Sunday, April 02, 2017

Pronto Bike Share

I had a free day pass to use to try Pronto bike share. I had a couple errands to do that would take me around First Hill, Westlake, downtown and the Seattle Center. It was the core service area of the bike share, so it seemed like a good opportunity.

It seemed fairly straightforward. You used a credit card to validate yourself, though the day pass code meant nothing was charged. The terminal told me what I needed to do. Though did it really need to give me 90 pages of terms and conditions? Would anybody try to read that? And if they did, good look to anybody else trying to rent a bike.

At first, it took me a little while to figure out how to find a number of a bike to unlock. My session ended up expiring before I found my first bike. I had to go back and go through things again once I figured out where the bike number was.

Getting to Westlake was painless. There was a station across the street from the building I was going to. I was able to lock up and get on my way in a hurry.

First Hill was another story. There was a station at Seattle University, but a huge gap around the medical complex. (This in spite of a large amount of bike parking in the area.) I ended up riding a bike from Westlake to what looked like a close station downtown and then walking up to First Hill. It probably saved a little time. (Though it did give me the super long disclaimer again. Any time savings would have been eaten up trying to read that.)

After walking back down the hill to King Street Station, I found plenty of bikes nearby. At least the train station was covered. I also noticed a bunch of stations along the waterfront. I pedaled quickly to get up to the Seattle Center before the 30 minutes was up. The bikes are big and heavy, but they move pretty well. They had a basket-like thing on front, but there really wasn't room to store anything.

I made it to the Seattle Center with time to spare. Alas, while there were many bike share stations along the water front, Lower Queen Anne was pretty empty. The office buildings would be great candidates for bike share stations. A bike could easily get there faster than the slow prodding buses. But, alas, it appears the stations were situated primarily in tourist areas.

I can understand why the bike share stations did not do well. The station density was just not there to make it useful for running errands. Add in the overhead of checking out and returning a bike, and simply walking was a better option in many cases. The stations seemed to be placed primarily where it was "easy" to place them, primarily in tourist areas. However, the process to take a one-off trip was clunky, and you were supposed to have your own helmet.

I'm glad the city didn't go for the electric bike system. Hills may appear to be an issue. However, the bikes did seem to be able to handle the downtown hills without much of a problem. Without an adequate density of stations, even a hill climbing bike would not be much use.

I don't feel bad that Pronto has ceased to exist. However, it would be nice if the city returned the street-side stations into bike parking instead of car parking.

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