In a surprise Friday the 13th announcement, Mayor Murray quashed any attempt to revive public bikeshare in Seattle after Pronto’s March 31 demise. Whereas the Council had given the struggling system a 1-year lifeline, the city will now not follow through with an immediate replacement. Though city staff were optimistic about a potential replacement as recently as October, the potential contract with Bewegen for an electric bike share system is dead for now.
Mayor Murray has achieved this election-year shut down by diverting the intended $5m funding stream to other bicycle projects. Much-needed Center City bike connections will now be prioritized instead, including 4th Avenue from Spring to Vine and east-west connections on Pike and Pine; and $3m will go towards Vision Zero goals via Safe Routes to School. Diverting the funding to other bike priorities is likely intended to soften or blunt the criticism from the bike community, and supportive statements from Cascade Bicycle Club and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways were in Mayor Murray’s press release (see below). But beyond politics, it’s true that a fully-built Center City network will definitely increase the chances of eventual bikeshare success.
So while there may be future chapters for bike share in Seattle, the Pronto saga will come to a close on March 31 with a series of unforced errors and unnecessary political pain. Severely undercapitalized, hobbled by helmets, and going against best practices for network design, Pronto was doomed to disappointment at least and failure at most. For those of us broadly supportive of public biking in Seattle, the slow-moving demise was sad to watch. For now, a second try will have to wait.
Mayor Murray’s press release after the jump.
Today, Mayor Ed Murray announced over $3 million in funding for Safe Routes to School, as well as other bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout the city. These projects will grow Seattle’s bicycle and pedestrian network as we continue to lay the foundation for a multimodal transportation system that reflects our growth and our values. The funding for these new projects is derived from funding previously allocated to the 2017 re-launch of the city’s bike share program. It will instead be invested in safety improvement projects and expanding the city’s bicycle and pedestrian network. Pronto, the city’s current bike share service, will end March 31.
“This shift in funding priorities allows us to make critical bicycle and pedestrian improvements—especially for students walking and biking to school,” said Mayor Murray. “While I remain optimistic about the future of bike share in Seattle, today we are focusing on a set of existing projects that will help build a safe, world-class bicycle and pedestrian network.”
The funding will go to the following projects:
- Adding pedestrian safety improvements, including traffic calming and crosswalk improvements, at 19 schools through the Safe Routes to School Program.
- Completing a missing link of the 4th Avenue bicycle lane and extension to Vine Street.
- Accelerating design and outreach for the east/west connections in the Center City bicycle network.
- Improving accessibility in Pioneer Square by adding curb ramps at key locations.
These projects are scheduled to begin in 2017.
“Cascade Bicycle Club applauds the Mayor for accelerating the downtown bicycle network and connecting key neighborhoods to where people live, work, play, and shop,” said Blake Trask, Senior Policy Director, Cascade Bicycle Club. “These new safety improvements around targeted schools will amplify the bike and walk education that Cascade provides in every Seattle Public elementary school.”
“I’m thrilled Mayor Murray has renewed his commitment to safer routes to school! Any investment in safe routes is a good investment in our children’s health and in Seattle’s future,” said Cathy Tuttle, Executive Director, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. “Mayor Murray’s targeted spending on a downtown bicycle network is also a bold statement that Seattle values safe streets for all people, whether they choose to get around by walking, riding a bike, or in a vehicle. Great choices for a healthy Seattle, Mr. Mayor!”