• Seattle bike share launches as mayor eyes expansion

    By: Natasha Chen/Maria Guerrero

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - Seattle's bike share program officially kicked off Monday at 1 p.m.

    But before it even started, the mayor already eyed an expansion and is requesting taxpayer money to do it.

    The mayor is asking the city council to approve $600,000 in city money to expand the program to lower income areas next summer: The Central District, Little Saigon and Yesler Terrace.

    Some say it’s worth it.

    Eric Smith of Ballard is among the first Pronto users.

    He recently tried the bike share program in Minneapolis and Washington D.C..

    "And it was really great being from out of town and having a transportation choice like that to get around. It was really easy," said Smith.

    Five-hundered bicycles will be parked at 50 stalls throughout the city - mainly downtown, Capitol Hill and the South Lake Union areas.

    Bike sharing Q & A

    Prices vary:

    $8 for a whole day, $16 for three days or an annual membership online for $85.

    Helmets are available in temporary bins next to the rental stalls. Once used, Pronto takes the removable inserts out from the helmets to clean.

    According to Pronto, the helmet cleaning process follows helmet manufacturing standards and includes being cleaned with mild soap and water and then being sprayed with a sanitizer. As an extra measure to illustrate to riders that helmets are clean, the sanitized helmets are sealed in clear bags prior to redistribution.

    While the helmets are currently loaned on the honor system, a vending machine will be added in 2015 to dispense the helmets for a $2 fee, or $1.50 fee for members.

    "The best part about it is seeing the community's excitement around this," said Holly Houser, executive director of the non-profit Pronto.

    We asked Houser to go over some logistics like ensuring the bicycles are returned.

    She explained that anytime you check out a bike, you'll pay with a debit or credit card.

    The card information will be kept on file.

    “All bikes have chips in them,” said Houser. “If you don't return your bike after 24 hours you do get charged the full amount of the bike which is about $1,200. So there's good incentive to return your bike!"

    If the bike is stolen, you must contact Pronto within 24 hours and you may have to file a police report.

    Hauser told KIRO 7 there should be low incentive to steal the bikes to sell for parts, because a special, proprietary tool is needed to dismantle the bike.

    “They also have very specific parts that can't be tampered with and can't be used on other bikes,” Hauser said.

    KIRO 7 also asked Pronto Cycle Share about operating costs, since similar programs around the country have reported financial losses.

    A spokesperson said Pronto does not expect to operate at a loss: “Unlike some other U.S. bike share systems, Pronto is an independent nonprofit that operates with both public and private funding.”

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