News Oct 22, 2014 at 4:00 am

Using a Pronto Bike, a Personal Bike, a Cab, a Bus, a Car, and Our Own Two Feet

Eli took a Pronto, Dave took a bus, Christopher used Lyft, and Ansel rode his bike.


This was cool when the Times did it (better) a few months back.…
@Ansel Herz: FYI, Pronto bike share gave out vouchers for free pronto-branded helmets (for keepsies) to everyone who pre-registered. Wearing a pronto helmet without a rental bike does not mean someone kept a rental helmet.

Also, fuck Seattle's helmet laws.
@2 please provide some coherent reasons against a helmet law for bicycles.
Pet peeve: it's not "breaks," it's "brakes." I expect to see this in my FaceBook feed, not in the Stranger!
@2 So what part about wearing a helmet do you have a problem with?

With how shitty Seattle drivers are, and with the annual cyclist fatalities of people who WERE wearing helmets, I'm not really sure why some cyclists still have an issue with having to wear a helmet.

Seems pretty straightforward to me, but then again I guess if you have a really sweet hairdo, those helmets can really cramp your style.
It hardly needs to be a "lightweight road bike", travel time differences for different types of bikes are pretty minimal.
Pronto bikes are NOT lightweight. I'm not sure what to best compare them to. But they are good for the 1 to 2 mile trips aroung downtown you want toget somewhere in around 20 minutes!
Pronto for 1 year pass is $85 plus tax, about $93. So if you use it once per week, the nominal cost is about $2 per ride. But you can't go over 30 minswithout extra fees.
I'm sorry, but the cost of driving own car was underestimated. The cost of driving a car includes insurance, maintenance, registration and purchase price. Even if it is paid for, you need to think of its cost prorated over the life of the car. Say instead of actually figuring that out you just use IRS business rates per mile driven. It is still 56 cents per mile plus parking, which is $4.76 for the 4.2 mile drive plus the $3 parking.
I'd like to see this repeated in 2016, after U-Link opens.

From The Stranger offices, its a quick walk to Capitol Hill Station, a 3-minute ride to Husky Stadium and a bus to College Inn.
@2 & @5 - SO many reasons helmets and helmet laws are not good. Start here:

or here:…

or here:…
@3 I understand that helmets help prevent serious brain damage... but that requiring them provides a barrier for many. It almost blocked implementing our bike-share, a generally low-speed, low-risk use of bikes. More bikes have been shown to actually be safer for all involved. So it would appear that our compulsory helmet law is standing in the way of bike safety.

Bikes - which are a (slightly) safer mode of transport than cars. What!? Cars are more dangerous in terms of serious injury? Maybe there should be a compulsory helmet law for cars!
...I say this as a regular helmet-wearer, who always has my son wear his helmet. I just went to NY, & felt naked riding their bike-share... for about a minute. Then I realized how slow I (& the cars) were traveling... Cars who were respectful, I might add. Central Park and the dedicated paths were fantastic without a helmet, & the city streets were more than bearable.

In this context, I feel that our helmet law deserves another look.
The Stranger > Top Gear US

(Oh, if only David Schmader had driven his Car2Go while dressed up as The Stig...)
It'd be great to do this round-trip to compensate for the downhill bike ride. I love riding my own bike and do it all the time, but this just isn't a fair comparison without that slow and sweaty climb back up Cap Hill.

Also, I agree with @9 that the cost of a car was badly underestimated and should include all costs (as most of the other cost estimates did).
@3 How about -- the default setting for legal matters in America is "personal liberty," so you have the obligation to demonstrate why you should be able to infringe on the liberties of someone who is doing nothing that will directly effect you.
do it in steady rain then get back to us.
As a founding member, I have my own Pronto! helmet. I have already worn it on one occasion while riding my own bike. I felt a bit self-conscious that people would assume I had stolen it. After reading Ansel's post, I think I'm going to paint it.
It's an interesting experiment, but some of the results are not necessarily due to the mode of transit. Familiarity with the area plays a part. Everyone seemed to know the optimal path, but apparently nobody clued in poor Kathleen so she had to rely on Siri. The taxi driver should have known the best path.

I think IRS reimbursement is an okay idea for the car expense. I guess the IRS allows $20/month for bicycle riders, up to $130/month for transit passes, and up to $250/month for parking expenses.
I was wondering what you were all doing there...

Not to take this too seriously, but I agree with @15 that the geography made this way easier for bikers than it would be on even the reverse journey.

It would be interesting doing the same experiment going East-West and North-South in the same journey. Going from Capitol Hill to Fremont or Ballard, for instance, is awful at rush hour.
@3 Helmet laws discourage bike riding by providing another barrier to entry and contributing to the perception that bike riding is more dangerous than it really is (compared to other transit options.)

Meanwhile, studies have shown that one of the biggest factors in improving bicycle safety is increasing the number of riders on the road as drivers become more accustomed to sharing the road and watching for cyclists.

