Green Street

I’ve seen several complaints raised on the web and twitter that Pronto Bike Share only serves the wealthier neighborhoods of the city, and has ignored lower-income neighborhoods like the Rainier Valley. Certainly if bike sharing is going to be a vital part of the city’s transportation infrastructure, equitable delivery of service should be a top concern. But while much of the criticism of station locations is is well-intentioned, and equitable access to bike sharing could certainly be improved, any analysis needs to account for how bike sharing operates in practice.

To understand this problem, it helps to think about the kinds of trips bike sharing is used for. Washington, DC’s Capital BikeShare provides some great data about their system usage. One of the key take-aways is that most trips are one-way: pick up at one station and return at another. The pricing structure of bike share systems encourages short trips, further incentivizing this behavior. Renting a bike for a couple of hours while you go run errands or meet someone for lunch gets rather costly. Car2Go uses a similar pricing model: one designed to get the vehicles back into circulation as quickly as possible.

Therefore, a single Pronto rack next to, say, the Columbia City Link station, would likely be underutilized*. An effective bike sharing system requires a relatively dense mesh stations within a mile or so of one another. To get the ridership levels you need within that service area, the overall population density across the entire network has to be moderately high. This is why it works well in cities like London, Paris, and DC, with a relatively uniform density per square mile.

Pronto Station Map
Pronto Station Map

One major factor working against the expansion of bike share in Seattle (besides the hills) is the “urban village” strategy we’ve adopted to handle growth. By concentrating growth in dense nodes surrounded by a sea of single-family housing, we’ve created a non-uniform density pattern that limits bike share’s potential expansion (this also presents challenges for effective transit, but that’s an argument for another day).

That’s not to say that bike share programs can’t be made more equitable or accessible. Philadelphia is doing some interesting work removing barriers to payment, for example. And to the Mayor’s credit, he is planning to expand Pronto out to the Central District in his 2015 budget (the CD’s status as a lower-income neighborhood is also an argument for another day – but the adjacency to the existing network makes it an easy add).

Making bike share work in the Rainier Valley (or North Seattle, for that matter) would require more than installing a single bike station next to each light rail station. It would be require dozens of bike stations peppered throughout the area. And until the Valley (or the North End) gets much denser, that would probably be a money-losing proposition. Which is not to say that it shouldn’t be done! From an equity perspective it may be perfectly justifiable to expand access through subsidy, but that’s the conversation we should be having.

* Bike sharing can be successful for extending the walk shed around a transit station (54% of Capitol BikeShare trips start or end at a transit station) but it requires multiple rental stations to be effective. Adding more bike racks and lockers and Link stations is probably a better way to support last-mile access in Seattle, at least for now.

77 Replies to “Bike Sharing, Social Justice, and Urban Villages”

  1. Chicago’s busiest Bike Share Station is Chicago Union Station – and from there people ride into river north, streeterville, and the loop for work. Suburbanites commuting in on metra gladly take the divvys to reduce trip time from train to office. But like you said, there’s a dense network of bike stations away from union station where they can take the bikes to.

  2. I was excited about Pronto until I saw their prices. I pay $85 even if I don’t use it. There’s no chance a tourist will use one or even people who would rent one on impulse. In Paris if you want to rent a bike for a day it’s 1.70 Euros and the first 30 minutes of every trip is free. You can also get a one week membership for 8 euros. Want it for the whole year? 29 Euros. In Seattle if you need a bike to get across town just once it will cost you $85. You could probably hire a prostitute to pedal you in a rickshaw across town for that.

    In Paris they encourage you to use them and they get used heavily… Here, they want to you to pay almost as much to use their bikes for 30 minutes as a used bike would cost in it’s entirety and you could use it all day long.

    I predict this to be another one of Seattle’s public toilet experiments. We copy what another city does, implement it badly and declare it a failure before losing massive amounts of money to get rid of it.

    1. A 24 hr pass is available for $8. A 3 day pass is $16. I can easily see tourists using one of these options. I have used bike share in every city that has them, when visiting as a tourist. It’s a great way to explore a new city.

