Don’t have a bike, but want one to run quick errands or get to work? Well, Seattle is finally catching up with other big American and European cities and launching a bike share program this September. It’s called Pronto! Emerald City Bike Share and Holly Houser is executive director of the program.
“Our Phase One system launch will be 500 bikes in 50 stations. They will be located in Capitol Hill, downtown, South Lake Union and the University District neighborhoods. It’s membership based so you’ll be able to purchase an annual membership for $85, a daily membership for $8 and a three day membership for $16.”
You can buy your membership online or at a bike kiosk and that gives you 30 minute increments of free bike riding. After you use up 30 minutes, there’s an additional fee that hasn’t been worked out yet. Some other cities charge $2 for each additional half hour. The point is not to hog the bikes, but to keep them available for lots of people. Which is why there won’t be bike locks provided.
“The idea being that where ever you’re going to, whatever your destination is, there will be a bike share station there that you can simply lock your bike in. And then restart the clock so that when you come out of the store you just grab another bike and you have another 30 minutes to ride.”
But more about the actual bikes.
“They’re fairly heavy bikes. However we’re really excited about the bike we’re bringing to Seattle because we’ve had the opportunity to customize it a bit to address our steep topography as well as our weather. So our bikes will actually have seven gears, as opposed to most bike share bikes which are three speed. These are going to end up being a little bit lighter than the bikes in some other cities.”
They’re designed to appeal to everyone, not just the spandex clad.
“You can be wearing heels or your suit. There’s a chain protector so you don’t have to worry about grease. There’s fenders so you don’t have to worry about water and rain kicking up. They’re really really comfortable. They’re sort of like the Buick of bikes.”
A side effect of bike share programs? Getting people super pumped up about bikes. Pun intended.
“Bike share has been shown to introduce a lot of new people to bike riding, who never would before. Actually, in every city that bike share has launched, they’ve actually seen the purchase of bikes go up in actual bike stores. So one of the biggest impacts that bike share will have in Seattle is really sort of changing that culture around cycling. Taking it from something that is, you know, you have to have the right gear, sort of thing, and be really into it to something that is just really a way to get around, just like walking or taking the bus. A much more European idea around cycling.”
Because programs like this one are already old hat on that continent.
“It’s been around in Europe, especially France, for quite sometime now. London has a huge system. It’s really just sort of spread across North America in the last five years or so. Hubway in Boston, Nice Ride in Minneapolis, Denver B-Cycle. Just last year Citi Bike in New York launched, which is the largest system of its size in North America. It’s been incredibly, incredibly successful. As well as Bay Area Bike Share in San Francisco. Divvy in Chicago. It’s definitely becoming the norm in medium to large cities, rather than the exception, these days.”
The hope is, with more funding, the program will eventually spread to more Seattle neighborhoods and suburbs like Redmond. You can be one of the first to purchase a membership starting August 25th and the bikes will debut at the end of September.