Attention! Pronto will cease operations on March 31, 2017. Buy a special membership for $10, valid today through 3/31!

Riding Tips

Tips for beginners and seasoned bikers

Riding a bike in Seattle has never been better. Whether you’re an experienced bike rider or new to city cycling, a few simple steps will make you feel more comfortable and confident riding in an urban environment.


Pronto Pointers

Pronto Cycle Share is Seattle’s newest transit system, and we understand that you might have some questions. To make sure you have the best Pronto experience possible, we’ve created a series of “Pronto Pointer” videos. At less than 2 minutes a pop, these videos tackle the basics of renting, riding, and returning Pronto bikes. Kick back, relax, and let us guide you through the magical world of Pronto.

Bike 101

Both beginners and seasoned riders can benefit from learning and reviewing the basics of urban biking. This video covers helmet fitting, shifting gears, hand signals, traffic laws, passing etiquette, and riding on the sidewalk.

Returning a Bike

Pick me! Pick me! If you watch only one Pronto Cycle Share video, let this be it. Learn how to successfully return a bike and what to do if your bike has an issue while you’re riding. This video also explains the meaning behind the red, yellow, and green lights at every dock. What if you pull up to a station that’s full? We’ll cover that too. Watch closely, and you might even get a glimpse of a #ProntoMagician!

Follow the Rules

In Seattle, cyclists must:

  • Yield to pedestrians
  • Obey traffic lights
  • Ride with traffic
  • Wear a helmet

You must be at least 16 years old to ride Pronto.

Cyclists have all of the rights and duties applicable to drivers of motorized vehicles. Bicyclists are required to use hand signals to let drivers and other cyclists know where they’re going, especially when turning, unless it’s unsafe to do so.

Cyclists on a sidewalk or public path must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, and give an audible signal before passing.

Make sure you have a helmet! If you need one, you can rent one at any Pronto station or purchase one at a local retailer.

Read more about Seattle Bike Laws, and the Washington State Bicycle Rules of the Road .

Plan a sensible route

Seattle’s streets and parks offer a wide variety of bicycle lanes and paths, from shared traffic lanes to protected bike lanes. Choosing a route that suites your skill and comfort levels has a significant impact on how confident you feel on two wheels.

There are many ways to plot a route that makes sense for you:

Do a Pre-Ride Check

Pronto maintains every bike to ensure they are in good condition and working properly. It’s always a good idea to give the bike a look over before starting a ride. If a bike isn’t working properly, lock it back into any Pronto dock, press the wrench button on the dock, and unlock a different bike.

Check the following before you set off:

Seat Height – Pronto seats are easily adjustable. Just release the clamp on the side of the seat post, raise or lower the seat to your preferred height and re-tighten the clamp. Make sure the clamp is tight and the seat can’t twist or sink. Typically a seat is at the right height when you can almost fully straighten your legs when pedaling.

Air - Push each tire hard against a curb or the ground. If you can flatten it, it needs air.

Wheel Spin - Lift each wheel up and give it a slow spin (spin the back wheel forward so the pedals don’t move). Check that the wheel spins freely and doesn’t rub against the brake pads or anything else.

Tires - Turn each wheel slowly and look for cuts, bulges or bubbles in the tire.

Brakes - Squeeze both brake levers to check that brakes are functional and feel strong.

Know the Bike

Two wheels, handlebars, and a set of pedals—what more is there to know about riding a Pronto bike? Like driving a friend’s car or sleeping in a new bed, Pronto bikes might be different than what you’re used to. Follow these quick tips, and you’ll be riding like a pro in no time:

Like most bike share systems, the Pronto bikes have “internal hub gears” – these are common in Europe but still fairly rare in the U.S. The gears are fully enclosed and protected from the elements. The hub has a spring-loaded “clutch” to enable gear shifting, and you do not need to be pedaling to change gears. The gear shifter is located on the right handlebar, and a little number indicates which gear you’re in. To keep things simple, just remember: 1 is the easiest and 7 is the hardest. It’s easier on the bike’s gears if you shift before a hill rather than during it.

Seattle has been called a lot of things, but flat has never been one of them! Pronto brakes provide a gentle stop, and the front brakes are designed to avoid lock-up. The brakes are “drum brakes” integrated with the hubs, and they work and feel differently than the rim or disc brakes that most riders in the U.S. are used to. Remember to maintain a safe speed, especially when going downhill, to make sure you don’t pick up too much speed and can safely stop at a moment’s notice.

Be Predictable

The more predictably you ride, the safer you are.

Don't weave in and out of traffic.
Use hand signals to let drivers and other cyclists know where you're going.
Ride about four feet away from parked cars, avoiding "the door zone."
Don't ride distracted. It's not recommended to ride with both headphones in.
Tell other riders you’re passing and pass on the left.

Use marked bike lanes or paths when available, except when making turns or when it is unsafe to do so. If the road is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to travel safely side by side, you have the right to ride in the middle of the travel lane.

Bicycling is permitted on all main and local streets throughout Seattle, even when no designated route exists.

Wear a helmet

It’s safe and it’s the law: “Any person operating or riding on a bicycle not powered by motor on a public roadway, bicycle path or on any right-of-way or publicly owned facilities located in King County including Seattle, shall wear a protective helmet designed for bicycle safety.”

You can bring your own helmet or rent one from any station while using the system. Always buckle the chin strap, and replace your helmet after any crash or whenever you see signs of damage.

Your helmet will be more effective (and will look and feel better) if it’s adjusted properly.
1. Wear it level on your head, about two finger-widths above your eyebrows.
2. Make sure the straps are snug. Only about two fingers should fit beneath the chin strap.
3. Your helmet should fit snugly on your head and not rock side-to-side. Use the foam pads that came with the helmet or the internal adjustor to fine-tune.

The Seattle Squiggles: Bike Routes to Ease Your Uphill Adventure

Together with Alta Planning + Design, we’ve designed 4 hill-minimizing routes to get you to the top of Capitol Hill, one of Seattle's most beastly biking barriers. All routes are in the Pronto service area and can be completed in less than 30 minutes. Will you still hit inclines along the way? Of course (it is Seattle, after all), but we promise The Squiggles will help ease the burn. Your legs will thank us! Click here for a complete listing of Squiggle routes and directions.