      1. Maybe part of the cost is the key fob? Why didn’t they integrate with ORCA instead? I think your last paragraph is spot on.

      2. ORCA integration would be technically very difficult. The implementing contractor is a horror show and no private business in their right mind would put up with that.

      3. Well then Martin, you’re proving the point further that we tend to do things the complicated and expensive way instead of the efficient way. If the implementing contractor of ORCA is a ‘horror show’ then something needs to be done to solve it. If it’s too late and we’re locked into an inadequate technology than we get what we deserve I guess…

        The ORCA website continues to be an embarrassment so I’m going to assume we have no choice and will continue to pay for subpar service until the end of time.

      4. The thing to do to ‘solve it’ is to basically eliminate government procurement regulations and accept the resultant corruption as the cost of doing business.

        That will never happen — corruption plays much worse in the media than low level inefficiency — so there is essentially no way to prevent bad procurement outcomes except good luck, or reform of labor agreements to allow short-term direct hiring of talented people by governments.

      5. Pronto’s one commendable innovation so far to the bikeshare model — and surprisingly, I haven’t seen much written about it — is the ability to purchase a key fob for for $2, to which any future short term rentals can then be applied.

        This eliminates the much-begrumbled hassle of punching in codes repeatedly over your 3-day usage period, and allows for future spontaneity in usage (er, if you ignore the helmet regime) even if the coverage area coincides with your daily needs too poorly to spring for the annual option.

        Meanwhile, if a fob can be yours for $2, why is ORCA $5 again?

    2. I agree they need a pay by the minute or hour option for truly occasional users, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be in their interest to do so. But for me, the $85 option is a steal. So far it looks like I’ll make about 5 trips per week, which really isn’t that many. But that means at the end of the year that I will have paid $.33 per ride. Someone who uses it daily for a short commute or a last-mile extender would do even better, about $.17 per ride.

      1. Yeah. I’ve already used it like 5 or 6 times in less than a week. If I continue at this rate (or more in the summer, less in the winter) it will come out to around 25 cents a ride…

      2. A lot of people really can’t put up the $85 up front for something that they may or may not use. That’s a lot of money if you’re not sure it’s going to pencil out.

      3. True, but it’s still less than a monthly bus pass, and it gives you a year. One way to help those wanting to try it but unable to commit would be to cap it so that after you buy 10 daily memberships, you’re automatically converted to an annual.

    3. In Seattle if you need a bike to get across town just once it will cost you $85. You could probably hire a prostitute to pedal you in a rickshaw across town for that.

      Sigh. Is it too much to ask you actually look at the website for five seconds before declaring, inaccurately, that they’ve made a uniquely stupid decision like not offering short-term memberships?

      1. The 1-day and 3-day prices do seem to each be a few dollars higher than in comparable cities. If the science-warping helmet law continues to be enforced vigorously, then once the helmets cease to be free you really are looking at a noncompetitive-price problem, even for less price-sensitive visitors.

      2. Whoa there d.p.

        1st, there is nothing science warping about helmet laws. You may think they are a poor legislative choice, but there is a huge amount of studies, all showing helmet use significantly reduces incidence of head and brain injury.

        2nd, nobody enforces the helmet law. I regularly see helmetless riders cruising with impunity and I go bare headed myself when I’m riding slow or feeling particularly apathetic.

        That being said, I think the law should either be enforced or abolished. Preferably the 2nd one. We effectively have no helmet law because it isn’t enforced and the helmet situation over here is, in my opinion, right where it should be.

      3. The current uneasy stasis between mostly-unenforced and occasionally-vigorous-enforced is problematic, in that A) it allows policy makers and official spokespeople to continue to operate in a fact-free zone about the relationship between helmet-efficacy and certain types of utility riding, and B) it gives our untrustworthy cops way too much leeway to enforce the law only against people they “don’t like the looks of”. (Hey, there’s our explicit social justice relevance for this sub-thread!)

      4. Same with jaywalking – a cop stopped me once (in the middle of the road, no less) and subsequently stopped me once I had crossed the street to check that I wasn’t in distress / very lost / “not alright”, but if I weren’t 5’3” and pale, I’d probably have been frisked and questioned far less sympathetically.

