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PBOT requests federal funds for bike share, other projects

Posted by on August 15th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

City of Portland bike sharing demonstration-22
A bike share system is now
officially in the running for federal funds.
(Photos © J. Maus)

This Wednesday at City Council, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) will make their pitch for four projects they want to fund with $9 million in federal Regional Flexible Funds. As per instructions from Metro (the agency that doles out the money), three of the four projects — $6.6 out of $9 million total available — are active transportation projects.

“Without private support we wouldn’t be here today.”
— PBOT’s Dan Bower on private sector enthusiasm for bike share

Not surprising to close readers of this site, PBOT has chosen Portland Bike Share as one of those three projects.

In addition to $2 million in seed money to start a bike share system (which they say will leverage another $2 million in private funding to aid start-up, with ongoing operations paid for through memberships and user fees), PBOT will ask Council to approve a request for $3.36 million to improve bicycling and walking in East Portland and $1.25 million for “safety enhancements” to SE Foster Road. (The fourth request is for a $2.36 million freight project in St. Johns.)

BAC Bike Ride East Portland-13
PBOT’s list includes a new neighborhood
greenway that would pave and improve
an east-west route from
NE 130th to I-205.

The East Portland Active Transportation to Transit project will include new sidewalks and buffered bike lanes on SE Division Street, crossing improvements at 12 intersections, funding for two neighborhood greenways (one north-south on the 130′s and east-west on Pacific-Oregon-Holladay), a shared-use path on the north side of SE Holgate, and bike parking at Holgate and Division MAX stations.

The Foster Road Safety Enhancements project would improve bicycling and walking crossings of Foster at three difficult intersections — at Foster and Holgate between SE 63rd to 67th, at 72nd Avenue, and between SE 80th and 84th.

These three active transportation projects were chosen from a short-list of five projects. The two that didn’t make the cut were the SW Barbur Streetscape Plan and the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail.

I met with PBOT Planning Manager Paul Smith, Acting Transportation Options Division Manager Dan Bower, and Traffic Safety Specialist Mark Lear today to discuss the decisions.

PBOT Planner Smith said, while they wish they could fund everything, Barbur and Sullivan’s Gulch weren’t on the list because planning processes are still ongoing for both projects. Barbur is the subject of a high capacity transit corridor planning study and plans for Sullivan’s Gulch are also currently underway. In the case of Barbur, Smith said, “We don’t even know what the final cross-section [roadway alignment] will be.”

For those disappointed that SW Barbur won’t get the federal largesse (especially after a collision on the street that killed Angela Burke back in December), Smith said PBOT has already met with the Oregon Department of Transportation to identify elements of the Streetscape Plan that might be compatible with the current planning project in order to make sure they are at the top of the list when improvements finally take place.

Overall, “The City feels good about this proposal,” Lear said today.

“We have some projects where we’re building a network — like the East Portland project — in parts of town that have a lot of disadvantaged populations that we think will be well-served with the sidewalks and bike facilities. In addition, we have an investment in Foster, primarily focused on safer crossings of Foster; and the bike share project, which we think really creates a new travel option for a huge portion of Portlanders.”

While the East Portland projects will be welcomed by many, the big news is the $2 million request for bike share. That money would be the crucial seed funding to get the project rolling. Once those funds are secured — and, barring objections from City Council, it’s likely they will be — PBOT says they’ve got another $2 million in private funds lined up (health care company Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield has already committed to being a title sponsor).

Bike share is new for Portland, and in these times of meager City budgets, the project already has detractors (The Oregonian reports that Commission Amanda Fritz will vote against it).

“While we are confident the bike share project will have an immediate impact in the Central City, we want to test some sites further out to figure out what might work in those type of locations.”
— Mark Lear, PBOT

PBOT says the bike share system will focus on the Central City (on both sides of the river, similar to the new streetcar loop) because successful examples from other cities have shown that high density and urban land-use patterns are key. In addition, PBOT is expected to announce later today that the money will fund pilot projects in locations away from the Central City such as Multnomah Village, Hillsdale, and North Interstate near Killingsworth (along TriMet’s Yellow MAX line).