I am against helmet laws but very much pro-helmet. I always wear one and encourage my friends to do so as well.
Did the bike rider obey all traffic laws, at all times, on their trip?
I totally think Eli could have come in 2nd. I have been using regularly for over a week now, and the first couple times took some getting used to, but now I have a routine. I set my seat, lash on my computer bag, put on the helmet that I now carry with me, and then I'm off.

The bikes are heavy, and the gear shifting on some of the bikes suck. They also don't go particularly fast, which in my case is OK.

I think my break-even on the $85 should be a couple of months.
Bikes always win. Even if Ansel had arrived second - which is unlikely - he still would have spent the least amount of money, generated the least amount of polution, burned the most calories, and had the most fun. Bikes: even when they lose, they win!
@22 - did the Lyft driver "obey all traffic laws, at all times, on their trip?" Did the cab driver? Did Kathleen Richards, while driving her own car? Does anyone, ever?

Fuck You!
Re: a lot of people not wearing helmets.

Sure it's your choice but don't expect high tech medical attention when you crack your skull on the asphalt. Hell, you probably won't make it in that case. Go for the Darwin Awards, just don't expect tax payers to help pay your medical bills.

PS. The test should be made to include the retard fixed gear crowd (and I mean that literally!), both ways. Let's see you huff up 10th or East lake.
On Ansel's PRONTO helmet comment (In the street, a biker rode by on a non-Pronto bike wearing a white Pronto helmet, apparently not honoring the honor system) note that charter members were given a helmet to keep as our own, so it is possible that ride was one of that number.
Great article! One of my favorite things about my daily commute is passing dozens of cars stuck in traffic.

Re: helmets
I wear a helmet every day, but I dare not pretend like it actually does much to improve my safety. They are only tested for direct impacts of 7mph, after all.

Also, people make arguably worse health decisions daily (smoking, excessive drinking, not exercising) but are not nearly as maligned as the adult cyclist who chooses not to wear a helmet. My opinion is that its because the helmet brigade is anti-bike at its core.
That green rubberized glove is still there!
Did someone comment that Ansel should wear a helmet while trying to set a land-speed record to the bar ? Nah, if he's not interested in protecting his life with one piece of safety gear than I don't see why the rest of the road users should feel more concerned about hitting him.
I agree, there is nothing worse than having to listen to the scraping, and shrieking, of some dufus, who's helmet is caught in the undercarriage of my car.

The other day, I had to drive over a curb to dislodge one.

I thought raising my Smart Car would solve the problem, but even with the 22's, I don't have enough ground clearance.
your average car is probably twice as heavy nowadays as a stripped down car thanks to side-impact and front impact airbags, padded bumpers, , reinforced doors/frames, crumple zones, and other safety gear mandated by the government for car manufacturers. Our county requires one piece of personal safety gear for all bikes and motorcycles and that's too much ?
Statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Fatality Facts: Bicycles - 2010

Less than two percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists. The most serious injuries among a majority of those killed are to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. Eighty-nine percent of bicycle deaths are persons 16 and older, so helmet laws should include adults. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk.

Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly weren't wearing helmets. The percentage not in helmets in 2010 seems to be lower, until you look at the "Unknown" column and find that it jumped in that year. The table below is from IIHS data.
I live on the Eastside and work on 1st Hill. A crowded bus is my only option. Hopefully it isn't so full I have to ride in the driver's lap.
That Moroccan sandwich shop on 23rd is amazing!
This is paid content, not a news story. Surprised to see the Stranger fail to mention that. Transparency?

Well, those drivers probably didn't blow through most of the stop lights and stops signs, for starters.
I'm sure pedestrians and motorists break the law with the same frequency as bicyclists, just in less visible ways.

In case you didn't know, here's the top way motorists break the law and get into accidents: #1 is distracted driving. #2 Speeding. #3 Drunk driving. #4 Reckless driving. #5 is rain, but then #6 and #7 is running lights and stop signs. If motorists didn't break the law so frequently, well, the number one cause of accidents would be rain.

Motorists not only put their lives in jeopardy, but others as well. Cyclists and pedestrians don't really kill motorists or pedestrians with great frequency, so why hold them to some imaginary standard.
@9 Thank you! I came to say that.

Also keep in mind that Ansel and Paul got exercise at the same time. The other folks still need to fit in their daily cardio.
Back in college I once witnessed two cars in a parking lot hit each other right in front of me while driving under 10mph. The crash didn't trigger the air bags and neither of the drivers had their seat belts on since they were just rolling down the lane looking for a spot, but both had serious head injuries from the collision. One of the guys was in a coma for about a week and thankfully pulled through (but friends said he wasn't the same after it). The other guy was knocked out and had a huge gash on his forehead. Looking at the injuries you'd think they crashed on the highway and not coasting through a parking lot.
Point being that it doesn't take much to suffer a severe head injury. People die all the time from skiing when they hit their heads on the snow.
On a bike you don't have any other safety equipment between you and the pavement so a helmet really should be a no brainer. I don't care so much if it's the law or not, but it's really not a good idea to roll around, especially in this town, without a helmet on.
Next time, all contestants need to wear the kind of professional attire required by law firms, finance, etc. The finish line is a conference room full of people waiting for you to begin your presentation. Contestants are eliminated if they doesn't walk through the door on time, or don't look as presentable as they did prior to the start of a race.

