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2014 Pronto Stats: 43,010 miles biked + List of the most popular stations

tumblr_inline_ni6ir4773P1se3we0Pronto launched in mid-October, just as the rain rolled in and temperatures dropped. So we do not yet have a clear picture of how popular Pronto will be during peak biking weather, though this time has given the Pronto team a chance to work out bugs in the system.

But even in rainy weather, people have biked a total of 43,010 miles on Pronto bikes. That is equivalent to biking around the equator once, then getting 3/4 of the way around again, just in a bit over three months.

On the flip side, the system is averaging half a trip per bike per day, a number that they’re gonna need to grow to meet system use in other successful bike share cities. For example, Capital Bikeshare in DC — which has had several years to establish itself and grow — averaged a bit over two rides per bike per day in November, but nearly four rides per bike per day in September (data from the CaBi Dashboard).

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This summer is going to be a big test of Pronto and whether Seattle will fully embrace the concept. It will also be a chance for us to figure out what might be holding riders back, and what effect the county’s rare all-ages helmet law is having on the system. Helmet laws have been known to diminish ridership in bike share systems, though Pronto has tried to lessen this effect by offering free helmet rentals at all stations.

Every station in the top ten most active list is on Capitol Hill or in the city center. No U District station makes the list. This could be because the U District stations are pretty much isolated from the city center (especially since Eastlake is such an unfriendly place to bike), though I am surprised more UW students are not taking advantage of the quick rides around campus. Or maybe they are, but the bustling and dense central neighborhoods simply have far more demand for a quick way to go a short distance.

As expected, it does seem that stations higher up Capitol Hill are more likely to be an origin station than a destination station. This suggests people are more likely to take the bikes downhill than they are to take one up a big hill (though the lack of comfortable bike infrastructure out of downtown could also play a big role. Biking up Pike is a scary experience). But it’s not entirely clear how much elevation plays a role in station use. This would be an awesome data study project for any of you out there who like to do that kind of stuff. Hint hint, wink wink.

Below are some more system stats from Pronto. Notice anything interesting? Let us know in the comments.

  • 5,485 System Users: We had 1,984 annual members sign on along with 3,501 casual users of the system (those who purchased a 24 hour or 3 day pass).
  • 21,026 Total Trips Taken: Averaged out, we’ve had 262 trips per day.
  • 34,931 lbs. of CO2 Reduced: 1,778 gallons of gasoline would emit that same amount of carbon dioxide.
  • 43,010 Total Miles Clocked: We totally made it around the world in 80 days. In fact, we circled the globe 1.72 times. In 80 days. Bam!
  • 1,677,390 Calories Burned: 11,981 cans of cola have the same amount of calories.

So, let’s talk stations. What were the most popular?

Top 10 Origin Stations
(number of trips in parenthesis) 

  1. E. Harrison St. & Broadway Ave E. Group Health Station (849)
  2. Yale Ave N. & John St. REI Station (808)
  3. 3rd Ave. & Pike St. (768)
  4. E. Pine St. & 16th Ave. (747)
  5. Westlake Ave. & 6th Ave. Group Health Station (679)
  6. 11th Ave. & Pine St. (677)
  7. 2nd & Vine St. (676)
  8. 15th Ave. E. & E. Thomas St. Group Health Station (639)
  9. 9th Ave. & Westlake Ave. Group Health Station (601)
  10. Alaskan Way & Clay St. REI Station (571)

Top 10 Destination Stations
(number of trips parenthesis) 

  1. 3rd. Ave & Pike St. (996)
  2. 7th Ave. & Pine St. Seattle Children’s Hospital Station (874)
  3. Yale Ave. N. & John St. REI Station (852)
  4. 9th Ave. & Westlake Ave. Group Health Station (792)
  5. Occidental Ave. S. & S. Washington (790)
  6. Westlake Ave. & 6th Ave. Group Health Station (730)
  7. 2nd Ave. & University St. Sher Kung Memorial Station (703)
  8. Alaskan Way & Clay St. REI Station (674)
  9. E. Harrison St. & Broadway Ave. E. Group Health Station (657)
  10. 1st Ave. & Marion St. (655)

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67 responses to “2014 Pronto Stats: 43,010 miles biked + List of the most popular stations”

  1. Andres Salomon

    Damn, those UDistrict stats are going to make it hard to argue for an expansion into Roosevelt/Ravenna anytime soon.. :(

    1. asdf2

      The reason why the U-district stations haven’t made the top-ten may be because there are not enough stations in and around the U-district to provide enough origin->destination pairs to make Pronto worthwhile.

