A new fleet of bicycles will start rolling down Seattle streets Monday when the city’s bike share program gets underway. The bright green bikes will be easy to spot and 500 of them will be stationed across Seattle’s urban core: downtown, the University of Washington and Capitol Hill.
With an $85 annual membership, you can freely use the bikes in half-hour stretches, or you can pay a day rate. Then, you just grab a bike at one station and drop it at another when you’re done.
The City of Seattle helped secure a million-dollar federal grant to help fund this program, and Mayor Murray’s next budget aims to add another million.
The nonprofit, Pronto Cycle Share, runs this bike share operation in Seattle and several other cities.
“These bikes are meant to be a form of public transportation, so they’re really meant to be a last-mile connector between existing transit hubs and workplace or retail,” said Pronto Executive Director Holly Houser. The group expects to have about 900 members signed up by Monday’s launch.
“We really see this appealing to all ages and all skill levels as well,” Houser said, although renters do need to be at least 16 years old.
Geography is limited as the program starts out. The stations are clustered around downtown and the University of Washington, although Houser said they plan to keep expanding to Seattle’s Central Area, Bellevue and Redmond, among other places.
Near the new bike-share kiosk in Pioneer Square, Seattle resident and frequent bike commuter Anya Gedrath-Smith pointed out some challenges to riding around the city.
“If you’re going a longer distance or up several hills it might not be the most ideal option, or if the weather is really bad you might rather take the bus,” Gedrath-Smith said.
“Here it’s a lot hillier so I might not be as likely,” said Jack Granberg, another pedestrian who used Pronto’s bike share program in Washington, D.C.
Both Granberg and Gedrath-Smith doubted they’d use Pronto’s green bikes much since they ride their own to work, but they’re glad to see more bicycle commute options in the city.
As for Seattle’s hilly topography, Pronto’s Houser agrees that will be a challenge.
“We actually chose to have seven speeds on our bike rather than the standard three speeds, so that’s going to help a lot,” Houser said.“They’re fairly heavy bikes. Not everybody is going to be able to ride these up some of Seattle’s steeper hills.”
Houser suggests riders bus their bikes uphill. Electric bikes may also be added to the fleet down the road. But for now, teams of “rebalancers” will make sure the green bicycles stay evenly distributed across town and not all at the bottom of hills.