      5. So d.p., here are some of the articles I’ve read on the subject in the past. Skip to the last paragraph for the short version.

        This is one of the more cited articles on the subject. It is a meta analysis of helmet studies from years 1987–1998. Attewell (2001) concludes helmets have a statistically significant reduction of head and facial injuries. Part of why it’s an interesting article is because there seems to be some sort of anti helmet movement which loves to bring up Elvik (2011). Elvik’s article brings up concerns about the statistical methods used by Attewell and goes on to say helmets may be less effective then Attewell concludes. He doesn’t of course say helmets are not effective. But even if he did, claiming something off one paper is silly. It becomes ironic when that paper is about proper use of statistics.

        This is a quite compelling article about change in helmet use in WA in the late 80s. Mock (1995)

        Narrowing in on the topic, De Jong (2012) talks about helmet laws and concludes net benefit from the law tenuous in even a dangerous cycling jurisdiction. That makes Seattle a very interesting because it has a law (sorta) and is very dangerous (you know, with the hills, road design, and heavy motorized traffic).

        I realized I just dumped a bunch of articles rather than proving any point about public health, mainly my point is, do you really know the science? That data is confusing. I don’t even like the idea of a helmet law. Personally, I’ll wear a helmet if I damn well please But, not being an actuary, I don’t walk around claiming science says so.

      6. I won’t get into if helmets reduce injuries or deaths for cyclists riding for transportation.

        I will point out many cities around the world including much of Europe have much higher rates of cycling with no helmet law and no epidemic of injured cyclists.

        Helmet studies always fail to take into account second order effects due to the reduction in cycling caused by helmet laws.

        One can suppose injuries and deaths for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians might be reduced if helmet use was required in cars like seat lets or for pedestrians. However nobody is going to pass such a silly thing because the general public wouldn’t stand for it.

      7. One thing about helmets that bears mentioning is that unless you’re willing to spend 5-10 minutes before every ride fiddling with the adjuster straps (since the previous user of the helmet probably has a different head size than you), the helmet is actually doing virtually nothing to protect your head, even though it technically makes you compliant with the law.

        That was one of the conclusions I got trying a Pronto helmet last weekend. Next time, I’ll either bring my own helmet or do without, depending on the trip.

      8. unless you’re willing to spend 5-10 minutes before every ride fiddling with the adjuster straps (since the previous user of the helmet probably has a different head size than you), the helmet is actually doing virtually nothing to protect your head

        If you care about a helmet then you carry one. It’s sort of like carrying an umbrella. Seattle will never succeed at public transit because you need an umbrella? If you don’t care but are just worried about a ticket then you’re not going to spent 5-10 minutes fiddling with the fit.

      9. Ben,

        I have never and would never claim that helmets are not effective under certain collision conditions, nor that science did not exist to demonstrate that efficacy.

        Unfortunately, neutral scientific inquiry into the situations of maximum efficacy — which might lead to reasonable recommendations for when the riding public should take care to bring a helmet along — seems to have taken second fiddle to “advocacy science” of the sort exposed by Vox above, in which strong helmet proponents go fishing for data that can be spun to (superficially) support their biases.

        Often the scientific sins are ones of omission: As far as I can tell, none of the commonly cited pro-helmet studies have taken care to sort their data by type of vehicle ridden (upright or forward-leaning, owned or rented), by trip purpose (short-hop, significant commute, leisure outing), or by rider habits (relaxed and cautious, beat the changing light and make a personal best). That first one is the most important — there is some accumulation of data to suggest that “over the handlebars” situations may be the only ones in which helmet usage can make a meaningful difference, and such situations are made virtually impossible by upright bikes.

        Researchers also seem to have a bad habit of footnoting in their hospital data that injury rates apply only to cases in which “helmet presence or absence was reported”, with no further exploration or consideration of the margin of error. As American doctors in general have a pro-helmet bias, either thanks to the woeful influence of that debunked 1980s study or thanks to the other professional biases about which Al fascinatingly pontificates here, it is not unreasonable to suggest that they religiously report the absence of a helmet on a serious-injury report, while making no mention of helmets at all when an accident is minor or when a helmet is present. This may create a false correlation between helmet absence and accident severity in the data, which researchers cement by throwing away any “helmet unmentioned” data points.