“While we are confident the bike share project will have an immediate impact in the Central City,” Lear said today, “we want to test some sites further out to figure out what might work in those type of locations.”

It’s likely that PBOT is doing those pilot projects in part to thwart criticism that bike share isn’t necessary in the Central City, a place that some feel is already transit and bicycle-friendly compared to many other parts of the city. During a public meeting in June to garner feedback on their Flexible Fund project list, bike share was the only project to receive negative comments.

But PBOT is bullish on bike-sharing. They’ve been studying it for several years and feel they have learned lessons from systems across the country. “It creates a new travel option for a huge portion of Portlanders,” PBOT’s Bower said today. Bower also touted the “unprecedented” private support for the project including a new letter of support from the Portland Business Alliance.

Of the four projects on PBOT’s funding list, bike sharing is the only one that doesn’t rely on any City money.

Mark Lear says he believes bike share would also come with a traffic safety boost for all road users. In addition to what he calls more “mixed users” (people who use more than one type of mode) Lear says another “huge factor” that will improve safety are all the people who will hop on one of the rental bikes and, “get a perspective of what it’s like to be a cyclist that they would never have gotten otherwise.”

Lear made it clear today that, while they won’t require helmets, PBOT wants to make their bike share program “one of the strongest” for encouraging helmet use. They plan to include helmets in all their marketing images and include information at rental kiosks on where to buy them.”

If PBOT projects are adopted by City Council Wednesday, they’ll be handed over to Metro on August 29th. Metro will hold a public comment period from September 9th to October 10th and then the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) will adopt the final list on December 8th, 2011.

While the federal funds wouldn’t become available until 2014, PBOT says they could start moving forward with plans as soon as next year following final adoption of the project list.

Stay tuned for more coverage. To learn more about bike sharing in Portland, read BikePortland’s extensive archives on the topic.

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Comments
  • Esther August 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks for laying out the flexible funding application plans so clearly, Jonathan. I generally agree with Commissioner Fritz that the city needs to address needs in non-central areas…but I think they have done a good job of explaining to you why they are applying for these projects. (Even though I am disappointed Sullivan’s Gulch didn’t make the cut :)

    One thing that isn’t mentioned, but is a factor in whether the Bike Share program is being applied equitably — I REALLY, REALLY hope that the plans for Bike Share make it an accessible program for low income and/or homeless people, both in terms of membership (identification/residency requirements) and cost. There are a number of SROs and other low-income housing units downtown, and many of those people can or would use bicycles for transportation to necessary appintments, especially if it were cheaper and easier than taking Trimet (and often, the burden of appointments for health care and social services all over town is a huge one). I see bikes permanently outside the Hotel Alder (a 99 unit SRO across from my work), that I’d guess belong to residents who can’t bring them inside up the stairs, and they are locked with cable locks – leaving them vulnerable to theft. Perhaps Bike Share could be an effective and easy way for downtown residents of all income levels to do daily tasks without the burden of ownership. Making this program equitable for ALL people in the city core would go a long way towards answering some of those complaints about funding equity.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks for the comment.

      I wish TriMet and streetcar were more affordable for everyone. My family and I don’t take TriMet because it’s so expensive once we buy tickets for everyone.

      I think PBOT sees bike share on the same footing as transit and it’s not in their thinking to make it something that everyone can afford… The first priority is to make a system that works for the people who choose to use it.

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    • John Mulvey August 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      Esther,

      I agree with you about the issue of access for low-income people. I was thinking about this in the context of the recent thread about Tri-Met, which I think does a terrible job of keeping their service affordable and useful for working people.

