Pronto, the nonprofit bike share that will begin serving Central and Downtown Seattle in October and will expand into the Central District in 2015, has started the process of installing 50 docking stations around the city. A dozen of those stations will serve Capitol Hill, First Hill and Seattle University.
It’s not all smooth riding, however — the service also announced that the first-of-their-kind helmet vending machines will not be ready for October’s launch.
The first Seattle Pronto station went in overnight across I-5 at 9th and Mercer:
— sean (@seanpants) September 25, 2014
CHS has been told the Capitol Hill-area stations and kiosks will begin being installed and are planned to be in place for the service’s October 13th launch. You can see the final installation locations below:
The locations are spread across the core of the Hill with an apparent focus on grocery stores. There will also be a station adjacent Cal Anderson Park but not Volunteer Park.
Pronto plans to move forward despite the helmet machine setback with a simple solution. “When the system launches, the stations will feature an interim helmet-distribution solution that provides a rental helmet from self-serve bins free of charge to users,” Pronto announced. “An automated vending machine that will dispense helmets for a small fee will join the system in 2015.”
“We’re going to launch with an honor system,” director Holly Houser said in a statement. “Riders can check out a free helmet from an unlocked bin at each station, and then return it to a separate used helmet bin at any station when they’ve completed their ride.” According to the statement, Pronto workers will “sanitize and inspect each helmet and return them to stations throughout the city.”
Another solution: Carry your own helmet. Stores, bars, and restaurants near the stations might want to consider keeping a few “honor” helmets around, too, for trusted customers to borrow. Meanwhile, Pronto is also planning to give its annual members a voucher to redeem a free Pronto helmet from REI.
Our friends at Seattle Bike Blog argue that, helmet vending machines or no, our local helmet laws are in need of change:
We have argued that Seattle/King County should ditch or at least modify its increasingly rare all-ages helmet law to help ensure the success of Pronto. Or at the very least SPD could downplay enforcement of the law as a primary offense. Very few big cities in the entire world have all-ages helmet laws, and those that had them are ditching them (or modifying them to only apply under 18) to make way for bike share systems.
After dozens of millions of rides in dozens of US cities, not a single person has died while riding a bike share bike. And none of those cities has an all-ages bike helmet law. That’s a remarkable safety record, and all that biking is a boon to public health. While a helmet could save an individual in the case of a crash, there is little clear evidence that all-ages bike helmet laws have much of a public health benefit, if any. And if it impedes bike share’s success, it could end up having a negative public health effect.
SBB also has pointed out that recent media coverage of a supposed SPD crackdown on bicycling laws was off the mark — you can ride without fear that SPD is out to get you. Pfew!
The new system will begin with 500 bikes serving the city with Capitol Hill, First Hill, the U-District, Eastlake, South Lake Union, Belltown, downtown, Pioneer Square and International District stations . Each station will have docks for 12 to 20 bikes and will feature a kiosk where non-members can sign up for 24-hour, or multiday passes, and or access bikes using a code. Those who pay $85 for an annual membership will be able to bypass the kiosk and check bikes out directly from their docks. The $85 annual membership will grant Pronto riders unlimited 30-minute trips. There are also 24-hour passes for visitors that will cost $8 and three-day passes for $16.
The memberships will join a $2.5 million, five-year sponsorship from Alaska Airlines in supporting Pronto operations and, eventually, expansion. Mayor Ed Murray’s budget plan for 2015-2016 includes a line item to support expansion of Pronto into the Central District next year.
Pronto bikes will have extra-low gears to help climb hills and internal shifting meaning no deraileur and no chains falling off. Internal shifting is also easier for inexperienced bikers. Seattle Bike Blog took a Pronto cruiser for a spin here.
Pronto memberships went on sale in August with 330 reportedly signing up on the first day.
You can learn more at prontocycleshare.com.