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Seattle's Bike Share Program Launches With 500 Bikes Around Town

Monica Spain
Holly Houser, executive director of Pronto Cycle Share, poses with one of the shared bikes.

After years of planning, the wheels are rolling on Seattle’s bicycle sharing service. Fifty bike stations open around the city today.

Rows of identical lime-green bikes are lined up next to sky-blue containers holding sanitized helmets available on the honor system. Next to them is a kiosk, which resembles a vending machine.

There are 500 bikes stations around the city for quick trips of up to 30 minutes. As for the bikes themselves, their design makes them a “sort of robust tank of a bike,” says Holly Houser, executive director of the nonprofit Pronto Cycle Share, which is running Seattle’s bike share program.

“It’s an upright-style bike, so you don’t have that issue of it not fitting people because you’re leaning forward too far,” Houser said.

How It Works

Bike sharing, which began in Amsterdam in the mid-‘60s, has become popular in China as well as U.S. cities like San Francisco and New York. Here’s how it works here. Each station has a touchscreen kiosk, map and a bike docking system. 

Houser says anyone can buy a 24-hour or three-day pass at the kiosk and hop on a bike, or invest in an annual membership.

“Bike share is really meant for short trips. We really want to encourage people to use these bikes as sort of a last mile connector, go to the grocery store, run errands, rather than a bike you would rent and take for a recreational ride around town,” she said.

That works for Jocelyn Beresford Carnell. She mostly walks and takes the bus, but bike sharing gives her more options and around the clock access.

“And I manage a blues club, so my hours are just awry all the time.  Late nights, so the fact that they’re 24/7 makes it really convenient,” Carnell said.

With that, she clicked on a helmet, and pedaled off. As soon as the pedals were in motion, her bike's lights came on.

The bike share program means 500 more bikes on the streets of Seattle, and with that comes new riders. If you’re hesitant about hand signals and bike lanes, you can take classes to bone up on urban biking. Or in a pinch, read the safety tips spelled out on the handlebars.