      A couple of years ago I was visiting Seattle at around the time their transit agency was considering limiting late-night service. (Of course, Portland doesn’t even HAVE late night service.) What I found interesting was that various groups that serve low income people raised a big ruckus about it because of the impact it would have on the working poor, who disproportionately rely on late-night service to get to and from their jobs. (King Co. Metro backed down, btw.)

      It was the kind of debate that just wouldn’t happen in Portland. People here associate transit with something you choose to take once in a while to your office in downtown. We don’t seem to recognize it as a necessity for the working poor. If Portlanders saw transit as a necessity for low-income people, I think the tone of discussions about rate increases and service cuts would be very different.

      -John

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    • poncho August 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm

      bike sharing does not work if you give free access to the bikes. you have to have a credit card or a big deposit. people have to be responsible financially for the bikes. if you give the homeless or low income people (or anyone for that matter) access to the bikes without paying or the threat of being held accountable for the loss of a bike, the system wont last 3 months.

      there are organizations in portland that give bikes to the needy that they can own outright.

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  • thefuture August 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I’m with Amanda Fritz on this, the $2 million would be much better spent on other safety projects than bike share. There are a lot of reasons bike share in Portland is going to fail, and when it does it’s going to be used as a reason to not fund bike projects in general. I’d much rather those funds be spent in further out neighborhoods than the central city which is already flush with transportation options.

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    • Joe C August 15, 2011 at 4:00 pm

      I disagree with you about Portland bikeshare’s chances of success. But I’m curious all the same, for what reasons do you think it will fail?

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      • thefuture August 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm

        My biggest fear is people who are inexperienced riding downtown which is where the program will be heavily focused from the beginning. Even for more experienced cyclists, downtown Portland can be a difficult place to ride. I foresee increased incidents between bike share users and cars, and I am guessing bike share users will likely ride more on the sidewalks increasing incidents with pedestrians. It will just take one serious incident to call the program into question.

        Bikes being stolen or vandalized is another issue with bike theft being so high in Portland, but it sounds like the rental system at least tries to assure their safe return?

        I just don’t think the trips people would make on these bikes can’t be made on the streetcar, bus, or simply walking. I think the money could be better spent to encourage people in further out (and namely under served) neighborhoods to bike instead of drive which would reduce traffic on a broader scale, provide a truly affordable transportation option, better health, and all that good bike stuff.

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        • dan August 16, 2011 at 9:44 am

          It seems to me that bike share is also likely to have a pretty severe impact on established bike rental businesses downtown — will it be accessible to tourists, or will it be set up so that only residents can practically become members?

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        • Rithy Khut August 16, 2011 at 9:51 am

          Watching the London Bike share, “Boris Bikes”, the conditions in London are far worse than anything that could imagine in Portland. There is really no added infrastructure to aid bicycle use and the system seemly works fine. However that doesn’t mean that it should be made better.

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    • poncho August 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm

      i’m sorry but cyclists are the last people to ask about bike sharing, cyclists already bike and have bikes. what bike sharing will do for cyclists is get more people biking and further the push for more bike infrastructure and more street space devoted to bikes.

      bike sharing reaches out to people other than the ponytailed, bearded, sandal-wearing recumbent-bike-towing-trailer riders; Lance Armstrong wannabe spandex and metal clip shoe wearing riders; and skinny wheel hipster with close together handlebar riders.

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      • thefuture August 16, 2011 at 5:52 am

        Poncho, advocating that public funds be focused on areas where people are being killed on bikes or where people are really looking for affordable transportation options is hardly protectionism of resources for the so called ‘elitist cyclists’ that you are suggesting. Remind me, how many bicycle fatalities were there in the central city this year?

        I hate to be negative about the project and I appreciate the hard work that people have put into it. I am probably being over paranoid about the risks of the project, but if its such a slam dunk then why isn’t it a private venture? The method of renting the bikes is perfect for that. Maybe the 2 million can be in the form of a low interest loan to get it started, but it is paid back over time? I’m wondering if the existing bike rental companies get part of that $$ too?

