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Seattle Launches Bike Share While Portland Spins Its Wheels

Seattle's new program is a public-private partnership run by a group called Pronto Cycle Share.

Seattle’s new program is a public-private partnership run by a group called Pronto Cycle Share.

Pronto Cycle Share

Seattle will roll out a new bike share program on Monday using a Portland-based bike supplier, despite the fact that bike-sharing in Portland has been spinning its wheels.

The Seattle program is called Pronto Cycle Share. It’s starting with 500 green and blue bikes in 50 stations around the city. A Pronto membership costs $85 a year or $8 a day. Seattle’s hills are infamously steep, so Pronto’s bikes are equipped with seven gears to help riders climb. In most other US cities the loaner bicycles come with three gears.

King county is also one of the few places that requires adult cyclist to wear helmets, and a University of Washington study warned that the law could reduce the number of bike share riders. Pronto plans to install helmet-dispensers to address the problem, but those won’t be ready for a few more months.

Portland-based Alta is supplying the bikes, as well as the software and operating the system in Seattle. Alta Vice President Mia Birk says she expects the program to increase bicycle commuting.

“It lowers the barrier to entry for people to start using bicycles for daily transportation. And that’s what bike share does, it creates normality around bicycling as a mainstream part of daily life,” Birk says.

Alta is also the contractor behind bike share systems in a dozen other cities including New York and Chicago. But a similar program in Portland is years behind schedule — even though regional leaders approved the use of some federal transportation dollars in 2011 to help start a bike share program here.

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