@39 so your advocating that people wear helmets at all times?
Not to nit-pick, but Lake Washington cannot be seen from the University Bridge.
@41, People so lacking in reading comprehension skills and prone to straw man arguments might want to consider full time helmets. The rest of us without cognitive impairments should use the modest safety devices already in place like seat belts when driving and helmets when engaging in activities with a known risk of head injuries, like cycling, skiing, tackle football, etc.
@2 Seattle doesn't have a helmet law, King County has a helmet law.
So, I commute daily from 25th and Thomas to Montlake…usually I walk or bus it, but occasionally drive, so I know the general path well. This particular direction of travel (downhill) and route (23rd/Montlake) is pretty much a guaranteed win for a regular cyclist, at least at rush hour. Things would most likely turn out differently if you started at noon in the other direction. A healthy, regular cyclist would probably still have a respectable time, but autos would likely cross the line first. And, if you hit the 49 or 43 just right, they could be closer too.

Good point, however, then Ansel must also increase his cost, as one must buy and maintain a bicycle (and any biking equipment) as well.
Nobody cares about a helmet debate.
It's good to hear that Ansel doesn't wear a helmet. Obviously the Stranger isn't going to fire his immature ass, so maybe a car will take him out.
@44: True, but Seattle was exempted from it until 2003.
So, is @35 telling the truth? Because I would be disappointed to learn that this is paid content. It's labeled as news, at least on my phone.
@40 - I'm a lawyer working at a $13B revenue global corporation; I ride my bike nearly every day and am wearing shorts and a T-shirt today - maybe you need to get the seatpost out of your ass about what's Presentable.

And I might add (hypocritically), Ansel your handlebar tape is a disgrace!
@39 and all the the helmets=less injuries folk(as an avid cyclist and former messenger I do wear a helmet). The data on the most common types bicycle helmets has yet to be consistently reproduced, and the most famous… from 1989 in Seattle ia no longer cited by the Federal Government.

So while it is possible,that wearing a helmet will reduce your chance of injury, it is far from definitive. Would you like your concussion with or without scrapes and bruises? Arguing that the current crop of styrofoam helmets will prevent a fatal head injury shows a lack of understanding concerning the design and testing of bicycle helmets.

That being said I will continue wearing a helmet, while hoping,pleading, cajoling anyone willing to listen that helmet technology needs to improve as well as urban ettiquete from all users of the road, bicycles and cars alike.
I'm wearing a helmet right now and I liked the Race Across Town article so much that I want to restart my subscription to The Stranger. And since all your articles mention WEED, I will too.
Christopher's was hilarious to read.

Ansel put on a damn helmet!
I've never understood the attention paid to bicycle weight for the casual commuter. I weigh enough (and, especially when grocery shopping, carry enough baggage) that there's no way in heck I could tell the difference between the amount of effort required to propel a 25 pound space-age miracle versus a 35-pound steel behemoth. There may be other differences in terms of energy lost to the frame flexing as I pedal, and it makes a small difference if I have to carry the bike up the stairs - but unless you're a serious cyclist stripped down to lightweight gear it's a silly question.

Oh, and regarding helmets: quite aside from their actual effectiveness in protecting you in the case of accident, they serve a useful signaling function. They tell other people on the roads that you pay attention to the rules and aren't a cavalier asshole. Similarly (but even more so) following the traffic laws. I commuted by bicycle through city streets for a decade, and even so a part of me wants those cyclists who blow through red lights to get knocked down.
Odd that most (or all) adults agree that kids should wear helmets, but the adults don't think they themselves need to. Does becoming an adult make you invulnerable to injury? Or just stupidly macho?
gold star for paul! walkers ftw.
Actually, @55, a slew of recent studies have found drivers give significantly less berth to helmet wearers (risk compensation).

Meanwhile, the type of casual non-competitive cyclist who feels least compelled to follow helmet mandates is actually the most risk-averse and cautious at intersections and other potential collision points.
@58 More risk averse? ...until they hit a pothole or have a blow out or hit some oil slick and wind up head first over the bars. The whole point of the helmet is because no matter how risk averse you are, shit just happens.

As far as drivers giving less berth to helmet wearers, that's not on the cyclist but the drivers, and also the city for not establishing separated cycle paths.
@59: You cannot go over the handlebars on an upright bike. Basically ever. Really.

That's why the injuries you describe are near-nonexistent in the vast portions of the world where upright utility bikes are the urban standard.

You've long been one of the clearest voices of well-informed rationalism on this blog, SPG (and on MyBallard and elsewhere). Frankly, I'm really disappointed to see you weighing in with the dogmatic helmet-think. Your logical assumptions here are quite simply incorrect, the products of decades of willfully-disseminated misinformation.

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