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Pronto starts installing station docks, helmet vending machines won’t be ready for launch

This is not actually Seattle. It's from Bay Area Bike Share, but I assume Seattle's warehouse looks very similar right about now.
This is not actually Seattle. It’s from Bay Area Bike Share, but Seattle’s warehouse probably looks pretty similar right about now.

With just weeks to go before 500 Pronto Cycle Share bikes are scheduled to fill the streets of Seattle, workers will begin installing the 50 station docks this week. This is a big step for the bike share system, and it will be a chance for people to start getting familiar with station locations.

Speaking of locations, you can see them on this map.

But one feature won’t be part of the docks: A fully functional bike helmet vending machine to allow people to rent and return helmets with their bike rentals (read about Pronto’s helmet plans in our previous report). Seattle is pioneering the rental system, but it won’t be ready until next year, Pronto said today in a statement.

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So until then, theoretically-clean helmets will be available for free from an unlocked bin near each station, and users will be on the honor system to return the helmets to the “dirty” bin when they are done with them. Pronto workers will clean and inspect the helmets before restocking the clean bin.

And if you sign up for an annual membership, you’ll get a voucher for a free Pronto helmet of your very own from REI. So while it’s not clear how well the unlocked bin thing is going to work, there will definitely be a whole lot of new helmets going around Seattle next month.

We have argued that Seattle/King County should ditch or at least modify its increasingly rare all-ages helmet law to help ensure the success of Pronto. Or at the very least SPD could downplay enforcement of the law as a primary offense. Very few big cities in the entire world have all-ages helmet laws, and those that had them are ditching them (or modifying them to only apply under 18) to make way for bike share systems.

After dozens of millions of rides in dozens of US cities, not a single person has died while riding a bike share bike. And none of those cities has an all-ages bike helmet law. That’s a remarkable safety record, and all that biking is a boon to public health. While a helmet could save an individual in the case of a crash, there is little clear evidence that all-ages bike helmet laws have much of a public health benefit, if any. And if it impedes bike share’s success, it could end up having a negative public health effect.

That said, Seattle is a helmet-wearing town, and having helmets available with or without the law is probably a good idea since so many people will want them.

Having unlocked bins certainly increases chances of theft and vandalism, and it’s not clear if people will trust a helmet they got from an unlocked bin as much as they might if the helmet came from a vending machine. But we’ll see soon enough because OMG PRONTO LAUNCHES OCTOBER 13!

From Pronto:

Pronto Cycle Share announced today that installation begins this week for the system’s 50 docking stations, on its way to launching Seattle’s bike share program on Oct. 13. Pronto and its operator, Alta Bicycle Share, will install the first station at 9th Avenue and Mercer Street, and will continue installing stations across Seattle as the launch nears.

When Pronto launches next month, it will connect the University District, Eastlake, South Lake Union, Belltown, Downtown, Pioneer Square, the International District, Capitol Hill and First Hill with an initial 500 bikes at its 50 docking stations.

“Excitement is really building now that we’re just weeks from launching bike share in Seattle,” said Holly Houser, executive director of Pronto Cycle Share. “As stations are installed, our growing list of members will start to see exactly how bike share will fit into their transportation routine.”

When the system launches, the stations will feature an interim helmet-distribution solution that provides a rental helmet from self-serve bins free of charge to users. An automated vending machine that will dispense helmets for a small fee will join the system in 2015.

“We’re going to launch with an honor system,” Houser explained. “Riders can check out a free helmet from an unlocked bin at each station, and then return it to a separate used helmet bin at any station when they’ve completed their ride.”

Following each use, Pronto will sanitize and inspect each helmet and return them to stations throughout the city, ensuring that stations remain continually stocked with enough helmets to meet the community’s need.

Annual members will receive a voucher to redeem a free Pronto helmet from REI and other participating retail locations.

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26 responses to “Pronto starts installing station docks, helmet vending machines won’t be ready for launch”

  1. Kristina

    Thanks for the update Tom

  2. […] will not launch with helmet vending machines. Instead, it will use a temporary honor system for members to use and deposit helmets. Annual […]

  3. Greg

    Please add a printable versions of the map with exact bike stations locations.

  4. ChefJoe

    Shouldn’t the bike share stations also come with a rundown of the local rules related to bike riding ? I couldn’t rent a car without having a valid driver’s license.

    1. Mike

      But you can buy a pair of shoes without knowing the laws for pedestrians.

    2. Josh

      I don’t think Pronto should be required to post the rules of the road, but it might be good PR and might be useful for whatever share of riders aren’t already licensed drivers.

      The Pronto web site includes basic rules, surely there’s room to post something like this at each station (from https://www.prontocycleshare.com/riding-tips):

      In Seattle, cyclists must:

      Yield to pedestrians
      Obey traffic lights
      Ride with traffic
      Wear a helmet
      You must be at least 16 years old to ride Pronto.

      Cyclists have all of the rights and duties applicable to drivers of motorized vehicles. Bicyclists are required to use hand signals to let drivers and other cyclists know where they’re going, especially when turning, unless it’s unsafe to do so.

      Cyclists on a sidewalk or public path must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, and give an audible signal before passing.

      Make sure you have a helmet! If you need one, you can rent one at a Pronto helmet kiosk or purchase one at a local retailer.

      1. Josh

        Pronto also says:

        The more predictably you ride, the safer you are.

        Don’t weave in and out of traffic.
        Use hand signals to let drivers and other cyclists know where you’re going.
        Ride about four feet away from parked cars, avoiding “the door zone.”
        Don’t ride distracted. It’s not recommended to ride with both headphones in.
        Tell other riders you’re passing and pass on the left.

        Use marked bike lanes or paths when available, except when making turns or when it is unsafe to do so. If the road is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to travel safely side by side, you have the right to ride in the middle of the travel lane.