      Many of the stations that are there are poorly placed. For example, why is the UW med center stations placed in the back, out of site, and useless for trips originating from the bus stops on Pacific St. Why are there no pronto stations at grade level with the Burke-Gilman trail as it passes through campus? Why is the station by the basketball arena located halfway between two bridges over Montlake? And, finally, why is there no station at Montlake/520 to connect the UW to the zillions of buses going across 520.

      I can only hope that when the Montlake triangle construction finishes, some new stations will open that will alleviate these problems.

      1. Jeff Dubrule

        Putting a station at Montlake/520 would be a bit of a disaster. Depending on the time of day, it’ll be totally empty, because a fraction of the people that got off the bus grabbed them.
        Or, worse, at other times, it’ll be entirely full, so you won’t be able to park your bike at it. This will be mitigated once there are stations in Montlake, so there can be a few spots around, but it would’ve been a bad idea to make that station to be one on the edge of the system.

        For the bikeshare system to work, it needs to be mostly a steady-state, without major waves of bikes headed away from some stations and to another one (this is also why a stadium station isn’t going to be super-useful).

  2. Lisa

    I would love to do a data study, but I need more info! Would love it if Pronto posted some more detailed data.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I have a question out to them about this. I’ll let you know what I hear back. Or you can just contact their customer service email, which I bet will direct you to the right person: [email protected]

      1. Breadbaker

        Their customer service has been awesome. I had a simple question about why I couldn’t get a bike one night and got an answer within hours.

      2. We are in the business of doing data analysis and I have been lusting after an opportunity to crunch the Pronto numbers. But I have never gotten a response from anyone about access to the detailed, per station data.

        Given the density of number crunching, data visualization geeks in Seattle I would think it should be a no-brainer for them to provide open access to this data for people in the community to play with.

  3. Matt

    I am not sure if there is a perfect formula for where to put bike share stations, but I hope that it is not just density. Of course, the densest neighborhoods should have bikeshare but I hope the rest of us are not excluded just based on that. For instance, I live in Interbay/Magnolia and I would use the bikeshare all the time in order to get to the D line, which is 1.5 miles from my condo. I think in many cases it is the neighborhoods that are not serviced as well by public transit and less walkable that could benefit the most from the bikeshare. Maybe I am just being selfish here, but I just hope it expands everywhere in the city in the end. Only putting it in Capitol Hill that has a disconnected bike network to rest of the city and the best walking/public transit options is probably not going to give us the rest results.

    1. RossB

      I agree. They should consider two things, besides just density. The first is completing the “last mile”, when it comes to public transportation (your situation is a great example of this). The second is the existing bicycle infrastructure. The Burke Gilman is one example, but there are other bike paths that would be surprisingly popular for bike sharing. The best combination, in my opinion, is Fremont and Ballard. The Burke Gilman is a very safe, very easy bike route. It makes sense to ride bikes like these on that kind of path. The U-District is not only dense, not only a destination, but is also a major public transportation hub. Buses from all over go there, but especially from the north end. Pretty soon, a fast, frequent train will connect the UW with Capitol Hill and downtown. This means that the fastest way to get from Capitol Hill to Fremont will be to take the train, then take a bike. Likewise, if you are trying to get from Roosevelt or Maple Leaf to Fremont, it makes sense to take the 73, then ride a bike.

  4. Cheif

    I love what pronto is but it’s really too bad that their bikes fit such a limited range of rider heights. A lot of the people I know who would otherwise use the program are either too tall (6 feet or over) or too short (under 5’4″) to comfortably use the bikes.
    Good job actually making it happen though, I love seeing the bike stations around town and I usually give people I see using them a ding of the bell.

    1. daihard

      I’m not sure I agree about the Pronto bike size. I’m 5′ 5″ and can ride a Pronto bike without any problem. I set my saddle height to “8,” meaning the bike can accommodate a much shorter rider as far as the saddle height is concerned. Likewise, my co-worker is 6′ 1″ and has no problem riding one, either. We work downtown and use Pronto to go to Chinatown for lunch twice a week. We’ve never experienced any discomfort or awkwardness riding Pronto bikes.

