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Seattle plans to replace current Pronto system with electric bikes

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The city has entered into discussions with Bewegen Technologies about turning the bike share system electric

To say that the Pronto Cycle Share program has been a disappointment would be an understatement. After premiering to much fanfare, the bike share service run by Motivate never expanded enough to make a real dent in Seattleite usage (most bikes were ridden less than once a day between October 2014 and 2015). That led to a a situation where Pronto needed a $1.4M bailout just to stay afloat and the Seattle City Council ended up voting to buy the bike share system outright.

In an attempt to reboot so that Seattle can have the kind of bike share service it deserves and needs, the city opened up bidding to multiple companies and it appears that Quebec-based company Bewegen is in the driver’s seat, or cyclist’s seat.

It was announced in late September that Seattle expressed its intention to negotiate with Bewegen Technologies and all signs point to it happening. If and when it does, that means not only would Motivate be out but all of their equipment would go with them. They would be replaced by a fleet of electric-assist bicycles.

Bewegen’s proposal calls for 100 stations (there are currently 54) and 1,200 e-assist bikes (there are currently about 500). Along with the locations and neighborhoods already covered by Pronto, there would be bike stations in Wallingford, Fremont, Queen Anne, North Capitol Hill, First Hill, Central District, North Beacon Hill, Mount Baker, Columbia City and Othello. Per their proposal, they would average about seven stations per square mile.

The electric-assist bikes can cover roughly 40 miles on a charge and even if the battery dies on you, you’ve still got a bike, you know? It takes about 90 minutes for a bike to go from dead to fully-charged. Ultimately, the electric competent doesn’t do the work for you, it simply gives you a little boost, which will come in handy on some of those hills (Hi, Fremont Avenue).

There is a catch for going with such a bike share program, as Seattle Bike Blog points out.

...there is an additional catch with Bewegen’s stations: They all have to be hard-wired into the city power grid. This may limit their location options even further than solar-powered stations like Pronto currently uses. So many of the stations you are currently familiar with may need to move. Bewegen has budgeted $10,000 per station for location and power-connecting needs. But this should definitely be considered a variable.

Once approved, Bewegen says it can change out the entire system within 16 weeks and could be fully operational by April 2017. The two sides are still in discussions so we’ll wait to see if those deadlines are real, assuming the deal gets made to begin with.