        The anecdotal data is that bikeshares are almost comically safe. The international observation is that virtually all upright riding shares that safety. And there is explicit data that more of these slower, risk averse riders on the street make biking safer for everyone.

        If you’re the speed-demon, dart-into-traffic, pass-the-slowpoke, oh-crap-where-did-that-pothole come-from kind of rider with whom Seattle cycling has long been associated, then please, please do wear a helmet at all times! If you’re a recreational biker out for an all-day summer ride in the countryside, a helmet’s a great idea as well (you might get too euphoric, and thus careless). But if you’re just grabbing an upright utility bike for a 25-minute errand, even in traffic, both accumulated experience and the relevant research so far suggest that you’d actually be silly to prioritize a helmet.

      10. Why is it the assumption that the cost is higher because of the helmet law as opposed to the need to have seven speed, instead of three speed bikes? As far as I know, we’re the only city in the world with seven speed bikes.

      11. Once the helmets cease to be free, it will raise the cost to about $4-$8 higher for a short-term user than any other city. Which really is a significant deterrent.

        Much more worrisome, though, is that the helmet rules will significantly alter cost-benefit calculations for potential (but on-the-fence) annual members. Turning what would be a year of cost- and hassle-free trips into a minefield of potential tickets, supplemental helmet costs, or trips forgone because the helmet-bringing hassle isn’t worth it, makes the program significantly less appealing for a large number of otherwise-likely users. It basically breaks the model by which every other system has succeeded.

        The 7-speed bikes cost a little more, but not that much more. And they’re a one-time expense. My guess is that the higher short-term fees are an attempted revenue corrective on the basis of expected depressed demand directly attributable to the helmet law.

    4. $8 a day is still high if you’ll only use it once or twice that day. I’m deterred by it, and I’m sure visitors will be too. Not the people who will use it several times a day or who ecologically think a bike pass itself is worth it, but everyone else. But it won’t be surprising to people since this is the city with the $5 ORCA card. In contrast, $85 a year is ridiculously cheap if you’ll use it several times a week or even several times a day. But $85/year is not suitable for just one day’s of use, and it’s not intended to. If you’re not sure you’ll ride it, don’t get the annual pass, get a couple day passes first and see if you like it.

      Another interesting thing is, the Pronto website refers people to bike rental shops if they want something longer than half-hourly-or-a-bit-more increments. So Pronto’s long-term presence could also increase the market for bike rentals and bike purchases. I myself have been thinking about purchasing or occasionally renting a bike because of Pronto’s presence. Pronto’s short-distance trips don’t interest me much because they’re the same places that the most frequent bus routes go. The trip I’d most want Pronto for is Capitol Hill – Children’s hospital, which requires a bus transfer and overcrowded/unreliable/campus-crawling buses. But that’s beyond the half-hour free-ride limit, so it’s not a good deal on Pronto. That’s where you’d want to buy a bike. As for renting a bike, reasons for that would be going to Alki or exploring the Sammamish River Trail or Green River Trail, etc.

      1. It might not be the easiest ride, but at just 5 miles and change, I bet you could do it in less than 30 minutes on a bike. Certainly in the downhill Harvard-to-Burke-Gilman direction.

        30 minutes is quite a ways on a bike, and Metro’s slowness has totally warped our sense of where things are located in this city.

        $8-$16 remains a few dollars too high, unless you already know precisely where and when you intend to use it over the next 24-72 hours, explicitly undermining the purpose of bikeshare for the exact reason our helmet laws do (spontaneity).

      2. I used to bike commute from University Heights to Harborview so I have a feel for the times. I found I could scramble from NE 56th to the ferry terminal in 30 minutes by booking it on Eastlake, Valley, Westlake, 8th, and Stewart; although that was before the SLUT busted Westlake. Going to Children’s from Summit would probably be barely under or over half an hour, but not guaranteed to be under, and the construction on the Burke-Gilman trail slow down the primary way coming from the University Bridge, and the construction in front of UW Link station slow down the alternate way coming from the Montlake Bridge.

