As reported in 2015, Seattle’s Pronto Bike Share was on the move to the Eastside, thanks to a $5.5 million budget allocation from the Legislature to King County Metro. It was originally slated to move forward by this June, but now it seems to be stuck in the mud.
Pronto’s collapse seems to have slowed State Department of Transportation and King County Metro. The Legislature originally booked the money in the 2015 – 2017 budget cycle but last year amidst drama on Pronto, they deferred all but $500k to future years, according to Scott Gutierrez, a spokesman for King County Metro. And even that $500k isn’t moving fast. King County Metro is planning on spending less than half that much on a feasibility study, and the RFP will be posted sometime in the first quarter of this year.
So what now? How do we get a region-wide bike share back up and running pronto (but without Pronto)?
The first step has to be to go to the King County council and repeal the mandatory helmet law. While the helmet law wouldn’t make a new regional bike share fail, it certainly doesn’t help. This program is coming back at some point, and it would make sense to help it succeed by eliminating this significant barrier. Bike helmet laws are well meaning, but there’s also evidence that they do more physical harm than good.
Next, it is time to get King County Metro and Seattle DOT together to do a debrief on what went wrong in Seattle. Was it too small? Are Seattle’s notorious hills a deterrent? They should produce a report on what happened and come up with next steps. Hint to that committee — look at previous coverage on what would make a bike share work well.
Next, King County Metro and Seattle should partner to launch a large regional Bike Share program which leverages the $5.5 million for the Eastside with whatever resources Seattle can come up with. And hopefully, lessons learned from Pronto will make the second iteration of Bike Share more successful.
The good news is the Eastside is working to make biking better in general, even if bike share is not happening soon. Bellevue is in the midst of a Pedestrian and Bicycle Implementation Initiative, which is
slated to spend $7 million per year on projects to help get around without an engine. Issaquah has a Walk n’ Roll plan, and King County Metro is expanding bike lockers and applying for grants to get better non-motorized access to transit.
Correction 1/31/17: Per the City of Bellevue, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Implementation Initiative is one of several items that will be funded by last fall’s Proposition 2, which also includes funding for projects to reduce neighborhood congestion, neighborhood safety projects, new sidewalks and trails, technology for safety and traffic management and enhanced maintenance. Proposition 2 overall will generate around $7m per year over 20 years. We regret the error.