      1. Cheif

        As someone who is 6’1″, I’m going to have to disagree with your co worker. Using a pronto bike with the seat maxed out feels like riding a bike designed for a much smaller person, complete with knee pain after the short interval the bike share was designed for. I own and use bikes fitted for my personal size and in comparison the pronto bikes are clearly inadequate.

      2. Lisa

        I think it has a lot to do with personal preference- I’m 5’8″ and I ride a Pronto with the seat ALL the way up. But I also ride my personal bike with the seat way higher than others do.

    2. Drew

      I’m 6’2 and ride Pronto every day to work. Yes, it doesn’t feel like my bike — more like a beach cruiser — but it fits fine.

  5. Zach Shaner

    I understand why they wouldn’t want to post this, but I’d be equally interested in the least used stations too. Ideally those could be repurposed elsewhere, maybe on a semi-annual basis or something.

    But I’m doing my part for the most used stations at least. Most of my trips are from Broadway/Harrison (#1 pick up) to 7th/Pine (#2 drop off).

  6. Virchow

    Great stuff as always.

    I must once again protest about the fixation on the bike helmet law. Establishing a norm of wearing helmets is a public health victory. As a father, I want helmets to be the norm, like wearing a seat belt, not something that I have to nag my kids to take on. As a medical student, I am happy to see one less reason for people to sick and dying in ICUs with tubes coming from mouth, head and veins.

    Here is a excerpt from a 2002 statement for the American College of Surgeons (its one bullet point from a much longer list):
    “- Bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent. Bicyclists hospitalized with head injury are 20 times more likely to die as those without head injury.”

    -“98 percent of bicyclists killed were not wearing a helmet at the time of injury. Helmet use is estimated to prevent 75 percent of cycling deaths.”

    I think bike helmets are the compliment to all of the surface infrastructure we promote and struggle for. If we are trying to get to “zero deaths” in Seattle, it seems pretty clear to me that bike helmets are a part of that solution, not some sort of hindrance to Pronto’s business plan. It seems that this blog would promote the installation of a crosswalk if that were to save only one life, shouldn’t this logic be applied to our standards of user behavior (ie helmet laws and other safety regulations)?

    1. Virchow

      the link to the Surgeon’s statement for those interest in more info or refuting my argument: https://www.facs.org/about-acs/statements/38-bicycle-safety

      1. Ints

        my incompetence with tags made most of my post the link to the article about the Swedish approach to vision zero. Click on any of it and you will get to the article.


      2. Virchow

        So I guess I don’t see how if have evidence wearing helmets reduces deaths and improved street design improves safety that we should not do both.

        I think there is both an onus on the individual and the system to create safety. There should be some redundancy in the system, sometimes that comes from the individual.

        If I am missing some good data that bike helmets are not safety enhancers, please correct me.

    2. Brian

      I don’t want this thread about Pronto to turn into a helmet debate, but…
      Please recognize that for every study you cite, there is another saying “no effect” and another saying that helmet laws drive down bicycle use leading to a net negative effect on public health. So calling the law a “public health victory” is not the obvious or evidence-supported conclusion that your comment suggests. For example, the CDC and NHTSA no longer cite that 85% figure because it can’t be replicated and there is conflicting evidence.
      So, everyone is (or, in King County, should be) entitled to make their own risk decision about helmet use. But the statement in this blog post is referencing the documented negative effect that helmet requirements have had on other bike share projects. It’s a real issue to discuss, and the jury is still out on it.

      1. Brian

        …and if I’m going to start applying standards to user behavior, I’m going to look first at the users that are causing the harm, not the victims of the harm. That is, I’m mandating 20 mph restrictions on all motor vehicles in city limits, no right on red, etc.

    3. If I need surgery I’ll call a surgeon. If I want an analysis of public policy I’ll call someone that understands policy and statistics and truly intends to seek the truth rather than just defend their status quo position.

      The medical profession in general has no particularly great understanding of traffic safety. It tends to focus on personal equipment to the exclusion of all other factors in safety… that’s fine to some degree when it comes to recommending things to individuals, but in a discussion of public policy there are lots of other things in play. Many hospitals insist that new parents leave the building with a car seat for their infant (even if the parents don’t own a car), but are they conspicuous in the movement for safe streets? Are they conspicuous in educating drivers on avoiding collisions? Are they conspicuous in the environmental movement, insisting that on California’s “air alert” days we tell people to pollute less, not to breathe less? No? But they want to talk about bike helmet regulations?