      3. One hour use limit seems much more reasonable than the current 30-minute one. Can this be changed?

      4. You could also ride to the U-District, dock your bike for three minutes, grab another bike from the same station, and complete the remainder of your trip to Children’s. The 3-minute penalty is much shorter than just about any transit transfer.

      5. Mike,
        I don’t personally feel the SLUT makes Westlake unusable for bikes. I can ride around rails without falling over and the lighter traffic and better pavement condition in the lane the SLUT uses makes it a relatively pleasant ride. When I hear a streetcar coming I move to the sidewalk or into the other lane.

      6. I had one accident several years ago on Westlake while trying to hurry up and move over when I saw a train coming up behind me. Fortunately, I escaped with nothing worse beyond minor cuts and bruises. Ever since then, however, I refuse to ride on Westlake.

        Supposedly, the Pronto bikes have wide enough tires to be able to handle the streetcar tracks, but I’m not about to put my neck on the line if whoever said that turns out to be wrong.

      7. BTW, my favorite recreational ride: from north University Way, Ravenna Blvd, east and north Greenlake, N 74th (rolling hills), 15th NW & W, Dravus, Port bike trail/Alaskan Way, Spokane St Bridge, Harbor Ave SW, stop in Alki for a while, back across the bridge, down to Costco, get groceries, north on 4th Ave S and 4th Ave (dangerous downtown due to car congestion), Westlake, Valley, Eastlake and home again. I think it was an hour down and an hour back.

        Another was a straight shot on the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River trails through Marymoor Park to east Redmond (180th, a little computer shop called The Mac Zone, which probably doesn’t exist anymore). That was two hours each way.

        I’m looking forward to the cycletracks and greenways opening up more opportunities.

  3. I live in Columbia City and agree it isn’t ready for bikeshare. The bike infrastructure is horrible, all the flat routes are car sewers, and the dense zones are far too compact to require a bike.

    1. MAYBE if/when Rainier Ave S. gets re-channelized (hopefully adding bike lanes) and Hilman City builds up you could justify putting stations at Link and then at some key points along Rainier.

  4. With all due respect, comparing bike sharing in Seattle and D. bound to fail for several reasons:

    1) The development pattern (that you already mentioned). In many parts of Seattle, there is no need to “hop on over to that nice restaurant a few blocks away” because there is no restaurant a few blocks away. We have big gaps in the city, and this limits the value of bike sharing.

    2) Our hills (which was also mentioned). There are simply routes that people won’t take on a bike.

    3) We have a grossly inferior transit system.

    The second and third are really why Pronto needs to expand, and expand quickly. If you get on any blog (bike, transit, newspaper) and read the comments about Pronto, you will see the same thing over and over — people want bikes along the Burke Gilman (specifically Fremont and Ballard). When Pronto asked for station ideas, they were flooded, over and over, with this suggestion. The reason is obvious:

    1) People will only ride these bikes downhill, or along relatively flat corridors. Seattle actually has plenty of areas like this, but Pronto seemed to ignore them.

    2) People want to use Pronto to solve the “last mile” problem because our transit is so bad otherwise. We aren’t D. C. We don’t have a subway with stations everywhere. Even when we build what we are planning on building, it will have huge gaps. This is where a bike station can do an adequate job of solving this problem. Keep in mind, the last mile problem is not always from your door to the bus stop. Sometimes it is from the bus stop (or train stop) to work. The alternative to using Pronto is to stash a bike in the locker, and only use it while commuting. But this basically means the bike is only used for this purpose — it is not close to home. At that point, Pronto is actually a very good value.

    In other words, just because people have used Pronto (and will use Pronto) one way doesn’t mean they won’t use it a different way here.

    1. “1) People will only ride these bikes downhill, or along relatively flat corridors. Seattle actually has plenty of areas like this, but Pronto seemed to ignore them.”

