for administrative costs.

Of the three vendors — Spin, LimeBike and Ofo — participating in the pilot program, only Limebike has said it will apply for the permit.

Ofo, a Chinese company that is pulling out of several U.S. cities, said Monday it would leave Seattle while Spin hasn't responded to messages seeking comment.

"We appreciate the efforts of City Council and SDOT in crafting new requirements for dockless bikeshare in Seattle," Ofo said in a written statement. "The exorbitant fees that accompany these new regulations--the highest in the country--make it impossible for Ofo to operate and effectively serve our riders, and as a result, we will not be seeking a permit to continue operating in Seattle.

"We’re incredibly disappointed to be leaving the first U.S. city to welcome Ofo and thank the City for its partnership and support this last year.”

Supporters say the program adds transportation choices and reduces congestion. Critics have complained about the bikes blocking sidewalks.