Bike shares wheeling back into Seattle, but they’re unlike Pronto in 2 big ways

Two private bike-share companies are waiting on approval to drop 1,000 shareable bikes on city streets. The bikes have no docking stations and aren’t getting any public funding.

Bike shares are returning to Seattle. Soon. And bigger than before.

When, earlier this year, the city folded Pronto, the bike-share system it owned, it took 500 bikes off the streets.

Sometime this week, there should be 1,000 shareable bikes on the streets. And in the coming months, there will likely be even more.

Two big differences between these bikes and Pronto: The new bikes have no stations where bikes must be picked up and returned to. Pick one up wherever you find it and leave it at your destination. And, unlike Pronto, the bikes are privately owned and are receiving no government funding.

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Bike shares are booming in the United States. Nationwide, riders took about 320,000 rides on bike-share bikes in 2010, according to the National Association of County Transportation Officials. Last year, that number was 28 million.

But bike shares of the sort launching in Seattle — private, for-profit and stationless — are just starting in the United States.

Six weeks ago, the two companies that plan to spread bikes throughout Seattle weren’t operating anywhere else in the United States. Seattle, one of the largest U.S. cities without a traditional bike share, is poised to become a testing ground for this new…

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