      The terrain is a challenge here. A 25 minute downhill ride is not 25 minutes uphill, so the pricing structure works against a natural return flow along with gravity. Maybe Pronto can develop an uphill repositioning incentive, kind of like Car2Go gives bonus minutes for refueling?

      The station at 16th & E Pine – probably one of the highest elevation stations in the system – usually has a good balance of available bikes and return space, so either it is being restocked regularly or people are actually doing uphill rides.

      1. Oooh I like the idea of incentive for returning to certain stations. It could be a small credit towards your annual membership, and could even become a little industry for the unemployed (along the lines of collecting cans to be recycled). Or just a nice bonus for exercise!

      2. One thing I’m moderately concerned about is people riding these bikes downhill. As a reasonably adept cyclist, there are plenty of areas in Seattle that I simply will not bike down because it’s too steep (Denny Way between Stewart St and Olive Way, and James Way to downtown come to mind). I don’t feel safe flying down a road with cars, pedestrians, intersections, etc with nothing but two skinny little wheels and my brakes to keep me from wrecking. Sure, there are plenty of people who do it, but I tend to think they’re insane. What worries me is that most of the people who will use Pronto are people who aren’t adept cyclists. They’ll go rolling down these big hills at high speed, because it’s fast, with low-performing brakes and end up wrecking all over the place. Maybe it won’t happen, but it’s something that bothers me.

      3. I have yet to try flying down one of our hills on Pronto, but I have found myself zipping down the steepest side of the other Beacon Hill before, and while it was a bit scary, the upright positioning and low center of gravity that are the defining features of bikeshare ensured that at no point was there the slightest chance of my dumping myself over the handlebars.

        Also, in every city where bikeshare has debuted, there has been some amount of public fretting over the “less adept” cyclists and their inevitable cavalcade of injuries. It has not come to pass. It turns out that “newbies” are the most risk-averse and cautious riders, resulting in an almost non-existent accident rate among them.

    2. The Pronto website says it intends to expand if it’s successful. It chose the “densest part” of the city (by its definition) because that’s the most reliable way to get a steady clientele established quickly. But they recognize that Fremont and Ballard should be included as soon as feasable. Maybe not Columbia City yet.

      1. Yeah, I know. I just worry that they will suffer unnecessarily because they ignored what everyone with any bike experience would say: make sure you include the heart of Burke Gilman. It is by far the most popular bike path in the city (for good reason).

        Besides, their definition of density is rather poor, in my opinion, and does open up the possibility that they were demographically profiling. Why only one station to the south of Madison and east of Boren? Why no station in Yesler Terrace, given the fact that the area sits right on Broadway (and would connect to the other stations)? If you look at a population density map (whether you look at a bike map or not) then your stations would be placed to the south and east a lot more. I’m not sure if I would include Columbia City ,either, but the Central Area? Of course. Beacon Hill? Of course. That’s where the people are.

      2. Focusing on density is great, but can’t just look at density alone and ignore the biking infrastructure. A much larger percentage of the population would be willing to consider Pronto along the Burke-Gilman than along Eastlake. Yes, south Wallingford doesn’t have the density to justify a Pronto Station every half-mile, but so what? Even if it there were no stations between Fremont and the U-district, the system would get much better use there than along the Eastlake corridor between SLU and the U-district, a trip of similar length.

        Another huge missed opportunity for a Pronto Station is Montlake Freeway Station. Not only is it a key transit connection to and from the Eastside, but it’s so close to surrounding stations, and there are a large number of origin->destination pairs where a Pronto bridge of about half a mile would save a bus connection. The fact that it wasn’t included seems to suggest that the station map was put together by people who aren’t familiar with the area, don’t know anything about transit connections, and are only interested in density statistics around the immediate station area, and, of course, interest among its sponsors.

        I can only hope that at least the Link station will get a Pronto station once U-link opens. If nothing else, they might be more likely to notice it simply because it’s a train.

    3. Another interesting thing about Pronto is its launch date: right at the beginning of the rainy season. It won’t get the maximum clintele until next May. But maybe that was intentional, to start in a low-demand season to make sure it’s ready for the summer influx. (Like how Metro starts service changes on a Saturday.)