        I guess to go back to Amanda Fritz’s point that its not a bad idea, but we have more important priorities before we can take it on which is what I agree with. In case you haven’t noticed, our nation is not exactly embracing government spending right now and I’d like to see the outer areas get some attention before the central city.

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  • Allan August 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Having used bikeshare programs in other cities, I have to say that this will be huge for a number of reasons beyond the obvious. I think the return on this investment will be huge (over the usual 20 + year planning lifespan just like other projects). The benefit of bikeshare over transit is that an annual pass costs like 50$ (assuming similar pricing to other places) for unlimited use whereas a monthly pass on trimet is 80+$ This means that even if you aren’t using the shared bikes all that much, you can justify the cost. I’m excited to use our new bikes and I wonder what it’ll be called

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  • dwainedibbly August 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I can understand the argument for starting bike share in the central city: begin where it is most likely to be successful (based on what has worked in other cities) and grow from there. I just hope that whoever is going to be responsible for it doesn’t forget the “grow from there” part. This really is something that needs to be city-wide as soon as possible. As has already been pointed out, it may be a fantastic “gateway” for the “interested but concerned” group.

    I wonder if having Regence as sponsor means that the bikes will be blue.

    Will we be seeing them at Zoobomb? :)

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  • Elliot August 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I’m very curious about the “shared-use path on the north side of SE Holgate” component of the East Portland Active Transportation to Transit project.

    Are there any details available yet, or might they come out at the city council presentation on Wednesday?

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  • Andrew Seger August 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Curious they didn’t mention the most obvious spot for an expansion of the bikeshare program: The williams/vancouver corridor, particularly the businesses in segment 4. Can you imagine what it’d look like at rush hour with a horde of inexperienced people trying to share that four foot bike lane as they head to Lincoln or wherever? Yikes.

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    • Joe C August 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      Don’t forget; with two new bars moving into the neighborhood soon, those would be inexperienced and sauced riders you’d be jockeying for space with. =)

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      • middle of the road guy August 15, 2011 at 4:57 pm

        Joe, don’t you know that every cyclist is completely responsible and that if anything happens it is not their fault? It is either urban design or a cager.

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        • Joe C August 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm

          “every cyclist is completely responsible and that if anything happens it is not their fault?”

          I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Can you explain what you mean?

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        • Joe C August 16, 2011 at 8:50 am

          Oh, I get it, you’re trying to completely misrepresent my recently stated positions on user culpability in bike/pedestrian fatalities on OregonLive. Somehow I think that if cars were designed the other way around–with airbags on the outside, and jagged pieces of metal on the inside, drivers would be much more careful while driving. Until that happens, I’m fine with erring on the side of the vulnerable road user when it comes to fault.

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  • 9watts August 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    I guess we’ll see how much of “an immediate impact in the Central City” it will have, or whether “It creates a new travel option for a huge portion of Portlanders.”
    In the meantime it might have been interesting to wonder aloud about some of the other ways we might have spend that money, about how far $2M might go toward working with a neighborhood to encourage neighbors to phase out their reliance on cars? That is almost $600 for each household in my neighborhood.
    Or we could have just bought several thousand very nice bikes for that money and built a contest around their use/the displacement of car travel. Other cities and countries have done this. In 1995/96 the City of Aarhus in Denmark conducted a pilot study along these lines. For 450,000 ECU (we could substitute Euro now) the Danish EPA, The Danish Transport Council, and the Municipality of Aarhus sponsored a year-long project in which a total of 200 participants were selected from 1,700 interested parties. “The Municipality of Aarhus wanted to investigate whether reducing a series of practical and psychological barriers can persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they commmute. Can free alternative transport, service and information motivate motorists to change their transport habits? How many and for how long? Are motorists’ previous arguments against bicycling or taking the bus traditional or merely based based on ingrained notions and prejudices?”
    Participants received a new high-quality bicycle fully equipped with lights, racks, bags, bike computer, lock ,and pump (total = 600 Euro) for one year, unlimited service at bike shops, rain gear, a child seat if desired, 1-yr pass for public transport buses, bus schedule and umbrella, option to buy the bicycle for 150 Euro after 1 yr, voluntary health check ups….