      The medical profession needs to get a sense of perspective and then get back in line.

      1. Virchow

        I don’t think that providing risk ratios for helmets vs. not represents any sort of overreach. I am just trying to make a point that I think it makes sense that helmets improve safety and that there is evidence for that.

        I think the socio-legal and cultural infrastructure of safety is just as important as the physical infrastructure.

        And I don’t appreciate being told to “get back in line” I think every deserves a voice in this without being shouted down if they can convey their ideas respectfully.

      2. daihard

        I agree that helmets improve safety in very limited situations – namely when you hit your head hard enough that the lack of a helmet would result in a severe injury but the presence of one would prevent it. How often does that happen? Is the probability high enough to justify a mandatory helmet law? If not, why not promote helmet for the pedestrians?

      3. Don’t play dumb. You know that when you enter a discussion with, “As a medical student,” you’re attempting to use your credentials, your (pending) membership in a respected profession, to give your argument greater weight, as doctors and hospitals and their representatives tend to do. So naturally, “as a medical student,” you’re going to quote some paper written on behalf of surgeons. Not anyone with experience or knowledge germane to the policy question, but surgeons, because if you’re a surgeon you don’t actually have to listen to the evidence that bike share without helmet laws is ludicrously safe, and that there are far more important things to regulate for traffic safety than helmet use, because you’ve seen brains spilling out of someone’s skull.

        That’s bull, and we all know it. Quit using irrelevant medical credentials to avoid confronting the real issues.

      4. d.p.

        Precisely. The above statistics rise to the level of fraud in the context of this discussion, and the medically credentialed continue to shamelessly evoke “authority” in order to perpetual their particular pet fraud.

        98% of cyclist deaths not wearing helmets? I can’t even begin to imagine how you’d have to warp your statistics to suggest such a thing. Last year’s multiple deaths-while-helmeted in Seattle might alone be sufficient to contradict that percentage. (One document suggested that such statistics are percentages of cases in which helmet presence or absence is reported — something doctors only jot down about 1/3 of the time, invariably when trying to blame injury severity on helmet absence.)

        Such statistics also seem publicized in order to push a correlation narrative between unhelmeted riding and risky cycling behaviors. But the far stronger correlation-perhaps-causation is between bike-share vehicles and relatively cautious riding, as evidenced by the astonishingly low number of serious bike-share accidents anywhere on earth, despite hundreds of millions of trips and very low rates of helmet usage.

        To me, this suggests that the use of low-center-of-gravity upright bikes, and the tendency of low-speed short-trippers to be less concerned with maintaining high speeds or conserving momentum, more than compensates for (if not makes entirely irrelevant) the slim spectrum of conditions for which helmets are effective.

        As long as the medical establishment, and the Washington State medical establishment in particular, persists in lying-and-misapplying to this debate, they must be persistently called out on their lying and misapplying.

  7. RDPence

    Huge and ingrained limitation of Pronto is you are restricted to riding to destinations where another bike station is located. Want to go somewhere else, you’re out of luck.

  8. LWC

    My experience with U District stations is that there are simply not enough of them. If I’m going from, say, the Allen Center to PACCAR Hall, the extra walk to and from the nearest stations more than cancels out the time saved by biking between them. In a place where so many of the trips are so short already, bike share will only make sense if the stations are much closer to all the possible destinations.

    The biggest missed opportunity in the area, in my opinion, is the 520/Montlake bus stop. I’d be willing to wager that a new Pronto dock there would easily surpass the numbers of any current U District dock with mixed-mode commuters.

    1. RossB

      I agree. We need a dock there, and we need a dock by the Husky Rail Station as soon as it opens.

    2. asdf2

      There are also no docks at Red Square, or by the duck pond, or anywhere near any of the bus stops along Pacific St. To pick up a Pronto from the UW med center, you half to go out of your way, to the back of the building, to pick up the bike. Much better would be to walk across the bridge over Pacific St., then pick up the bike when you hit campus.

  9. SashaBikes

    The other day, my partner and I had bused to an event that ended late. Buses were few and far between at that point, and we looked up Pronto as there was one close to us… but there were no docking stations near where we live in Frellard. We would have been willing to walk the half-mile/mile if a Pronto station had been in either neighborhood hub, instead we walked several miles, and I put up with the moaning and groaning of someone who ordinarily lives on a bike. I really wish Pronto would consider investing in some stations just north of the canal! Though we’d be more of the occasional user (given how we’re outnumbered by bikes at our house), I’m sure it would be a great way to reach a lot of people.

