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Originally published Monday, May 5, 2014 at 7:53 PM

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$2.5M from Alaska Airlines to help bike-share program roll

Seattle’s bike-share program will start with 500 Alaska Airlines-sponsored bicycles on city streets this fall.


Seattle Times transportation reporter

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@Mustang2 Haters gonna hate. MORE
@Xman 91 Yeah, shame on a company for giving money to a community to aide in providing a service that gets more people... MORE
@Xman 91 why? alaska can do whatever they want with their money. unless you're a shareholder, how could it possibly... MORE

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Seattle’s first 500 floating-rental bicycles will bear the name of Alaska Airlines, which announced Monday it will give $2.5 million to sponsor Puget Sound Bike Share.

The bikes will be painted green and blue, like the colors of Sounders FC. They will be available at up to 50 stations in the University District, Capitol Hill, Eastlake, South Lake Union, Belltown and downtown starting this fall. The brand name Pronto! was also announced, and will appear on the bike frames.

Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines, made the announcement, joined by 23 blue-shirted airline employees, at the South Lake Union Discovery Center. “Pronto! bicycles will give folks who live here, and those who are visiting from somewhere else, wheels when they want them,” he said in a statement.

Seattle will be one of 30 North American cities where such bike shares are available. Customers obtain a bicycle from a sidewalk or plaza station, go for a ride, then return the bike at any other station within the service territory — like drivers who use Car2Go, except that Pronto! provides day rates for nonmembers.

Bicycles will have seven gears, for use on the city’s hills, said Executive Director Holly Houser. Instead of a rear rack, they’ll have a cargo hold in the front.

Alaska’s money is in addition to other grants and sponsorships, including $1 million from the federal government, $750,000 from the Washington State Department of Transportation, and $500,000 from Seattle Children’s.

User fees will be $8 per day, $16 for three days, and $85 per year, along with a helmet-rental fee of $2 per use, according to a fact sheet posted Monday.

A committee is being formed to work out details of a reduced-rate membership and effective communications for low-income residents, the bike-share organization said.

“Like other cities around the country, we want as many people as possible to see bike share as a transportation option,” Houser said in a statement.

Two years ago in Washington, D.C., the Reason Foundation criticized the local bike share as a government-supported amenity for the professional class. Meanwhile, in Seattle, a low-income reduced fare of $1.50 per trip is planned next year for King County Metro Transit.

Mayor Ed Murray said: “The question came up in the campaign, ‘What would it be like to have a mayor with connections to business?’ One of the fun things I’ve gotten to do in the last few months is to call businesses and ask them to get in on Puget Sound Bike Share.” He said it took one call to recruit Alaska.

However, the city still lacks a clear plan and funding to build protected bike lanes through the congested downtown core, as backers hoped, before the bike share begins.

Asked if there is some interim safety plan, Murray said he’d make an announcement about that Tuesday, at the Cascade Bicycle Club’s annual breakfast.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com On Twitter @mikelindblom



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