The future is now for Seattle. After years of preparation, residents and commuters are seeing the first installations of bike-share stations this week.
Pronto Cycle Share is still aiming for an Oct. 13 launch date for the first public bike-share system in the Pacific Northwest.
Before long, 50 docking stations to hold some 500 bikes will be scattered throughout the city. Areas getting the initial stations are the Downtown, Pioneer Square, the International District, Capitol Hill, First Hill, the University District, Eastlake, South Lake Union and Belltown.
The Pronto Cycle Share bike station map shows facilities stretching roughly from King Street Station in the south to Ravenna Park in the north.
One of the biggest issues over the bike share system in Seattle will remain unresolved as it opens next month.
Because Seattle requires helmet use for everyone on a bicycle, Pronto was going to be one of the first bike-shares anywhere to offer helmet vending machines at the docking locations.
Those vending machines won’t be ready until next year, however, so Pronto is going to offer free helmets at the bike station locations. Users will follow an honor system to return them after use, so employees can sanitize them for the next user.
Annual subscribers will get a voucher for a free helmet from REI.
Other than the helmet issue, Seattle’s bike share system is pretty typical to others in the US.”
Users can choose either a one-year subscription ($85), or a 3-day ($16) or 24-hour ($8) pass. They’re then entitled to use of a bicycle for 30-minute segments for an unlimited number of times.
For those making trips longer than 30 minutes, they just have to park at a bike station within 30 minutes then take another bike.
When the bike-share service begins on Oct. 13, Seattle will be one of the few systems to go online in the US in 2014.
The Bike-Sharing Blog reports that 2014 was expected to be a big year for bike-share in North America, but that never materialized. The bankruptcy of Montreal-based Bixi, the major supplier of bikes and sharing systems, in January threw many plans into turmoil.
The lack of funding for bike-share systems also delayed roll-outs this year. Bike-Sharing Blog suggests that “cities need to have State and Federal governments start thinking of bike-sharing as public transit and make available the funding streams that help other forms of public transit flourish.”
You can go to the Pronto Cycle Share website for memberships, or more information about the program. They’re also on Facebook. Seattle Bike Blog also has extensive coverage of the local bike share scene.