    1. Breadbaker

      One thing to consider when that happens is that you might be able to use a Pronto to catch up to a bus, if there are stations along your bus route but not the whole way. Obviously, this is less likely if your bus route is straight and it’s night with no traffic, but if your route stops a lot and turns a lot it might work. From where I work, my route home by walking three blocks to a Pronto station and then biking to where I can pass and get on the bus has saved me a long wait for the next bus a couple of times already.

    2. RossB

      I agree. This has to be the most common suggestion (adding stations along the Burke Gilman). Even in the U-District there are only a handful along the Burke. I would have a station on Brooklyn or the Ave (or both). Then I would add a few along the way (maybe Latona and Gasworks) but definitely several stations in Fremont as well as Ballard, and several in between.

  10. RossB

    I’m not surprised much by the data. This is what I guessed would happen (although downtown is a bit more popular than I expected). It is pretty easy to see the general trend when you consider the bike routes:

    Downtown — Downtown is a fairly scary place to bike. It is steep to the east, so it only makes sense to go to downtown, rather than away from it. It is easy to keep up with cars when you are headed down a steep hill. Going north-south makes sense, but that is also where the buses go. It also means more time spent on very busy streets. One exception is from South Lake Union, where the buses are often stuck in traffic, so a bike rider can probably cruise right by everyone.

    Capitol Hill — I could tell this area would be very popular. There are nice, quiet plateaus that are easy to ride with plenty of destinations. The buses aren’t that frequent, either, so the bikes have a huge advantage (unlike north-south through downtown).

    UW — The biggest reason the UW has such poor numbers has already been mentioned — it is isolated. Biking through campus could save a few minutes, but there are already free bikes there. Besides, walking is very fast and easy. The campus is fairly compact, and fairly hilly. For trips just inside the UW, I don’t think it is worth it. Not that many people want to go to Children’s Hospital, apparently (or they already have bikes for that purpose).

    As far as improvements:

    It makes sense to extend this south and east of Capitol Hill (to the rest of the Central Area). This would take advantage of the plateau. I think you would get high numbers there.

    It also needs to extend to Fremont. This would provide a much needed transportation link. The UW is both a major destination and a major hub. Buses come from all over the area, and light rail is about to serve it is as well. In all cases, the fast, frequent public transportation intersects the Burke Gilman. This means that you can combine the two for very fast, very safe, very easy transport. For example, in a year the fastest way to get from Capitol Hill to Fremont will be to take the train, then take a bike. But it isn’t just that trip, of course. From the UW it is difficult to get to areas like Maple Leaf, Northgate or Lake City on a bike. But buses go from the UW to those areas all the time. So again, the fastest way to go from Maple Leaf to Fremont could easily involve taking a bus, then riding a bike. When you consider that the transfer time is often the worst part of a trip like that (because our buses don’t run frequently enough) it just makes sense to combine a bike with a bus in this way.

    It makes sense to add Ballard as the missing link is fixed, if not sooner. There are plenty of destinations in Ballard or between Ballard and Fremont, and there are plenty of office workers in Fremont. Again, the Burke Gilman makes this all very easy and fairly safe.

  11. William Wilcock

    262 trips per day is pretty pathetic. That means the annual members are using less than one time per week.

    1. Andres Salomon

      I wonder how many annual members are like me – excited by the concept, but lacking any stations in their neighborhood..

      1. daihard

        Why did you sign up, knowing there weren’t any stations near you?

      2. LWC

        I mainly signed up because I support the concept, and hope that it will be expanded to be more useful to me. I’ve ended up using it more than I originally anticipated, though it’s not nearly as useful to me as it could be with a few strategically added stations (Fremont Bridge and Montlake/520 intersection foremost among them).

      3. Andres Salomon

        What LWC said. I do occasionally use it downtown (mostly to skip buses stuck in traffic), but I probably average about a ride a month or so.

      4. daihard

        Okay. I signed up mainly to support the program, too. I live near Northgate and have no Pronto stations near home, but I do get to use it once or twice a week as I work downtown where they have plenty of stations. :)

      5. Andy

        I’m an annual member and have literally never used it.
        I worked downtown when I signed up, but no longer do. It’s nice knowing that I could hop on if the opportunity arises, though, and the membership is so cheap I can’t really complain.
        I’ve got this swell helmet though!

