In a controversial move, the Seattle City Council voted 7-2 to bail out the struggling Pronto bike share program. The city agreed to purchase the company for $1.4 million, making Seattle one of several U.S. cities that fully owns its bicycle share program.
Bike Share Use and Revenue Projections Fell Short
The non-profit Pronto Cycle Share group previously owned the bike share program, established through a $1 million federal loan. The company expected 446,000 bike trips per year with a revenue of $860,000. The actual results of Pronto's use fell short at 142,846 trips per year and about $667,000 in revenue. The $1.4 million buyout came after the SDOT paid $305,000 because the program was unable to pay its bills in December.
The Purposes of Bike Share Programs
Not only will Seattle buy the program, it plans to expand it. There are currently 500 bikes and 54 stations around Seattle, per Pronto. The city wants to expand those numbers and may even add electric bicycles, according to media reports.
But why is Seattle buying a bike share program that has struggled so mightily?
Bike share programs offer several benefits for the city. Among them:
- More bicyclists could mean fewer vehicles clogging already-congested roads.
- Bicycling is generally cheaper than owning and operating a vehicle. Pronto users pay $8/day or $16/three days, or buy an annual membership starting at $85. Compare that to the cost of car payments, gas, maintenance, etc.
- Access to a bicycle could increase opportunities or convenience for those without reliable personal transportation.
- Bicycles do not produce the pollution or consume the energy that vehicles do.
- Bicycling is healthier than sitting in a vehicle.
And even one of the council members who voted against the bailout said he is in favor of bike share programs in general, even if he did not agree with this particular bailout. "I did not view today's vote as bicycles versus cars, at all," said Councilmember Tim Burgess according to KPLU 88.5. "I actually support having a bike-sharing system in Seattle." He pointed out that the Pronto service has failed miserably and that the city should not rescue it.
More Bicyclists Could Mean More Bike Accidents
Unfortunately, as more bicyclists take to the street, the risk for accidents may increase as well. With more bikes sharing our roads, drivers must continue to be cautious and courteous to cyclists. The same goes for cyclists who must follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles as well as know the courtesy basics for sharing the road with drivers and pedestrians. Bicyclists must also have an illuminated white front light for nighttime riding, a feature already installed on all Pronto bicycles.
If you are looking into taking advantage of the Pronto bike share program, want to hit the streets more on your own bike, or you're already an avid cyclist, check out our guide to biking in Seattle.
And if you are ever involved in a bike accident, call Max Meyers Law to review your wreck and legal options. You can reach us at 425-399-7000.