The US Coast Guard has released information regarding bicycles left on Washington State Ferries. Bicycles that are left on ferries significantly impact ferry and Coast Guard operations, as it’s the duty of the Coast Guard and ferry personnel to treat left bicycles as a potential distress situation until the bicyclist can be confirmed safe.
There have been 12 cases of bicycles left aboard ferries in the last 18 months, three of which were ride-share bikes. Each individual response can require helicopters, boats, and other specialized crews; possibly endangering crew members in a search for a victim that may be nonexistent.
The resulting search is costly to the Coast Guard and to the Washington State Ferry, causing a significant drain on already-limited resources, and negatively impacting those who depend on the ferry. Searches like these also reduce response capabilities, thus risking the lives of those who may genuinely need help. Capt. Linda Sturgis, Commander, Sector Puget Sound, had this to say of the ongoing problem:
The Washington State Ferry system is a valuable local resource that provides a great benefit to the area by facilitating transportation and reducing commuter congestion. However, when bicycles are left behind on a ferry, the Coast Guard assumes the worst and searches in the event the bicycle operator may have fallen overboard. We join the Washington State Ferry system in requesting that bike-share users not bring rented bicycles on board the ferries, instead leaving the bicycle at the pier and boarding as a walk-on passenger. For all passengers, we request you leave with the bikes you bring onboard.
Less than a week ago, a ride-share bike was left on a Washington State ferry, resulting in more than $17,000 in helicopter and crew costs associated with a search along the ferry route. No person had fallen overboard.
Ride-share bicycles present an enhanced concern because they are transferred so fluidly. It is possible that passengers may forget that they rode aboard, and then depart from the ferry once arriving at their location. Again, the Coast Guard and Washington State Ferries strongly encourage passengers to leave ride-share bikes at the pier, and board as walk-on to the ferry.