If you’ve been walking around Seattle over the past few weeks, you may have noticed some flashes of green. No, we’re not talking about cedars and firs. It’s one of those new Pronto bikes cruising by.
This October, Seattle joined the ranks of several large cities around the world that offer bike-sharing programs to their busy citizens. Suddenly, these bright green bikes — a perfect fit for the Emerald City — are everywhere.
But is Pronto bike share right for you?
After speaking with Holly Houser, the executive director at the nonprofit running the program, we think so. Read on for some deeper insights into this great new program and to learn how you can participate.
Let’s go over the facts.
Pronto bikes are available on a membership basis to anyone over the age of 16. Members can buy an annual membership key online or purchase a short term pass or key at the kiosk for 24-hour or 3-Day access. Bikes are available 24/7 at any of the Pronto stations around the city for unlimited 30 minute rides for the duration of each membership. Stations also have free, clean helmets that you can borrow and return when you’re done.
We all know that Seattleites love to bike, as cycling advocacy groups like the Cascade Bicycle Club make perfectly clear. But mostly, biking seems to be about long, recreational rides — as opposed to a culture where biking is a means to an immediate end. Bike share can change that.
When it comes to running errands or getting from A to B, Houser says, “we have a lot of different forms of public transportation here, but they don’t always connect. Bike share is an opportunity to add to that menu of options, to make connections.”
But what if I already have a bike?
Pronto positions itself more as a form of transportation than as a recreational tool. But you might consider it the ultimate hybrid of those two concepts: It’s a great option both for people who don’t have bikes and for those who already own one but don’t want to bring it everywhere.
“It’s designed around the idea of spontaneous trips, so you don’t have to plan your day around riding,” Houser says.
While you could take a Pronto bike for a ride along the Burke Gillman, your membership only gives you 30 minutes per ride. After that, you’re charged for your time with the bike. This reiterates the focus on short utilitarian rides — hopping on a Pronto in your work clothes, heading to a coffee shop, meeting a friend on the other side of the neighborhood. When you arrive, just drop off your bike and helmet at the nearest Pronto station — without worrying about parking or locking up your personal gear.
But those Seattle hills!
In Seattle, getting from A to B can mean pedaling up some tough hills. But, as Houser explains, that really depends on how far you’re pedaling.
“Looking at the patterns of usage from station to station [so far], most people have been riding within their neighborhoods — what [Pronto] is really meant to be used for.”
Within a single neighborhood, you can often find long stretches of relatively hill-free riding, making Pronto a great way to reach the just-out-of-walking-distance spots in town. Houser herself has found that, since the program began, she has never taken the same route from station to station twice.
“Our offices are in South Lake Union, so it has been fun taking a bike down to REI for lunch, then to Pioneer Square,” says Houser. “Pronto has really linked South Lake Union to those places.”
Are Pronto bikes in my neighborhood?
Pronto has 500 bikes in circulation among their 50 stations around Seattle. You can find station locations on their website and mobile app. The company constantly monitors the stations to keep them stocked, so you can always expect to find a bike at a station. And if you can’t find a station near you and want to suggest a new one, Pronto wants to hear about it.
As Houser says, “the system is influenced by users and riders. We love feedback, and are working to expand and make the system best for serving the Seattle community.”
Ok, I’m in. Sign me up.
There are three membership options: an annual plan, a three-day plan or a daily plan. Year-long memberships are available online, but if you want one of the shorter options, you can sign up at any of the stations around town. Just follow the instructions on the kiosk, and away you go!
Pronto is already an active member of the Seattle biking community, organizing everything from safety seminars to community rides. Check out their Facebook and Twitter pages for updates, and visit the Pronto website to let them know what you think about the program so far.
Have you tried Pronto yet? What about a bike share in another city? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!