More than three years ago, Seattle Met asked why bike sharing hadn't yet come to Seattle. (The answer back then: "Weather, topography, helmet laws, and funding." Is that all?) Yesterday we finally caught up with New York City and Tenino when Seattle's bike share program Pronto launched in Occidental Park.
Some 500 lime-green cycles hit the city streets, rentable from one of 50 stations around the city. Annual memberships start at $85 and include free 30-minute rides; anything longer is going to cost you. Not into commitment? They're totally cool with that, they swear; you can swan up to a solar-powered dock, swipe a credit card for a $8 one-day rental, return the bike, and never speak to Pronto again.
But the topography of Seattle hasn't changed, you say. Since the Pronto bikes are heavy seven-speeds—not lithe road bikes—they're tough to get up hills. Aren't they all going to be left at the downtown docks, never to be pedaled back up Queen Anne or Capitol Hill? Maybe. Pronto staff will redistribute bikes by van, trying to keep them balanced. And Seattle's helmet law hasn't changed either, so there are free bike helmet rentals at each docking station.
As Seattle Met's PubliCola noted, Pronto raises additional questions. Such as: Why are all the bike stations clustered downtown? Will they really be useful for the low-income residents that need them most? Head to Morning Fizz for more analysis.