Say you're stranded at a West Seattle bus stop and it's late or your bus is late or both. Then you notice a neon green bike parked nearby. On the bike is written something to the effect of, "For public use. Please return to any bus stop when done. For maintenance, contact Guy" and then lists contact information.
That bike is part of West Seattle's humble green bikes project (not to be confused with thisGreen Bike Project), which commenced without a mission statement or fanfare—just one man and five hideously green bikes—less than a month ago at the Admiral/California street junction.
"In West Seattle, the bus service sucks—especially at nights and on weekends," says Guy Olson, the man behind the bikes. Olson, a regular cyclist, says he co-opted the idea from Portland's Yellow Bike Project (which thrived briefly in the 90's). The idea is to give people a free alternative to buses and taxis in the area, whether from the store or from bars, so they can get home. "Just grab a bike, ride it until you're done, and try to return it."
Try is the operative word, here. Portland's bike project eventually failed miserably because many of the 600 hideous yellow bikes in circulation broke down, were stripped, or stolen. But Olson doesn't have a problem with his bikes disappearing, and he's willing to provide maintenance. "As long as somebody’s not throwing them away and people are riding safe, I'm happy." His only goal is to see people using them. "A lot of people haven’t ridden in so long, this is a cheap way for them to rediscover how great it is to get on a bike," he explains.
Olson, who works as a West Seattle gardener, says he's put 16 green bikes into circulation over the last few weeks. He gets the old bikes—mountain bikes, road bikes, and beach cruisers—from friends and donations. He doesn't keep track of where the bikes go from there.
"A few guys have contacted me about maintenance, so I know they're still in circulation and being used," he says. He also doesn't charge for upkeep, ("I just drive down to wherever they are and fix them up"). Olson dreams big of expanding his grassroots bike program into Georgetown and Ballard but says for that to happen, he'd need help. For more info, go here.