Day 1 of the years-in-the-making bike-sharing program for Seattle started last week with 500 soft green bikes. But this is just part of Seattle’s big bike push. The Seattle Bicycle Master Plan stipulates adding more than 400 miles of cycling facilities. This gradual addition over the next 20 years will expand the 135-mile network already in place.
Image Credit: Pronto Cycle Share
Pronto Cycle Share (map of stations) welcomed a happy crowd to the opening, complete with the program’s first round of 500 bicycles hitting the streets thanks to a combination of public and private financing. King County and the City of Seattle provided grants, as well as the corporate sponsors providing some of the funding.
The event included an inaugural ride from Benaroya Hall to Pioneer Square and speeches by local leaders and program officials. Seattle’s new program sports 7-speed commuter bicycles with a pedal-powered headlight. The lightness of color matches lighter bikes compared to cycle share bikes used in other cities. The bicycles are similar to a bicycle manufactured by Arcade Cycles, a French company.
A key fob is used by participants. The key fob unlocks the bike at any of 50 stations that are located in downtown Seattle. These neighborhoods are Capitol Hill, First Hill, Belltown, South Lake Union, the University District, Eastlake, Pioneer Square, and the International District.
Seattle Pi shares that this Seattle bike share starts a first (in the US) for bike shares — helmets are included in the rental. They are found in cabinets at the rental station. The helmets are cleaned when they are returned there and inspected before being reused.
As is often the case with these, the bike share seems to be aimed at short rides. The first 30 minutes are free for an unlimited number of rides. If the bike is gone 24 hours, it will be reported as stolen and you might be charged $1,200.
The Puget Sound Business Journal notes that Alaska Airlines is the main sponsor of Pronto. The company is contributing $2.5 million over 5 years to the program. Group Health is sponsoring 15 docking stations. Other sponsors include Seattle Children’s Hospital, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Vulcan, REI, and Spectrum Development Solutions
Image Credit: Seattle Pi
Seattle natives seem to have that environmental zest for community and outdoor activity that separates those “doing” and “living” from those watching life passively. This is another beautiful note for a city set on reducing carbon footprints and enjoying community. As Seattle encourages bicycling in everyday life, it encourages an upward spiral for energetic health.
Bouncing easily along on a bicycle balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain and makes a commute a boon to brain chemistry. Cycling increases circulation and balances endorphins, those magical happiness chemicals that synthesize in one’s bloodstream. It is no wonder that bike shares doubled in 2013 and continue to grow.