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Next-gen bike sharing company Social Bicycles swings through Portland

Friday, March 13th, 2015
justin with bike
Justin Wiley, Social Bicycles’ VP of Launch
and Operations, at Velo Cult in
Northeast Portland last week.
(Photo: Lizbon Grav)

Social Bicycles, maybe the country’s fastest-growing bike sharing company right now, sent one of its top executives on a swing through Portland last weekend.

SoBi, as it’s sometimes known, has scored contracts to equip public bike sharing systems in Phoenix, Tampa, Topeka, Boise, Orlando, Ottawa, Hamilton and Santa Monica. The company’s key innovation: “smart bikes” that can be parked anywhere inside a service zone, whether or not they’re at a dock.

Like most business development trips, the visit wasn’t publicized. But it certainly caught my attention last Friday when SoBi Vice President of Launch and Operations Justin Wiley walked into bike shop/bar Velo Cult with a SoBi bike.

“We are spending a lot of time on the road this year meeting with partners and potential clients to demo the product,” Ryan Rzepecki, CEO of the the New York-based bike sharing company, explained Thursday. “Recently, we made a quick visit to Portland to meet with a transportation planning consultant and a large employer that is interested in a private bike share.”

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Spinlister to launch user-owned bike-sharing system in Portland this summer (updated)

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Back in 2011, when she cast the lone vote against Portland’s still-unimplemented public bike sharing system, Commissioner Amanda Fritz asked a fair question: If bike sharing is such a good idea, why doesn’t the private sector do it?

It’s taken a little while. But with what looks to be a well-funded launch in Portland this summer, the company Spinlister is trying a novel idea for doing exactly that with their Smart Bike model.

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Here are the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee’s top 10 priorities citywide

Friday, February 27th, 2015
bac top 10
What do you think?
(Click to enlarge, or see below for details and links)

As we reported earlier this week, the City of Portland is trying to hone its massive transportation to-do list by asking people to rank their 10 favorite projects.

In a letter circulated this week, the citizens’ committee that’s most closely tied to Portland’s biking policies shared theirs.

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Now one of few large U.S. cities without bike sharing, Portland sets a new date

Friday, January 23rd, 2015
Downtown Riverside, CA
Downtown Riverside, Calif., the center of the
country’s 13th largest metro area and a city planning
to launch a bike sharing system in 2015.
(Photo: Daniel Orth)

By the end of 2015, it’s looking like 21 of the largest 25 U.S. metro areas are likely to have public bike share systems.

The four that won’t: Los Angeles, Detroit, St. Louis and Portland.

Los Angeles, by far the country’s largest holdout, announced this month that it’s on track to launch a system in 2016. Atlanta, Baltimore and Riverside, Calif., have plans to launch in 2015 but haven’t announced more specific dates.

Meanwhile, four other cities started service late last year or will in the next few months: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Seattle.

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The street fee, bike share, and Portland’s Big Pause

Friday, January 16th, 2015
Street Fee Town Hall - non residential fee-6
Our streets: Still without bike share,
new revenue, and a host of other projects on pause.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

“There are some who say, ‘Why would you move ahead with bike share if you can’t pave the streets?’”
— Mayor Hales, August 2014

This story was co-written by Michael Andersen and Jonathan Maus

Now that Portland’s erratic search for new transportation revenue is on “pause”, it’s raised another question for the city: How long will the rest of our transportation agenda be on pause?

There’s no better illustration of this problem than the way Portland’s plan for a public bike-sharing system fell apart.

In a previously unpublished interview last August, Mayor Charlie Hales was characteristically candid about this. He and his colleagues have not prioritized bike sharing, he said, because it might endanger their push for new revenue.
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Eugene bike share system lands near top of state grant list

Friday, January 9th, 2015
Bike share demo-9-8
A demo of bike share equipment in Portland, 2011.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

It’s looking likely that Eugene will be Oregon’s first city with a public bike sharing system.