      6. Jeff Dubrule

        That’s me… I did take a Pronto last night, but it was my first ride in months.

    2. jay

      While you are certainly correct that 262 trips per day is pathetic (though allowing for the season only moderately pathetic). On the other hand, annual members using the system less than once a week is good for Pronto (much more less is even better) Pronto gets the money but don’t have wear and tear on the hardware, or probably more importantly, rebalancing. Bike share programs generally lose money on annual users. At the current, $85/annual, $8/day rate, one is ahead using an annual membership even just one day a month. Even paying the new CityBike rate of $149, one would still be well ahead at one day per week. (that $149 doesn’t even include helmet use in NYC)
      If one really wanted to support the concept, one could buy an annual membership, and “forget” the key at home and then pay the day rate when one did want to ride a Pronto bike!
      BTW, today (the 15th) is/was the last day to get a free helmet with an annual membership. All the more reason to use an annual membership infrequently, that helmet cleaning , inspecting, and replacing has got to cost money. (In Melbourne, I believe the helmets are provided by the government, not Motivate (formerly Alta) and they are neither cleaned nor inspected.)

      1. Adam

        They may not get the wear and tear on the hardware, but they miss out on the advertising of people seeing the bikes when they’re out getting used.

        And count me in the camp of people who bought an annual membership primarily to support them even though with they’re deployment I knew that I’d rarely use them. Until they fill in their current area more and expand to new areas (and the city builds better bike infrastructure), usage by me will remain rare.

      2. d.p.

        I fear that Jay above, as well as those pushing a tourist-oriented focus below, have woefully misinterpreted the best-practice bikeshare model that is proven to thrive if implemented correctly.

        As with any transit system, the paramount mark of success (and most stable source of revenue, and greatest evidence of scalability and expansion prospects) takes the form of a broad “buy-in” from the general public: lots of people who live, work, or routinely find themselves within the service area, purchasing lots of long-term unlimited-use access, and then making lots of routine trips until your system is such a ubiquitous part of the mobility landscape that its use is seen as essentially unremarkable.

        So no, it is not an advantage to see low average use by paying members: it is evidence that the system/service area are not useful enough for enough people on a regular enough basis, and that you risk a high percentage of non-renewals at the end of the year. Such an outcome paradoxically discourages expansion, even where expansion would likely increase utility. (This is why it is so important to debut with a strong and logical core service area, which Pronto failed to do, instead grossly distorting the roll-out on the basis of a few dollars from Children’s.)

        Furthermore, while much-higher tourist prices play an important role in subsidizing the relatively-low “buy-in” price for locals, it is likely to be cost-prohibitive enough to suppress usage by visitors without three days worth of extensive needs across the service area. Thus, bike-share remains a tiny niche even within the tourist market. Add to that the seasonal spikes in tourist demand — far spikier than for locals’ needs — and the reason that tourists are not emphasized by the most successful bike-shares become self-evident.

        (Also, it is worth noting that short-term Pronto prices are actually higher than in peer cities, which combined with the odd service area almost eradicates the likelihood of providing value to most visitors.)

        Though I use Boston and New York’s bikeshares extensively when in those cities (taking advantage of, um, “loaner” fobs), I’ve still yet to be on a Pronto bike in the city in which I live. The service area is simply too arbitrary to promise me $85 worth of use in the next year. I keep hoping for a 3-day period where I have sufficient errand needs across downtown to justify the short-term price, but thus far no such needs have arisen.

        I live fifty feet from the Burke-Gilman, in the dead center of a major “urban village”, and Metro (infamously) drives me batty. I should be Pronto’s target customer. That I am not should give assessors of Pronto’s progress real pause about the implementation of the program so far.

  12. […] check out Seattle Bike Blog’s commentary and keep an eye out for upcoming events and challenges for Pronto Members. The prize for […]

  13. Eli

    Not surprised by the low usage/adoption if you put out the bike share before building out almost any modern infrastructure.

    Among my Cap Hill neighbors, the only people who use bike share are the strong and confident minority who would have already been biking anyway.

    I live a block away from a station and have lots of weekly destinations near stations, but until there are bike routes that feel safe, I take the bus or walk.

    Looks like 2017-2018 is when they will have built out the infrastructure for it to be useful in Cap Hill. Hopefully it’ll still be in business by then.

    1. daihard

      I would qualify the first statement with “in the U.S.”

