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Murray announces plans for big Pronto expansion at annual Bike Month Breakfast

Connect Downtown members present Mayor Ed Murray with 1,000 postcards in support of more downtown protected bike lanes
Connect Downtown members present Mayor Ed Murray with 1,000 postcards in support of more downtown protected bike lanes

Mayor Ed Murray announced early plans for a big expansion of Pronto Cycle Share to bring the system to more Seattle neighborhoods, especially to low-income neighborhoods where access to a working bicycle is a major barrier.

“It’s not gonna be easy, and we’re gonna need help from the Federal government,” Murray said to the crowd gathered downtown for the annual Bike Month Breakfast hosted by Cascade Bicycle Club. There were no further specifics on the plan, but stay tuned.

The idea came in part from conversations Murray and SDOT Director Scott Kubly have had recently with leaders of minority and refugee groups who, Murray said, were not excited about further Bike Plan investments. Murray challenged bike organizations and the bike and environmental movement in general to work hard to expand diversity in membership and leadership.

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There is one key front where bike/walk leadership is way ahead: Women. Though membership and participation rates for cycling remain heavily male, nearly every Executive Director of a locally-based biking and walking advocacy organization is a women. Cascade Executive Director Elizabeth Kiker gave a shout out to Cathy Tuttle (Seattle Neighborhood Greenways), Barb Chamberlain (WA Bikes), Lisa Quinn (Feet First), Deb Salls (Bike Works), Jessica Szelag (Commute Seattle) and Rebecca Saldaña (Puget Sound Sage), then she referred to Rob Johnson (Transportation Choices) as the “token man.”

Major Taylor Project grad Brook Negussie (now a UW student) was the MC for the night and talked about how empowering the program as for him. And Cascade Diversity & Inclusion Director Ed Ewing said they plan to continue growing the program this year. But there’s still so much more bike advocates can do to welcome and empower everyone through safe streets and bicycling.

During the keynote, Lisa Brandenburg of Seattle Children’s spoke about all the work her organization has done to promote biking to work, which has succeeded in reaching an eight percent bike commute rate. That’s way higher than the city average (about four percent) and really impressive for a campus outside the Seattle city center.

But she went beyond just bragging about their awesome bike center. She also connected the value of biking to work to issues their patients face every day. The number one issue patients at Seattle Children’s face now is asthma. And growing research is showing the connection between air pollution and lung infections that can be dangerous for kids with cycstic fibrosis, she said. Biking is part of the way we can improve the air we and our children breathe.

She also pointed out that if every workplace in Seattle was able to get their drive-alone commute rates down to Seattle Chidren’s goal of 30 percent (they’re not too far), “traffic congestion would be a thing of the past.”

Davey Oil gets an award!

IMG_0198I was so excited to see Davey Oil or G&O Family Cyclery get recognized for “showing exceptional leadership in improving lives through bicycling.” Formerly the head of adult programs at Bike Works, Oil started G&O with Tyler Gillies in 2013. The shop has had a transformative effect on family biking in the city, which has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years.

But I’m not at all surprised by how effective G&O has been at making family and cargo biking seem welcoming and fun because Davey is basically just a transformative person to meet and know. He was there when I wrote my first ever story about biking in Seattle (a story about Bike Works for Real Change), and his enthusiasm and respect for the people he meets was one reason I felt drawn to dedicate so much of my time diving deeper into this whole biking in Seattle thing.

It’s also why my fiance Kelli and I asked him to officiate our wedding!

Anyway, I’ll stop gushing. Congrats, Davey!

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18 responses to “Murray announces plans for big Pronto expansion at annual Bike Month Breakfast”

  1. Billy

    So basically the Mayor reiterated what we already knew?

  2. Marge Evans

    I’d be pleased if they expanded Pronto to
    West Seattle.

  3. Andres Salomon

    Rob Johnson may be getting a new job, of course. If he ends up being elected to City Council, that leaves a spot at Transportation Choices to be filled by any gender.

  4. Elizabeth_Kiker

    Davey Oil is officiating at your wedding! Wonderful! Thanks for being there this morning, and thanks for a great write up.

  5. Patrick

    A well-deserved recognition for Davey.
    I met him at Bike Works’ volunteer repair parties – great guy and great advocate for bicycling.

  6. Adam

    I’m still highly skeptical of Pronto expanding to more neighborhoods when its current coverage area has such dispersed station density. Would it not be better in the long run for them to first focus on building out the areas where they can produce the most revenue and only then think about expanding to lower density areas?

    Wanting to serve lower income areas is great, but I want to see them do it without compromising Pronto’s long-term financial feasibility.

    And I presume there was no talk about abolishing the helmet law? Can’t alienate Seattle Children’s when they’re one of the keynote speakers.

    1. Kingsley Robson

      Agree heavily with focusing on revenue production for pronto. I’d really hate to see it lose a ton of money, giving naysayers the ability to say ‘it doesn’t work’ thanks to not running it like a business.

      I already see prontos outside the network (esp. fremont) pretty regularly – clearly the demand exists there.

      1. SGG

        I saw some Prontos at Alki the other day. I was kind of surprised. The stadiums seem like a big opportunity that for whatever reason has not been considered yet.

