All we’d been hearing for a while about the bike share program was how electric bicycles were on their way. Well, we’d also heard the test bikes people tried needed a little calibrating, but that’s a fairly easy fix, unlike the program itself.
It would be easy to blame Mayor Ed Murray for pulling the plug, since his office sent the news release last Friday, after five but before six, as has become common custom for the city executive when needing to transmit bad news.
But the City Council approved a budget in late November that anticipated Pronto’s end this March. Murray just made it official, adding money that would have gone to its relaunch this year will be going to Safe Routes to School projects, a hard program to complain about.
It’s difficult to understand why the city spent $1.4 million last year to save the bike share program when it seems it might have been cheaper to just pay back the federal funding and scrap Pronto then. It’s not like anything substantial has changed in a year.
Some blame Seattle’s helmet law for killing the program, because who wants to be that weirdo that rents bikes but has to own their own helmet?
We think part of the problem is that the city didn’t go all in on its bike share program from the start. The number of stations are relatively few. Good luck finding any on the north end. No, the city decided to take a risk — twice — and fill in the gaps with federal funding that did not materialize. Had the city invested in a real bike share program, covering all parts of the city and not mostly the central neighborhoods, it might have been more popular.
There are plenty of Seattleites out there that take cycling very seriously; many of these folks don’t even own a car. Can you imagine? There are those cyclists that preach the good word on two-wheeled mobility.
These people know better than anyone that Seattle, for all its work, isn’t as bike-friendly as it needs to be. There are certainly troubled spots where bike lanes struggle to coexist with motorists in a hurry and delivery trucks that block their path.
We’re not sure if brave is the word, but it takes a certain backbone to ride a bike confidently in the more densely packed parts of Seattle.
Murray says letting Pronto die doesn’t preclude the city from exploring another bike share program in the future; again, one that actually benefits all parts of the city would be nice.
But that will certainly be a hard sell, assuming the residential turnover caused by rising rents and housing costs isn’t great enough by then that no one remembers what Pronto is/was.