Should the Eastside get a bike-share program like Pronto?

Feb 18, 2016, 6:00 PM | Updated: Sep 11, 2017, 1:43 pm
Eastside cities such as Kirkland, Redmond and more are considering starting a bike share program as...
Eastside cities such as Kirkland, Redmond and more are considering starting a bike share program as Seattle ponders whether or not to save its own. (AP)

Bike sharing could be coming to more Puget Sound communities. Cities on the east side of Lake Washington are considering their own programs that would work throughout King County.

The Seattle Times published an editorial arguing that Seattle should unload its Pronto! bike share program to those communities — specifically, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, and Bellevue.

Related: Pros and cons of Seattle buying the Pronto! bike share system

The results of Seattle’s bike-share program, Pronto!, have been mixed — the bike share boasted success early on but now it seems that some may have spoken too soon. Ultimately, the program, like the habits of its riders, has been going downhill. Pronto! could cease to operate in March. The City of Seattle is currently considering spending $1.4 million to buy the infrastructure of the non-profit bike system and run it on its own. And as it turns out, the city has already been pumping money into the bike system that kept it afloat during its first year, Seattle Met reports.

“One of the objections to what’s happening with Pronto, that’s not working well in Seattle now, is that there are not enough places that it goes to where people who are bike-oriented, like young people, would use it,” said Tom Tangney with KIRO Radio’s Tom and Curley Show. “So maybe if you had stations in Ballard or Fremont, you might have more activity on these bikes.”

If Seattle is having a hard time with its bike-share system one year in, why not unload it to Eastside communities as The Seattle Times suggests?

“I think the Times’ look at it is probably an oversimplification of a really complex situation,” said Joel Pfundt, principal planner with the City of Redmond. “Seattle would be great for bike share, long term. But before we go there, the City of Seattle needs to find out what the future of Pronto! is.”

And while Seattle figures that out, Redmond is among a handful of Eastside communities that are considering bike shares of their own. Also in the mix are Bellevue, Issaquah, and Kirkland. The cities have access to $5.5 million in state funds to make it happen, should initial testing prove favorable.

“We’re currently working on a feasibility study on if, and how it could be implemented in our city,” Pfundt said. “We’re going to be looking at both a system plan, where it would work, and a business plan on the financial side. Redmond is part of a King County bike-share group that has been looking at regional bike share around King County for quite some time. There’s a group of Eastside communities that have been involved … and we’ve been involved with King County, the City of Seattle, and organizations like the University of Washington to look at how a bike-share system could be done in different areas.”

Pfundt said that Redmond hired a consultant to do the feasibility study. He expects the city to hear back from the consultant in May. He said that bike shares work well in some areas and not others. Things like density have to be considered. That’s what they want to understand from the study.

That’s a notion that Tom and Curley can understand. In some places, bike share works. In others, it fails. Curley notes that bike sharing in Manhattan was terrible for him, yet he had a rather pleasant experience using Indianapolis’ bike program.

Tom agreed, noting that the system is huge in Paris.

“They’re expanding their bike-share program,” he said. “In Paris, you have a lot of tourists and it’s a great way to get around. In Manhattan, it’s intense. Bicycling around in Brooklyn is a dream.”

So with that in mind, would a bike-share program work in the Eastside communities of Kirkland, Redmond, and others? They may have the density and a more favorable terrain than Seattle, but will the Eastside culture take to bike sharing?

“The people who use bikes, ride bikes. If you have a bike, you ride a bike to work,” Curley said. “The idea that someone is going to leave Kirkland and ride down the street to someplace is a fantasy. They won’t do it.”

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Should the Eastside get a bike-share program like Pronto?