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Seattle's First-Ever Bike Share Program Officially Launches

Tuesday, Seattle witnessed the grand opening of its first-ever bike share program to the public, Pronto Cycle Share. Hundreds of people gathered in Pioneer Square's Occidental Park for the launching press conference, attended by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. After the ceremony, eager cyclists rode off to locations throughout the city to distribute the Pronto bikes to docking stations for the very first time. An initial 500 bikes in 50 stations are now open for use by the public in Downtown, South Lake Union, Belltown, Capitol Hill, the U-District, Eastlake, First Hill, Pioneer Square and the International District.

The City Council has budgeted $600,000 to ensure, according to Mayor Murray, "that Pronto is also in the Central District, Yesler Terrace and Little Saigon." Murray commented that "diversity was one of the main goals for this administration" and that "we want Pronto Bike Share to be as diverse as the city it is in." Pronto Cycle will subsidize bike memberships for low-income users and is already supporting a program for affordable housing providers where they can register their residents for "deeply discounted bike memberships."

The bike share system is operated by Alta Bicycle Share - the same company behind bike share programs in San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, and Toronto. While Seattle joins the ranks of cities following the ever-growing trend of public bike systems, Pronto Cycle is the first bike-share system in the country to provide helmets (at no cost!) at every docking station – necessary to meet Seattle's strict helmet safety laws. The bicycles are also uniquely designed for Seattle's hilly topography, with seven gears instead of the common three.

Holly Houser, the Executive Director of Pronto Cycle Share, commented, "Our goal from the very beginning was to bring a form of public transportation by bike to Seattle. A form of transportation that is low cost, that is very accessible to a number of people, is convenient, is safe and is also healthy." According to Houser, "The amount of pushback and complaints that we have gotten has been relatively small" with the most common complaint being the replacement of parking spots with bike stations.

The main idea behind Pronto is to encourage cycling to become a leg of a person's daily commute. To help those on the move, Pronto runs a Smartphone App, Spotcycle, which helps users find nearby bike stations throughout the city.

Pronto Cycle Share allows for both short and long-term memberships. One-day and three-day memberships are available, ranging from $8 to $16. Annual memberships run from $85 to $125. Members are allowed free and unlimited 30-minute bike trips, with small fees for additional time. Pronto Cycle is funded through private partnerships, with grants from both King County and the City of Seattle as well as sponsors including Alaska Airlines, REI, Seattle Children's Hospital and Vulcan.

In his speech, Mayor Murray called the launching of Pronto Cycle Share "just the beginning" of the creation of an extensive bike network throughout Seattle that will encourage bicycle use for those of all ages and will allow cyclists to get safely and quickly around Seattle. As evidence, Murray referenced the already large increase seen on 2nd Avenue's newly installed bike lanes.

Written by Alyssa Campbell
· Pronto Cycle Share
· Where Pronto Cycle Share's First 50 Bike Stations Might Go [CS]
· All Curbed coverage of Pronto Cycle Share