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  • A Pronto Cycle Share employee loads bins with free helmets at a new bike share station near Seattle Central College.
Pronto Cycle Share launched today in Seattle at 1 p.m., right around the time of a burst of sunshine over Capitol Hill. If you're not hip already to bicycle share, well, here's the lowdown:

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The Numbers: 500 green/blue bikes spread across 50 stations through Seattle.

The Neighborhoods: The stations are in downtown, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, and the U-District. (Mayor Murray has earmarked $600,000 in his budget proposal for expansion to the Central District, Yesler Terrace and Little Saigon next year.) Here's a map.

The Point: Bicycle share isn't meant to be a replacement for an actual bike or a full-day bike rental. Rather, the system's been designed for you to check out a bicycle and use it for 30 minutes or less to get to another station, where you'll check it back in. It's meant to offer a new transportation option for a growing city—and be accessible to folks who don't think of themselves as urban cyclists—in tandem with a build-out of more bicycle infrastructure.

The Price: $85 for an annual membership, $8 for a day pass, and $16 for a three-day pass. "You’ll get unlimited 30-minute trips for the duration of your membership or pass," Pronto says.

Overtime Fees: If you take a bike for 60 to 90 minutes instead of 30, you'll be charged an extra $7; more 8 hours means a $77 fine; more than 24 hours means they'll assume the bike's missing and charge you $1,200, according to KING 5.

Does It Work? Yeah, sure seems like it! The Stranger test kitchen will be examining the bikes later this week, but for now, despite some reports of niggling issues on social media (fobs that require a couple swipes before activating, for example, or helmets that feel too small), the feedback has been positive! Pronto director Holly Houser says things are going smoothly and there have been 314 rides in the first day.

This afternoon, at the station pictured above, a tiny mob of excited-looking college students gathered around and began studying the station map on top of the helmet bin. They don't own bicycles, a few of them told me, and plan on making use of the system to get around. "Okay, @CyclePronto is my favorite thing ever. Ran to the library, store, and tooled around the neighborhood in less than 30 minutes," tweets Ryan Packer. Perfect.

Is There a Smartphone App? For Android and iOs, yes, it's called Spotcycle.

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What About Helmets? Seattle's mandatory helmet law is, in all likelihood, going to make it harder for bicycle share to succeed over the long-term, or at least to recoup its startup costs, and that's too bad. For now, Pronto is offering helmets for free in bins at each station and trusting that users will return the used ones to a separate section within the bin.

Put the fun between your legs! WOOOT. And let us know in the comments how it's going.

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