After being put on ice last summer after it narrowly missed the cut for lottery-funded “Connect Oregon” grants, Eugene’s bike sharing hopes surged back in December when unallocated funds gave applicants a second chance at the coveted state grants.

On Wednesday the state’s top stakeholder committee recommended a Eugene bike share system as their #2 priority statewide for the new round of money.

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NYC investment company buys Alta Bicycle Share, hires former transit CEO

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Bike share ride with Oregon team-1
DC’s Capital Bikeshare system was a hit – a bigger one, it turned out, than an independently owned Alta Bicycle Share had the capacity to capitalize on.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

You might have heard by now: A local bike business that bootstrapped its way to the national stage, and then suffered a dizzying series of problems, has sold.

Alta Bicycle Share, a startup that unexpectedly became much larger than the bike planning company that birthed it after launching popular and successful systems in Boston and Washington DC, announced Tuesday that it has been purchased by New York City real estate developer REQX Ventures.

Terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed. In July, the Wall Street Journal pegged the deal at $40 million, but it’s not clear whether any of that money went to Alta’s founders or will be invested directly into the company. It’s also not clear whether Alta’s six cofounders (including local executive and former Portland bicycle coordinator Mia Birk) retain any ownership in the firm.

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‘Lost Oregon’ blog unearths rare footage of Yellow Bike program

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Still from video of Portland’s Yellow Bike program.
(Via LostOregon.org)

John Chilson, the local urban history buff behind the Lost Oregon blog, has shared some excellent and rare footage of Portland’s Yellow Bike program.

The Yellow Bike program (Wikipedia) was Portland’s innovative experiment in community bike sharing that was launched in 1994. These days it’s often brought up in the same breath with our more modern attempt at bike-sharing; but as you can see in the short video below, the Yellow Bike program was decidedly low-tech and had almost nothing in common with today’s systems.

With the help of volunteers at the Community Cycling Center, the Yellow Bike program consisted of hundreds of cheap city bikes that were simply painted yellow and set out for public use along with a sign that read: “Free community bike. Please return to a major street for others to reuse. Use at your own risk.” It was a classic example of what The New York Times referred to in December 1994 as Portland’s “urban whimsy.” (more…)

West-side paths may get lottery grants, but bike-share expansion looks iffy

Friday, April 11th, 2014
The blue dashed lane along the south bank of the Tualatin River shows a future trail connection that might be funded by $1.6 million in state lottery proceeds.
(Image: City of Tualatin)

A mixed-use path link in Tualatin is among the top contenders for a lottery-funded state grant program that includes biking and walking projects for the first time this year.

The 0.8-mile, Tualatin River Greenway gap completion project is faring well in the state’s competitive Connect Oregon program because it creates a low-stress link to jobs and retail across Interstate 5 for 67,000 nearby residents. It’d cost $3.1 million; Tualatin is hoping half will come from Connect Oregon.

Also performing well in early (and still flexible) rankings for Connect Oregon’s state lottery dollars are the proposed Tigard Street Trail, which would convert an unused rail alignment to a walking/biking path along SW Tigard Street from SW Main Street to SW Tiedeman Avenue, and a TriMet proposal to add secure bike parking and safe track crossings at the Beaverton Creek and Goose Hollow MAX stations.

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3 lessons for Portland as Citi Bike struggles to break even

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Citi Bike Launch
Citi Bike’s launch last summer.
(Photo: NYCDOT)

A Wall Street Journal report last week that New York City’s wildly popular bike share system has been operating in the red has, understandably, rattled the Portland transportation world as we wait for a similar system here.

I’ll start by rounding up the burst of media coverage, then offer some quick analysis.

The Journal report last Thursday, which we linked to in this week’s Monday Roundup, kicked things off. An Oregonian news roundup followed focused the blame on Alta, the Portland-based company that manages Citi Bike and has the contract for Portland’s future system. A follow-up editorial from the Oregonian called on the city to scrap its plan and put the money to other bike projects, seemingly misreading a recent bike sharing study to draw the conclusion that a Portland system is “almost certain to require a hefty annual operating subsidy from Portland taxpayers.”

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