        Bicycling is permitted on all main and local streets throughout Seattle, even when no designated route exists.

    3. Kristina

      They might do like the Denver and NYC bike share where really basic rules are written on the stem of the bike.

  5. Mike

    How do you get the free helmet at REI? I’m already registered, and I didn’t get any voucher in my packet.

    1. Andy

      Me neither – I was planning on buying a spare helmet to leave in my office, but if I can get one for free then that’s even better!

  6. […] Our friends at Seattle Bike Blog argue that, helmet vending machines or no, our local helmet laws are in need of change: […]

  7. Kristina

    If you bought an annual membership and already activated your key fob check your online account to see the membership expiration date. My account said an expiration date of September 7, 2015 (because I activated my key fob on 9/7/15) which is less than a year from the launch date. I emailed them about it and they adjusted my membership expiration date to 10/13/15. You need to email them your key fob or account number and date of birth for them to make the change.

    1. TomJohnsonJr

      Kristina, thanks for the tip. My account was dated similarly, so I sent the email you suggested, and floated the idea that they might change all the start dates.

  8. jon

    yeah that unlocked box of helmets isn’t going to work at all, they wont last a few days and the box most likely will be used as a toilet

  9. Andrew Squirrel

    Anyone know what kind of adhesive they will be using to stick the Pronto logos on the Bern Helmets?
    Asking for a friend

    1. jay

      There are reasons to think that headline is misleading, most immediate being the report itself (sans headline)> While the proportion of head injuries to the (decreased) number of total injuries seems to increase a bit, the number of all injuries seems to have gone down.
      Interestingly, the link in this sentence on the page you linked to;
      “In the first study of its kind, researchers from Washington State University and elsewhere found a 14 percent greater risk of head injuries to cyclists associated with cities that have bike share programs”
      gets a 404 error, perhaps the UW doesn’t want to be associated with that press release? (or maybe they just don’t archive that sort of stuff)

      1. ChefJoe

        Try this link, which also links to the actual publication.

        Risk that a bicycle-related injury involved a head injury increased 14 percent after implementation of bike-share programs in several major cities, according to a new study from the University of Washington and Washington State University.
        The study, titled “Public Bicycle Share Programs and Head Injuries,” was published online June 12 in the American Journal of Public Health.

        Researchers looked at the change in the proportion of bicycle-related head injuries before and after the implementation of bike-share programs in five cities in the United States and Canada. They also gathered similar data for five cities that did not have bike-share programs.

        Of all bicycle-related injuries that occurred in bike-share cities during the study period, the proportion that were head injuries rose from 42 percent to 50 percent after bike-share program implementation. No such increase was found in cities without these programs.

        “Our results suggest that bike-share programs should place greater importance on providing helmets so riders can reap the health benefits of cycling without putting themselves at greater risk for injury,” said Janessa Graves, affiliate faculty at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and assistant professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing.

      2. d.p.

        Absolutely, unequivocally, 100% false.


        Total bike-related injuries in (helmetless) bike-share cities declined dramatically.
        Total head injuries declined 14% as well.
        Despite the huge increase in cyclists. Despite the huge increase in miles cycled.

        It’s right there in the study itself, as long as you don’t intentionally warp your conclusions to meet your biases, Seattle-style. “Proportion of total” is such an incredibly irrelevant meta-figure when 14% fewer people are injuring their heads than before!

      3. Gary

        What is interesting is that the distribution changes with more people riding.

      4. d.p.

        It’s not all that interesting, really. It just suggests that the profile and severity of accidents changes when more cyclists are on the road, and when the percentage riding upright bikes significantly increases.

        For all we know, the helmetlessness of bikeshare riders may have nothing to do with who is still getting into head-trauma accidents. We do know, however, that the number of serious injuries of any sort involving bikeshare patrons, worldwide, is nearly zero.

        In fact, it is conceivable that the reason head injuries have dropped less steeply than other forms of injuries is simply that head injuries are correlated with the most severe collisions, and that the “safety in numbers” effect is better at preventing minor crashes than it is at diminishing the effects of truly reckless behavior (by cyclists or drivers).

        But the “study” says nothing about the wheres and whens and vehicle types — or even about the helmetedness — of its form-of-injury data points. Which leaves us only to speculate about those changing proportions.

        Only one presented fact is immutable: head injuries dropped too. Despite all those people riding around without headwear.

      5. Basically, the only way Janessa Graves, affiliate faculty at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and assistant professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing, came up with that conclusion was by writing it before doing the study, then applying it unconditionally to any results.

      6. There’s definitely a perspective in the profession of health care and the advocacy that comes from it, that things like traffic collisions are inevitable and the only thing to be concerned with is how well people are protected in them. Some friends of mine had a baby not too long ago, and the Seattle hospital where she was born sent them home with a care packet and required that they bring a car seat to the hospital for the birth (incidentally they didn’t own a car at the time, but since they got a ride home they got to use it anyway). But not a word was said to them about how they could avoid the likelihood of a serious collision, such as by avoiding the highest-speed roads and most dangerous situations, by driving patiently and defensively.

        In the cycling world we have “infrastructurists” and “behaviorists”, and each stereotypically believes the only true solutions can come through their preferred type of change. In the medical world they have “equipmentists”. Their bias is nearly endemic to their profession, and is not to be ignored simply because of their credentials.

  10. Cheif

    This is either a profound gaffe or brilliant gamble.. History will decide.

  11. […] card at any station to buy an $8 day pass or $16 3-day pass. At least for the first couple months, clean helmets will be available at each station to check out for […]

  12. […] will eventually have helmet rental equipment, but that won’t be available for about six months, so instead the city is loaning helmets on the honor system. The helmets will be sanitized after […]

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