      2. Pretty much all bikeshare systems lose money if you only count user fees as income. The only place they come close to making that money back is with short term rentals from tourists. So Pronto could increase their revenue if they put bikes in places tourists want to visit: Pioneer Square, Myrtle Edwards, UW, Gasworks, Fremont, Ballard. Unfortunately, none of these are low income neighborhoods any more. A Fremont-to-Ballard Pronto Pub Crawl could be a daily event in the summer.

        If the focus is on supporting low income households then SE Seattle is the place to invest. If the focus is on making money then along the Burke Gilman between U Village and Ballard is the place to invest.

      3. Stadiums? Stadiums?!?

        One of the things bike share is not good at is moving masses of people in the same direction at the same time. At the stadiums bikes would converge from all corners of the city before the game and find no place to dock. The bikes people managed to dock at the stadiums would stagnate during the game (this is different from downtown during the workday, where Pronto bikes can fulfill real circulation needs, both for people that rode in on Pronto and those that didn’t). Then after the game nearby docks would get totally cleared out by people leaving, and a bunch of people wouldn’t be able to find one. Each stage of this would be a failure.

        Maybe (maybe) bike share could help at a stadium in a neighborhood with other stuff going on, like Wrigley Field (despite current ownership’s shortsighted campaign to buy up more land for stadium-auxiliary purposes). Our stadiums aren’t there, and the infrastructure (roads, rails, ramps, and how they relate to street level) just won’t allow it.

        I’m not that surprised when I see Pronto bikes at Alki or in Fremont, but the people that rode them there might be surprised when they see the charges!

      4. Joe

        Pronto sets up temporary super-stations at the stadiums during events. This is a relatively easy problem to solve.

  7. Ellie

    Pronto in southeast Seattle would definitely be a game-changer for low-income transportation access. (I wonder if they are considering doing anything to be inclusive of people without debit/credit cards; wasn’t NYC looking into partnerships with service providers to make this possible with CitiBike?)

    And it makes sense as part of a connected transit network for everyone: I dream of Pronto + light rail. (Since it has its own signal timing and travel “lanes”, light rail is so much more efficient than buses, but if you live further than a mile or so from a station, it’s tough.)

    Or, imagine renting a Pronto for Bicycle Sunday! In the meantime, I wish they would do pop-up Pronto stations for a few Sundays, so that folks without bikes can participate in Seattle’s most friendly, carefree and accessible biking opportunity.

  8. Congratulations Davey! This was my favorite Bike Everywhere/Bike to Work Breakfast to date. I haven’t heard Mayor Murray speak many times so maybe this isn’t new, but I was impressed by his appreciation of making biking in Seattle work for all ages and abilities.

    I can even imagine a day where there are zero spandex jokes at the breakfast! Maybe.

  9. […] Murray announced yesterday an intent to expand Pronto Cycleshare “citywide”. While I applaud greater access, let’s hope that the fundamental station density that makes […]

  10. The existing Pronto station layout followed what I always thought was a somewhat misguided “heat map” study that ignored Seattle’s special layout (hills, water, few quiet side streets in downtown) and didn’t have a clear problem it was trying to solve other than: “We want bikeshare too!”

    Here is my recommended rollout plan for truly useful bikeshare that benefits low-income neighborhoods:

    Have a large Pronto “hub” station within one block of every link light rail station and another 10-12 within a 2 mile radius of each hub station.

    One problem bikeshare should be focused on solving is the “last mile” problem which exists in the neighborhoods but decidedly NOT downtown. Adding hub and spoke stations centered on linked light rail would:

    1) truly help with the “last mile” problem
    2) improve support for light rail
    3) provide real transportation options for low income people in SE Seattle
    4) put Pronto bikes in neighborhoods with networks of “quiet streets” where more people would be willing to bike
    5) provide focus so that we could engage in some “effectiveness monitoring” and use data to decide whether this rollout plan actually helped achieve the targeted goals

    Of course these hub and spoke stations would also create a network of stations throughout SE Seattle residential neighborhoods so that bikes could be used for intra-neighborhood transportation which I suspect would actually be quite useful in Seattle.

    I argued for a “neighborhoods first” plan back in August 2012


    and still believe this is the best plan for Seattle.

    1. RossB

      I agree. Focusing on the Sound Transit stations as well as common, popular bike corridors would solve two problems at once. First, the Sound Transit stations are in the low income neighborhoods. The low income areas that aren’t close to a station (areas like Yesler Terrace) should have service very soon anyway.

      Second, the stations and the bike corridors will greatly increase the popularity of the system. I know bike share is more often used for people who just want to visit some nearby spot, but it can greatly help the “last mile” problem for a huge number of people. Put a big station at Husky Stadium and along the Burke Gilman and you will do both. If you work in Fremont, you can hop on the bike and get lunch in Ballard (or the other side of Fremont). If you live in Fremont, you can ride the bike in the morning, before getting on the train (while someone does the opposite). In a year, this will be the fastest way for a moderately fit person to get from Fremont to Capitol Hill (I know a very fast biker could beat the combination, but everyone else would be faster riding the Burke and then the train).

  11. […] off, we already told you about the 1,000 postcards Connect Downtown leaders Rosalie Daggett and Lindsay Buzzo delivered to Mayor […]

  12. […] to help fund new stations and expand to new neighborhoods were put on hold in spring 2015, when Mayor Murray announced plans to buy Pronto from the non-profit and fund a major expansion (in part, this plan was banking on […]

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