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  • Matt M August 15, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Any possibility of a story on the projects that Washington or Clackamas Co. are asking Metro to fund in this round?

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  • 9watts August 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I’m still unclear on the specific demographic groups expected to be switching from car to bike. I’m not saying there aren’t any; I just can’t think of any for whom the system as described would substitute effectively for the car. For instance, by what means are putative bike share users expected to get to the bike stations? And get home again?

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  • timbo August 15, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I witnessed bike share in Europe. It flat out works very well for all people when done correctly and their are enough city’s whom have gone before us as examples to steal best practices from. I’m excited that this might actually get done. Thank you PBOT for making this request.

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    • Todd Boulanger August 15, 2011 at 5:57 pm

      I agree with Timbo, the Euro cities I have visited that have adopted the current generation of bike sharing all have more bike traffic in their core areas. It is a fantastic first and last mile solution – and much more economical than transit only investments. It brings a modest level of Dutch bike volumes to these areas. This in turn makes cycling a true mobility option for the majority.

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  • jim August 15, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Shouldn’t bike share be self sustaining? If you want to use this as your means of transportation, then you should also have to pay for it.

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  • Todd Boulanger August 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Though for bike sharing there are critical points that PDOT must address for a successful model – in addition to the points already discussed, add:
    - adding secure decentralized bike parking [Bikestation modules, etc.] integrated with the bike sharing system for all cyclists
    - solving the network reload problem by the user through incentives vs. expensive staff transport of bikes to high demand stations
    - flexible user card technology, so the fare card can also buy… parking, car sharing and transit (though Trimet is ~5 years away from electronic fare instruments), etc.

    Glad to hear about the flexibility on the helmet policy issue.

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  • Steph Routh, WPC August 15, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Bike sharing as a concept and potential project is great, in my opinion. However, the neighborhoods along SW Barbur and Foster Rd. and within East Portland have all been waiting a very long time for critical safety improvements. These three projects (Barbur, E. Portland and Foster) have undergone a community engagement process and are all on the Capital Improvement Plan. The also are geographically equitable, and the centrally-focused bike sharing project simply is not that.

    I look very forward to cheering for bikesharing once the project has had the benefit of public involvement and comment, but that time has not yet come. Sometimes we must be patient to be fair.

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    • Nolan August 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      Steph,

      I’m curious as to why spending $2M on Barbur is more geographically equitable than $2M in the Center City. Surely the potential users of a central city bike share system are more likely to include residents of the whole region than users of the Barbur Corridor (or Foster, or East Portland, for that matter). For a regional funding program, that seems relevant and positive. Someone who lives in Kenton, Cully, Rose City, Montavilla, Brooklyn, or Sellwood (or Milwaukie, Clackamas, Beaverton…) or many other neighborhoods may never use projects focused on a medium density outer corridor. Why not have at least one of the projects serve the region’s primary center of employment, retail, entertainment and tourism? It’s worth noting that none of the 2010-2013 RFF projects were Central City projects.

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  • Lazy Spinner August 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Hmmmm…Barbur and Sullivan’s Gulch, two opportunities for high speed bike commuting from the outer reaches of the city and the closer ‘burbs get passed over for bike share, a program that will be most heavily utilized by:

    A. Tourists
    B. Downtown workers that likely DRIVE to and from work each day but think it’s kind of Portland green-trendy to rent a bike to ride to the food carts at lunch.

    Great job, Portland! Way to put image ahead of real solutions. Commissioner Fritz should be lauded for seeing through this scam. Who’s getting the bike share contract? Does it start with a capital “A” and have its nose totally up the backside of PBOT?

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    • NF August 16, 2011 at 7:05 am

      The Barbur project is not a “Bike” project, in the traditional sense of the word (neither is the Foster project) – it was a “streetscape” project, which generally means improved sidewalks, amenities, trees, and most important, enhanced pedestrian crossings.

