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Bike Sharing

Portland has been studying the prospect of a bike-sharing system for several years. We’ve covered it every step of the way. Browse our previous coverage below and click a headline to read the full story.

The Oregonian Editorial Board on Portland’s “risky bike share venture”

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

“Bike sharing isn’t essential, and a bike-sharing system with unexpected complications requiring city subsidies would undermine the public’s confidence in the city’s ability to set priorities and manage money.”
— Oregonian Editorial Board, December 21st, 2013.

With a big announcement about the Portland Bike Share system likely to come this month, The Oregonian Editorial Board is making it clear where they stand. Portland’s risky bike-share venture is the title of their editorial that ran on the front page of the opinion section on December 21st.

The piece reflects the opinion of the members of the O’s editorial board: Mark Hester, Erik Lukens, Susan Nielsen, Len Reed and David Sarasohn. As our bike share system gets closer to reality, we’ll be watching closely how the local media tries to frame the narrative around the project. After all, the project has all the components of a media freakout: the concept (at least on this scale) is unprecedented in Portland, bike share is usually misunderstood by people that haven’t used it (just like cycling in general), it’s an idea first championed by former Mayor Sam Adams, and it involves bicycling. (more…)

Bill would make bike-sharing benefits tax-deductible (updated)

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
Bike share demo-9-8
Not considered public transit by the IRS. Yet.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer is cosponsoring a bill to officially recognize bike sharing as the newest category of public transit, at least in the eyes of the IRS.

Unfortunately, the bill is limited by a persistent oversight in tax policy that restricts its benefits to those who both live and work in areas that have bikesharing stations.

It’s a new goal for the city transportation commissioner turned Congressman, who spent years pushing for the IRS’s first bike commuting benefit. The $20-a-month deduction finally passed as part of the 2008 bank bailout (despite Blumenauer’s “no” vote on that package).

(more…)

10 key details from Portland’s bike share proposal and contract

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
A rendering by Alta Bicycle Share of a future Portland
bike share station at downtown’s Director Park.

As public bike share systems continue to become standard public services in cities around the country, we figured it was time to learn more about what’s in store for Portland.
(more…)

Portlander designs low-cost bikeshare station for apartment buildings

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
Kiel Johnson with his custom-built creation.
(Photo courtesy Kiel Johnson)

The price of bikesharing adds up fast when 10 bikes and a solar-powered parking dock cost $45,554. It’ll take an estimated $3.4 million for Portland’s forthcoming public system to get enough hardware to cover the central city with 75 docks.

But what if Portland had a private bikesharing system, too?

That’s the thought that was keeping Southwest Portland resident (and noted local biking advocate) Kiel Johnson up at night. So he spent the last six months inventing one.

“Basically, I came up with this idea and couldn’t sleep for a week because I kept on thinking about it,” Johnson said. “So I was like, okay, I have to build this, or I’ll never be able to sleep.” (more…)

Six lessons for Portland from the League’s new ‘Women Bike’ report

Thursday, August 8th, 2013
woman on a bike
Common, but not quite common enough.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Even in Portland, people who really ought to know better (links to FB) still claim now and then that biking is a thing for young dudes.

Still, in a town where only 31 percent of people on bikes tend to be female (it’s about 25 percent nationally) we’ve got a long way to go until, as in Germany or the Netherlands, our biking population is evenly split by gender. Portland’s failure to change this ratio for 10 years can be discouraging to people who think everyone deserves to feel welcome on a bike.

That’s why there’s a lot to celebrate in a new report by the League of American Bicyclists that rounds up dozens of statistics about women and bikes. Culled from industry reports, political polls and academic studies, a few of the report’s figures are pretty surprising…

(more…)

“Mistakes” aside, city says Alta’s labor issues won’t affect Portland Bike Share

Thursday, July 11th, 2013
Behind the scenes at Capital Bikeshare-14-2
Mechanics at Capital Bikeshare
headquarters in Washington D.C.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Alta Bicycle Share Vice President Mia Birk acknowledged Wednesday that “we definitely make mistakes,” but that her fast-growing company is learning from its possible violation of federal labor rules and taking steps to avoid future wage issues.

Meanwhile, Portland city lawyers say the “prevailing wage” law that Alta may have run afoul of in Washington, D.C., which requires government contractors to be paid at higher than market price, won’t affect Portland’s forthcoming bike share system because it applies only to direct contracts with the District of Columbia or federal government itself. (more…)

Guess what? NYC’s bike share system is popular and working well

Friday, July 5th, 2013
What a difference a few weeks makes.