    4. 1) People will only ride these bikes downhill,

      One thing I worry about with bikeshare in Seattle is that the bikes will flow downhill a bit too much–full racks at lower elevations, empty at the top. I’ve got nothing against a bit of vigorous exercise, but if I’m going up a steep hill for more than a few blocks I want to be in my workout clothes, wish a shower waiting for me at the end, whereas the same trip downhill would be fun.

    5. Isn’t Pronto going to truck bikes uphill throughout the day? I remember that being mentioned a while ago as part of the bikeshare program.

      1. They could credit someone’s ORCA card account if they took a bike uphill on a bus.

      2. I just saw a Pronto truck one block from my uphill station. It said, “Fresh bikes delivered daily” and the REI logo. I can’t confirm it had bikes in them or it put them at the station, but when I passed the station it was 3/4 full.

  5. I think Pronto can be successful in a wider service area than they have now. For example the commercial and residential part of the U-district. Roosevelt and Greenlake would be further candidates.

  6. What about the bike helmet piece. I looked at a bike in bike stall in the Pronto station and their first step was – put on your helmet.

    I understand the need for a helmet, but if you are a tourist, its not likely that you packed a bike helmet.
    If you are using it on a lark, it also unlikely you are carrying a bike helmet on you.

    If you have a helmet on you, you probably have a bike in your hands already.

    1. Don’t tell- I didn’t wear a helmet this morning from Denny to Marion. I fully expect to get a ticket one of these days.

  7. I assume what we see today is Pronto’s soft launch and we’ll see more stations over time. Hard to imagine creating an entirely new transport system overnight that is complete and fully baked on the first day. That being said, I hope that by next spring there are more stations in place — both in-fill (at least one more station on Eastlake please!) and expanding the network out to more neighborhoods.

    1. Yeah, and like Mike said, maybe this “soft launch” was on purpose (I’m not sure if they got many riders today). Lots of cities have done bike sharing, but there are a handful of unusual wrinkles to this one (like the helmets). Then you have the system itself, which I’m sure takes some getting used to. This isn’t how I would have started, but maybe they just want to get going with a few stations and really start moving in a year or two. As lots of folks (including me) have said, the transportation world will change dramatically in a couple years, when Link goes to the UW. Suddenly, for the most common set of trips in the region, transit will be competitive with every other mode, including biking. This will greatly increase the value of service like bike sharing, since people will be able to combine it with fast transit.

  8. A greater-downtown-and-UW rollout, broadly, makes perfect sense. For cycle share you need a fairly large area with contiguous density and a wide range of jobs and services. Outside of such an area cycle share isn’t likely to contribute much to general mobility, and thus isn’t likely to contribute much to social justice!

    But I don’t think a broadly reasonable initial service area lets Pronto or other cycle shares off the hook entirely. East of I-5 does density of population, employment, entertainment, and retail really drop off as quickly south of Pine Street as density of Pronto stations does?

    1. South/east of Madison there are only a few larger apartment buildings and more SFH and townhomes as Cap Hill / Pine-Pike bleeds into the CD. Swedish Cherry Hill could be a potential future station (Children’s already has one even though it is rather far from the next station), but other than that, there aren’t any other big demand drivers in that area.

      1. East of MLK way there are plenty of people. The drop off in stations, as Al said, is not proportionate to the drop off in population. It’s not quite as dense as areas like Belltown, but by Seattle standards it is plenty dense.* At a minimum there should be a station at Yesler Terrace. This is very densely populated area, right on Broadway. But there are plenty of areas to the east of there that have plenty of people. Just because there are single family homes (and old school apartments) doesn’t mean the area doesn’t have a lot of people (the homes are on really small lots).

        Likewise, if you are just looking at population, then Beacon Hill makes sense.

        * For example, census block group 530330087.002, shown on this map ( has a population density of 18,894.2 people per square mile. This is the block between 20th and 23rd, between Yesler and Jefferson (next to Garfield High School).

  9. Bike share dock stations at Link stations would make sense if Pronto adjusted their pricing model.

    They could introduce a Pronto “Long Ride” service at select stations (i.e., those at Link stations in SE Seattle, or perhaps other transit centers in King County). Free rides for up to 2 hours with a pass; $2/hour after that.

