I tried out our new bike share service in Seattle. It’s called Pronto, and has dropped a fair amount of bikes - 500 at 50 stations throughout the downtown, Capitol Hill, and U-District areas. I noticed a station that’s about 2 miles from my home on my commute home last night, so after getting a ride in this morning, I opted to try Pronto for the commute home. My expectations were that it would be a better substitute for a crowded bus ride home.
I purchased a 24-hr pass with a key for ten-bucks at the kiosk a couple blocks from my office. I didn’t need to “rent” a helmet as I brought mine with. After inserting the key in a station and waiting for something to happen, I thought my key was broken. I tried another bike, and it unlocked right away. I forgot my foolproof way to raise the seat to the proper height (seat in armpit raised until outstretched middle finger is at center of crank), so I ended up raising it a few times in the first few minutes.
Starting up the new 2nd Ave bike lane, I weaved my way through the city taking the “flat” way home via south Lake Union, riding through the parking lots along the lakefront. After crossing the Fremont bridge, I continued on the Burke Gilman trail along the north lakefront, and rode through the UW campus before dropping the bike off at the UD-01 station at Blakely and 24th. Ironically, the first station I tried to lock my bike back into didn’t work, so I docked it in another one which accepted it immediately. Some gremlins to work out?
My initial observations:
- The bike is small, so it would work really well for someone in the lower 5′ range. I had to boost up my seat quite a bit to avoid the bent-knees, low power pedal stroke. The bars felt really close, so I felt like I was riding a kid’s bike compared to what I’m used to. That said, I generally ride a big bike in a fairly stretched out position, so most folks would feel that it is sized just fine.
- The bike is solid and sturdy, but not too heavy.
- It has a 7 speed range, and shifts are fast and solid. Shifting to a lower gear is sudden, and I popped my foot off the pedal several times getting used to the shifting. In the highest gear, I was traveling about 15-17mph on flats with normal cadence. Not a speedster, but not bad. I never used the lowest gears.
- It is really stiff, and the tires are of the sturdy type – great for folks up to 300lbs, at least.
- Fenders work – could use a flap, but adequate and appreciated for the few puddles I went through.
- Lights! Didn’t really need to use them, but great that they are there.
- It has a skirt/kilt guard for the ladies and Scots!
- There is a small bungie and rack for a small bag or case. I just carried my musette. No problems if you have a bit of luggage.
- The seat was not great for someone of my size – too squishy, smallish, and angled for folks that are smaller.
- The cost structure is not yet ideal for someone who needs the bike for more than ½ hour. Buying the day pass gave me unlimited rides up to 30-minutes, but anything over 30 minutes adds charges. My 45 minute ride cost me an additional 2 bucks.
All gripes aside – these bikes are great for the casual tourist, or someone who wants to take the long way home like me on occasion. I would also use this to get to a lunch spot that may be a bit too far for a walk. Pretty nice to have an easy option to “rent a bike” and there are stations all over the place. I could also see someone stuck on foot choosing this as a faster option. It took me from downtown to the UW in about 45 minutes.
It’s nice to have options when I don’t have my bike handy. I will likely resort to this in the future.