      Big cities in Japan have little or no bike infrastructure, but the rate of people who bike daily is very high. I’ve also read someone mention on a bike forum that it’s the same with a few German cities, including Munich.

      I’d suspect other things we can do – lowering the speed limits in town, educating the drivers, and getting rid of the mandatory helmet law – would be just as effective in attracting more people to use Pronto, if not more.

      1. Eli

        I’m not sure I’d agree with that caveat.

        I’ve lived in Europe (and Japan) and spent significant time in Munich and Berlin. Cities that have lots of people bicycling there by choice, despite dedicated infrastructure, have slow speeds that effectively make streets into bike infrastructure. 18 mph is the European standard human-scale streets.

        Free helmets are available at stations, and I have yet to see a single case study of “educating drivers” leading to meaningful behavioral change in isolation.

      2. daihard

        Looks like we do agree that it’s not just good bike infrastructure that persuades more people to bicycle as a mode of transport. You mentioned lower speed limits. That’s definitely one of the things I’d propose if I were the mayor of Seattle. I’d reduce the speed limit in the city centre to 20 MPH (and enforce it). That alone should make it a lot more comfortable for the tourists and casual cyclists to ride in the downtown area.

        As for the Pronto helmets, I don’t think they will remain free forever. Even if they did, it would still be a hassle to have one on for a short and slow ride. You said you’ve lived in Europe and Japan. You must have seen 99 percent of the cyclists in those areas riding without a helmet.

      3. Adam

        I also lived in Japan for a few years in addition to spending a few months biking in Europe.

        It’s not just as simple as lowering speed limits. The low speeds in Japan are a direct result of land use policies.

        In Seattle we have roads that start out needlessly wide and built to move cars, so to protect people walking we widen the right of way and put a sidewalk in then segregate them even more from traffic by using more space to put in a planting strip then we designate minimum setbacks because we need a buffer from the sidewalk-buffered roads because we need to have more green space and don’t want to be too close to the noise and danger of the road, and because the road is wide people drive fast, so now need to put dedicated cycling infrastructure in.

        Now because we’ve wasted so much space things are further apart, making it impractical to easily walk and bike places, so we need to widen the road more and make it so people can drive faster so they spend less time getting to places that are far apart, and because people are driving more we need more parking which takes up a ton of space which results in people needing to drive even further and even faster, so we need to widen the roads more and… Abracadabra… We made the United States of America! USA! USA!

        In many places in Japan they skip most of this BS and just make the streets narrow and buildings close together. Wham bam, thank you, ma’am. Narrow roads and close buildings mean people can walk and bike most places, and when people do drive on the roads they’re so narrow that they naturally drive slowly.

        People in the US are stupid, people in Seattle are stupid, and it really pisses me off.

      4. d.p.

        Your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs constitute the single best summation I’ve ever seen of how American cities got to be this way.

      5. Adam


        Being back in the US/Seattle after being abroad for so long, this pisses me off so much. People complain about traffic and a lackluster transit system and poor bicycle infrastructure, but it really all comes down to dumb land use policies. Pretty much every transportation problem we have is a result of idiotic and self-defeating land use policies.

  14. Marlan Kay

    In the other cities that have bikeshare programs, is there a sense for how much tourists use these bikes? If I was a visitor to Seattle, I’d be all up for renting one of the Prontos to go explore.

    If tourists are at all a target (now or eventually), it seems like a few places would be ripe for stations. I could see Green Lake & Alki stations being used all the time, and stations at the Locks, Fremont, Gas Works, and elsewhere along the Burke Gilman would be helpful too. Though those’d of course be used by everyone else too.

    I’m guessing tourist biking on Prontos would especially take off if the Myrtle Edwards/Interbay/Elliott Bay trails were more comfortably connected to the Ship Canal & Alki trails, but hopefully we’ll get there.

    1. Kirk

      I was thinking the same, that tourists might be a big user of Pronto. It didn’t surprise me to see low usage at the UW, I would think that anyone that wanted to use a bike would have one of their own to use. Which is why I personally don’t see myself using Pronto at all, I have plenty of bikes (and cars…). But if I’m visiting another city, I love to rent a bike to explore. When the Westlake bike project gets done (haven’t seen any updates on that for awhile), downtown to Fremont and beyond is flat and would be a perfect tourist trip.
      As far as the helmet law, it would make perfect sense to keep it intact, and just exempt anyone on a Pronto bike. And the rationale seems sound to do that, as I think the statistic is that no one has ever died on a bike share bike (?).

