If you buy a 24-hour or three-day pass to use Pronto Cycle Share, you will now have to pay an extra $2 to check out a helmet.
The bike share service activated the locks on their helmet bins today, which now require a key code to open. Previously, the bins were completely unlocked and Pronto users were able to borrow cleaned-and-inspected helmets for free and return them on the honor system.
Pronto reports a relatively low theft rate of about 5 percent. Many of these thefts occurred shortly after the system launched in October. Perhaps everyone looking to snag a free helmet has now done so. Early annual members also received a coupon for a free Pronto helmet to keep, and many of them may have taken it from the bin rather than from the select retail outlets like they were supposed to (*wags finger*).
Of course, the return bins will remain unlocked, so future helmet thieves or people looking to skip the $2 charge can still score a free helmet so long as they’re willing to risk getting your head lice.
Originally, Pronto planned to have helmet vending machines at each station, but there is no “commercially viable helmet-vending machine available in the U.S.,” according to a Pronto press release (read the full release below).
Annual members will get emails periodically telling them the code to continue getting free helmet rentals. They can also find the code in the Members Area of the Pronto website. So that’s one more incentive to become an annual member.
More details about the helmet rental change, from Pronto:
When Pronto Cycle Share launched last fall, it became the first bike-share program in North America to provide helmets at every station. On Wednesday, May 13, following the program’s successful low-tech helmet-distribution system pilot, Pronto is upgrading the system to heighten security and minimize theft. This upgrade will ensure that Pronto can continue to offer convenient access to helmets for all users.
The new helmet solution is the result of a collaborative design process by Pronto and Motivate, the operator of Pronto, along with 8D, the program’s technology vendor. In the absence of a commercially viable helmet-vending machine available in the U.S., the team worked together to create a cost-effective and practical method to distribute helmets at every station, leveraging the available technology from 8D.
“Our pilot system was intended to be temporary, but we’ve found it to be a simple, efficient, cost-effective solution that ensures all users have access to a safe and reliable helmet,” Pronto Executive Director Holly Houser said. “Our long-term solution uses our current infrastructure and upgrades it with additional security to reduce helmet loss. It’s a win all around.”
“We needed to find a way for Pronto to be able to provide on-the-spot helmet access for their riders,” said Motivate CEO Jay Walder. “We think we’ve found a solution that works for Seattle and can be scaled to other cities and sponsors who want to make bike share an even safer and more convenient option.”
Until now, the current set-up relied on an honor system, resulting in relatively low loss rates – an average of less than 5 percent of helmets in the field, according to Pronto. The new solution will require users to enter a code to retrieve a helmet.
Annual members can continue to borrow helmets for free, and will receive a complimentary code to unlock the bins and access a helmet. Short-term users (riders who purchase 24-hour and 3-day passes) can obtain a code to rent a helmet at the kiosk for $2, which they can keep for the duration of the pass period and then return to any station.
Under the new system, helmets will continue to be sanitized and inspected after each use, and Pronto staff will stock and redistribute helmets throughout the day via specially designed bikes equipped with helmet-carrying trailers to ensure enough helmets are always available for system users.