Five weeks in, New York City’s new bike share system seems to be doing just fine.

Initially plagued with problems (and negative headlines), Citi Bike’s main issue these days is keeping up with demand for the popular new mode of transit.

“After two weeks of using the program pretty much every day to get from Grand Central to the office in the morning (a block from Penn Station) and back in the evening, plus a few other trips here and there, I can’t say how much I love this program,” a man named Mike Cordelli wrote on Citi Bike’s Facebook page Wednesday afternoon.

As we (and many other news outlets) wrote last month, Citi Bike, managed by Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share, had serious problems as it was getting off the ground. An estimated one in 10 docks were failing to accept or release bikes. Membership keys were delayed. Customer service lines were clogged. (more…)

Intel employees set to launch ‘Open Bike Initiative’ on Hillsboro campus

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Employees at Hillsboro-based Intel Corporation are spearheading an effort to make bike sharing less expensive and more widely available. Using their own volunteer time, a group of employees at the company have been working on the Open Bike Initiative since January. I’ve heard murmurs about the effort for months and they just released some bare-bones details at OpenBikeInitiative.org.

Key advisors on the Open Bike project include Nike, the Westside Transportation Alliance, the Community Cycling Center, Portland State University, and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

According to the website, the main objective of the effort is to design a low-cost device that incorporates GPS/cell data and a locking mechanism that can be attached to any standard, off-the-shelf bike. Then they’ll create software that allows the bikes to communicate and be managed as a system via an online portal. The final step will be to freely distribute the results of their work and experiences with an open-source license. (more…)

As CitiBike launches, what’s next for Portland’s Alta Bicycle Share?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Alta Bicycle Share principal Mia Birk explains Portland's future system to possible sponsors
Alta Bicycle Share principal Mia Birk explains
Portland’s future system to possible sponsors
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland-based company that leads the nation in bikesharing just enjoyed its biggest launch yet, kicking off a 6,000-bike deal worth tens of millions of dollars over the next few years. And for Alta Bicycle Share, 2013 is only going to get more interesting.

Alta’s system is planning to launch in Chicago in “late summer.” San Francisco and the Bay Area are slated to join Alta’s empire in August with 350 bikes, and Columbus will get a 300-bike fleet in July. Alta already operates systems in Washington, Boston, and now New York City, meaning the company’s municipal bikeshare systems will be in five of the country’s 10 biggest metro areas by year’s end. Waiting in Alta’s wings: Vancouver BC, Seattle, and of course Portland. (Atlanta and Philadelphia, two more top-10 metro areas, seem to be on their way to bikesharing, too, and Alta will be a strong contender.)

This sort of growth is huge for a company that’s less than four years old — and also risky for a company that just lost a top executive to a possible competitor and has had to weather serious technical delays and complicated labor issues in the middle of its rapid expansion.

So I decided to talk to two national bikesharing experts about Portland’s locally-grown industry leader and the future of bikesharing in general. The two were Matt Christensen, managing editor of Bikeshare.com, a Santa Monica-based website that posts jobs and other news about the bikesharing industry; and Paul DeMaio, founder of DC-based bikeshare consulting firm MetroBike LLC, who’s been publishing The Bike-sharing Blog for six years now.

bikeshare experts Matt Christensen and Paul DeMaio
Bikeshare.com’s Matt Christensen and MetroBike LLC’s Paul DeMaio.

Both of these guys were thoughtful, frank and upbeat in their assessment of where Alta and the concept of bikesharing are headed. The questions and answers below have been combined from separate interviews that covered many of the same subjects.

(more…)

The Monday Roundup: NYC’s CitiBike and more

Monday, May 27th, 2013

Happy Memorial Day, Portland. As you might have noticed, Jonathan and I will be serving up bike-related reporting for the next two weeks by way of a transcontinental tag-team. Let’s start things off with the national bike news that caught our eyes in the last week.

New York City’s long-awaited CitiBike sharing system launched today, and it’s the talk of the town and the bike world in general. With 14,000 annual memberships presold at about $100 apiece, it’s poised to be the biggest win yet for Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share, which operates the systems. Here are some interesting tidbits from this week’s coverage of CitiBike:

— The New York Times showed how the modern bikeshare system was invented in Paris, improved in London, priced in DC and built on station hardware from Montreal. In another piece, the paper reports that experts seem to agree that bikesharing will be remembered as the key achievement of Michael Bloomberg’s 12 years of transportation reforms. “If this is the playoffs, what’s the finals?” says Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re there.”

(more…)

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