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  • poncho August 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    no one walks or bikes outside of NE/SE 60th to the east and the base of the West Hills to the west, spending money in these places on bike/ped facilities other than basic safety is a complete waste.

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    • NF August 16, 2011 at 7:13 am

      I can’t tell if you were being sarcastic in your post or not.

      Ten years ago people would have said the same about NE/SE 39th. I’m glad we have people planning for the future, where the borders of the biking city expand to the whole city limits.

      You’ll be relieved too, because the Foster, East Portland, and Barbubr projects are essentially “basic safety” … If anything, that’s my biggest complaint about them – they don’t think very big.

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  • Charles Ross August 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    I was recently in Washington D.C. and used their bikeshare system. One thing occurred to me as being a strong positive: Once you unlock the bike from one station, ride it, and lock it in to another, your responsibility has ended. I have an expensive bike. Even with two locks I worry about it being locked up on the street.
    The bikeshare system in D.C. should be a model for what we could do here in Portland.

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  • timbo August 15, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    I’m all for Sullivan’s Gulch, I really am…. but I’m looking for easier victories and at $2 million bucks I don’t think that will get much done towards completion in a timely manner. A successful launch of bike share will actually help sell the Sullivan’s Gulch project in the long term. And yes actually tourists account for a whooping 40% of the bike share revenue in other cities so I’m all for bringing others money into p-town. And as far as image building your correct on that too. Brand PDX is all about bicycling. And in these days of tough economic times if we can sell our brand to outsiders that want to visit and drop their cash or employers who want to invest in our brand, then I say “yes” lets do this thing.

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  • Alex Reed August 16, 2011 at 9:19 am

    I don’t know enough to make an informed judgment of the priority of these projects. I can say that I am really excited about bike-sharing!

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  • timbo August 16, 2011 at 9:44 am

    And if you believe that their is safety in numbers then bicycle share with 700 bikes available and probably 200 being used at any given time then that should add some numbers.

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  • wsbob August 16, 2011 at 11:54 am

    9watts
    I’m still unclear on the specific demographic groups expected to be switching from car to bike. I’m not saying there aren’t any; I just can’t think of any for whom the system as described would substitute effectively for the car. For instance, by what means are putative bike share users expected to get to the bike stations? And get home again?
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    “…I’m still unclear on the specific demographic groups expected to be switching from car to bike. I’m not saying there aren’t any; I just can’t think of any for whom the system as described would substitute effectively for the car. …” 9watts

    “…”It creates a new travel option for a huge portion of Portlanders,” PBOT’s Bower said today. …” maus/bikeportland

    Bowers is ‘Acting Transportation Options Division Manager Dan Bower’.

    Who represents the demographic user group, and who this “…huge portion of Portlanders”, is…that the bike share system would serve, are key questions.

    Who is going to be riding these bike share bikes? Portland has some tourists, but it’s not a tourist town on anything close to the scale that Paris and London are. Portland also isn’t a government town like D.C. . The aforementioned cities have huge areas of flat terrain compared to Portland’s rather small downtown, whose terrain isn’t very flat. What European city that’s closest to Portland in terms of demographics, terrain, tourism, and business, has a bike share system that is the kind of phenomenal success advocates of such a program for Portland, hope for.

    Portland’s homeless and low income could certainly use help meeting transportation needs for which public transit schedules doesn’t adequately provide for. It’s not realistic though, to champion as a general mass transportation option, what sounds to be a hugely labor intensive, fragile community transportation program, if the key user group will mainly be homeless and low income people.

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    • timbo August 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm

      Keep in mind tourists in this scenario are actually any people from outside the metro area. Meaning the state of Washington and rural Oregon who want the option to rent a bike affordability and convenient when visiting Portland. And beside’s nothing wrong with using this to appeal to tourists from all over. That’s a good thing.

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