Car2go for bicycles: Seattle’s new bike-sharing program uses smartphone app

Alaska Airlines PRONTO BikeIf Seattle’s love for Car2go is any indication, the city’s new bike-sharing program should have no trouble attracting users.

Pronto! Emerald City Cycle Share will launch this fall, placing 500 rentable blue and green bicycles around Seattle that citizens can use to ride around town. To start, there will be 50 stations in six neighborhoods — University District, South Lake Union, Downtown and Capitol Hill — where people can rent the seven-gear bikes, pedal around, and then drop off the bike at any other station. 

Prices range from $85 annual memberships to $8 24-hour passes. Users, who must be older than 16 and have a credit/debit card, can ride for up to 30 minutes at a time with no cost, but will have to pay additional fees for anything longer than that.

Car2go

Car2go

You’ll also be able to use a smartphone app to find the location and status of nearby bike stations. Other cities also have similar apps for their bike-sharing programs.

The idea of Pronto is similar to Car2go, a service that allows people to rent tiny two-door smart cars and park them in a designated street parking area when finished. Back in January, Car2go — which arrived in the Emerald City in 2013 — announced that Seattle was the company’s fastest growing market in the U.S. with more than 40,000 registered drivers and 500 vehicles.

However, the bike-sharing program is a little different. The program is owned by Puget Sound Bike Share, a non-profit, and the program is funded by grants, sponsorships and user fees. Alaska Airlines paid $2.5 million to paint its logo on each bicycle, while Vulcan, REI and Seattle’s Children’s Hospital all put up money for the program.

Car2go also requires drivers to sign up for memberships; Pronto allows non-members to rent bikes on a day-to-day basis.

Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share, which manages similar services in nine other cities worldwide, will operate the program. Seattle is certainly not the first city to implement a bike-sharing program, as more than 200 cities have programs like Pronto already in place.

Read more about the Pronto, including safety and replacement cost information ($1,200 per bike), here.

Update, 10:20 p.m.: Caught up with Hollie Houser, executive director of Puget Sound Bike Share, and she explained some of the technology behind the bikes:

Though this bike has the ability to host a passive GPS solution (same a bread crumb feature), the Pronto! system bikes will not have that feature in the first phase of this launch. The bicycles are all fitted with a locking mechanism or popsicle just above the front fender that engages the locking function at every docking point. The docking point (cassette) is triggered by a limit switch that reads the RFID tag integrated into the popsicle (to either lock or release the bicycle). This RFID has all the asset information of the physical bicycle, and associates that as a “trip” stating or ending to the member key or code engaged in the transaction. Once in the docking point, the bike can also be locked in place either remotely from the system-back-end or by an end-user by pushing the “wrench” or mechanical button on the physical docking point signaling a need for maintenance.

  • Paul Uhlir

    “and then drop off the bike at any other station” If I am reading this right, this is the major difference between this and Car2Go and will be the downfall of it. Users need to be able to lock it up anywhere.

  • balls187

    Just what Seattle needs. More dipshits on bikes.

    • Andrew

      Just what Seattle needs is one less of you.

      • balls187

        Gotta call the ambulance for that burn!

        /s

  • Guest

    Since they built an app, neither they nor riders need to follow any laws. No helmet required, they can ride on the wrong side of the street, run stop signs, … awesome!

    Seriously, this is a great idea, and has worked well in other cities. It would be great if the service spread throughout the region.