  15. […] Pronto is 3 months old. How’s it doing? Pretty well in Capitol Hill and Downtown, less so in Eastlake and the UDistrict. […]

  16. I Prontoed to a lunch date with my lovely wife yesterday. As I was crossing Mercer, a fellow I didn’t know raised his hand and we high fived. That was awesome.

    I’m a member and ride a couple times a month. I’m hoping more stations open close to grocery stores, which would allow me to shop without using my cars.

    Stations along the Burke-Gilman or at Green Lake are excellent ideas. We’ve got great recreational cycling to share with visitors.

  17. Patrick

    I’ll add to the comments about the U-District (not enough stations; poorly placed stations) that all UW students have a U-PASS, included in their tuition as a mandatory fee. A lot of short trips within the U-District are taken by bus (particularly uphill!) for ‘free’, so it’s hard to imagine paying an extra fee to walk out of one’s way to ride a bike.

  18. Marley

    I’m doing my part- 47 trips so far and counting! It’s become my daily commute, even in the rain. Those fenders are the best, and so much better than the bus that’s always late.

  19. RDPence

    Pronto’s usefulness is constrained by the fact that your only useful destinations have to be near another bike station, at least if you don’t want to pay premium/penalty rates for keeping the bike movie than 30 minutes.

  20. I’m hoping Pronto takes off during warmer months. Seems great for visitors to Seattle, as I have found it to be in Denver and D.C.

    One data set that I would like to see studied and made public, especially for the downhill run from Capitol Hill, is the truck mileage and fuel use required to reposition the bikes. Unless they get back uphill on their own on a Metro bus, like that dog that rides around downtown on its own, this could be a significant factor in the environmental cost/benefit analysis for a system that is not used intensively.

    1. daihard


      I’m also curious about the cost of redistributing the bikes. I’d suspect most, if not all, Pronto bikes ridden from Capitol Hill to the city centre will be carried back up on a truck. A co-worker and fellow Pronto user suggested that Pronto adopt a pricing structure that charges more for downhill rides – at least for annual members. That way, some of the cost of bike repositioning can be passed onto the users.

    2. I sort of think “extra charge for riding downhill” is in conflict with “yearly membership”, where the point is that you pay a predictable, flat amount per year (except for extraordinary usage). Either way, in order to be fair to people that ride in a roughly balanced way, you’d have to offset the “downhill cruise” charge with an “uphill grunt” credit.

      The underwhelming numbers so far can be rationalized — the system opened into the teeth of rain, cold, and construction — but I bet Pronto is going to have to grow ridership to survive through a full buildout more than it’s going to have to cut costs. That suggests, if anything, they’d want to go with incentives for riding up. Maybe that could be made into a game of some sort. Pronto-green-colored polka-dot jerseys for top net climbers? I’m sure there are other rebalancing issues…

      1. I don’t think there should be different charges for different trips, either. And I believe that Pronto will succeed, if it continually adjusts and expands in ways that foster more use. But bike sharing is promoted as an environmentally beneficial, not just a convenience. That is why data for fuel savings should include the fuel use for repositioning and servicing bikes.
        Pronto touts the fossil fuel savings for miles pedaled: “34,931 lbs. of CO2 Reduced: 1,778 gallons of gasoline would emit that same amount of carbon dioxide. ” [10/13/14 – 12/31/14, from Pronto]. They also log 43,010 bike miles. 43,010 miles / 1,778 gal = 24.2 miles per gallon assumed savings. If it takes a trip in a truck getting 12 mpg that is close to the length of the bike trip miles to reposition a small number of bikes between two stations, there is not much fossil fuel savings going on. Metro buses or Car2Go might use less fuel in some cases. We are investing a lot in this system in street space use and public and private funding. Rigorous analysis will help create a system that justifies the investment. .

      2. daihard

        I’m not sure how accurate or meaningful their fuel and CO2 saving statistics is. My trips don’t save any fuel or CO2 because I took the bus or walked before I signed up for Pronto, and I suspect the number of Pronto users who have switched from driving is pretty small, at least in downtown.

  21. […] can see below how those Pronto Capitol Hill stations stack up against the rest of the city. Seattle Bike Blog breaks down the totals below by origin and destination rankings — Broadway and Harrison, it turns out, is the top place in the city to start a Pronto […]

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