    The use case would be riders from other parts of town who take light rail, then rent a bike at the station on a round-trip basis to do whatever they plan to do – visit a friend, eat at a restaurant, buy a select few items at Super Viet Wah, etc. – that is beyond walking distance from the light rail station.

    Unfortunately, the population density of most of SE Seattle is too low for a reasonable number of bikeshare stations to provide convenient proximity to the majority of residents.

  10. I thought the I.D, CD, and RV was every bit as dense as the U Dist, LQA, etc. What’s wrong with a business not wanting to locate in a low-income part of town where they may believe usage won’t be good? Whole Foods won’t open south of of downtown. Reason?

    1. Southwest Capitol Hill is the densest area in the state, and the U-District is close behind. The CD and Rainier Valley are mostly houses. Pronto is also skipping Wallingford and Fremont, which aren’t low-income last time I checked. Whole Foods is building a store in central West Seattle, and PCC is building a store in Columbia City.

      1. When I looked at a map to see if there was a WF anywhere in the south end or south county, there wasn’t one. They were ALL north and east of downtown. That isn’t by accident, and it has nothing to do with density.

      2. It depends on which part of the CD. Western CD (Madrona Valley or whatever the heck you call it) bounded more or less by Union, Jackson, 20th, and 25th is plenty dense varying from 11,000-19,000 people per square mile, depending on census tract. Yes, east of Garfield isn’t as dense but sizable portions of the CD, probably due to their proximity to Capitol Hill, are.

        (For what it’s worth, the CD has its share of $700k townhouses so I’m starting to question it being low-income, too…)

      3. Sam,
        PCC serves much the same demographic as Whole Foods. They’ve had stores in Seward Park and West Seattle for years. Metropolitan Market is in West Seattle too.

        The real estate along Lake Washington and in Admiral has never been what one might call downscale. The CD and SE Seattle have had their challenges in the past but the demographics have been changing for a while now.

        But if you want to think it all is the South Bronx circa 1979, I suppose that is your problem.

      4. “When I looked at a map to see if there was a WF anywhere in the south end or south county, there wasn’t one.”

        That’s because the West Seattle one is still under construction.

        “if you want to think it all is the South Bronx circa 1979,”

        And Seattle was never like that. The worst was Rainier Valley and the CD in the 80s and early 90s, but even then it was safer than most big cities. A lot of Mt Baker families have lived there for decades throughout it all, and weren’t driven away by gangland next door, and their kids worked at the shops on Rainier and took the 48. So that tells you it wasn’t that bad. Even if they did drive their kids home after evening shift for a while.

      5. I know there was never a part of Seattle that got as bad as the South Bronx or Compton. However there are a depressing number of people like Sam who are under the impression that the entire city south of roughly Madison is like that even today.

        Most are suburbanites or people from small towns elsewhere in the state who don’t venture into Seattle much, but I’ve encountered similar attitudes from people who live and work in Seattle.

        Some are even newcomers to the region who have “heard stories” but lack first-hand experience.

        Now in many other larger cities elsewhere in the country getting a heads-up on neighborhoods that are “no go” for white middle class types carrying smartphones from locals is a prudent thing to do. However as you point out even at their worst no part of Seattle ever rose to the danger level of the most crime ridden parts of New York, Baltimore, Chicago, or LA. Even there many of those neighborhoods aren’t as dangerous as they were in the 80’s thanks to falling crime rates and in some cases gentrification.

        Given housing costs I suppose I should perpetuate those myths in order to keep prices down.

      6. “there are a depressing number of people like Sam who are under the impression that the entire city south of roughly Madison is like that even today.”

        A lot of suburbanites believe that.

        “Given housing costs I suppose I should perpetuate those myths in order to keep prices down.”

        Yes, that is a Lesser Seattle way of dealing with it and I’m sympathetic to it. But then you have to forego transit improvements and better walkability there too.

  11. CD a lower income neighborhood??!!?? You do not get out much do you, at least to Central Seattle.

Comments are closed.