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Alaska Airlines PRONTO BikeIn about two months, a fleet of 500 rentable blue and green bikes will arrive in the Emerald City.

Pronto! Emerald City Cycle Share will launch in Seattle this fall, providing bicycles that citizens can use to ride around town. To start, there will be 50 stations in four 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. 

The station locations have been submitted for permit approval and are not completely finalized. But Hollie Houser, executive director of Puget Sound Bike Share, shared a map of the proposed locations which you can view below.

“This provides a fairly good representation of what the network will look like,” she said.

A couple tech-related observations: Amazon.com employees will have many stations within walking distance of the company’s South Lake Union headquarters. Startups in Belltown and Pioneer Square will also have access to a handful of places to drop off their bikes.

As you can see in the second map, there are also about nine proposed locations in the University District, including one just a block north of “Startup Hall,” a new hub for entrepreneurial activity near the University of Washington.

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.

You’ll also be able to use a smartphone app to find the location and status of nearby bike stations. Here’s how Houser explained the technology inside the bikes and stations:

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.

Car2go
Car2go

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 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, which arrived in Seattle in 2013, 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.

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