could be on its way to Portland.]
Photo: Ethan Jewett
City Commissioner Sam Adams has stepped up his effort to bring a bicycle-sharing system to Portland.
Although still in “preliminary stages,” Adams’ staffer Max Coffman — who works with Adams and Senior Policy Director Roland Chlapowski on special transportation projects — told me today that he is preparing an official request for proposals to find a company that can deploy a system in Portland similar to the “Velo’V” system (which Adams saw in action during a visit to Lyon, France) and the “Cyclocity” system currently used in Brussels.
A representative from France-based JCDecaux — the second largest outdoor advertising company in the world and operator of several successful bike-sharing programs in Europe — recently brought a bike to Adams’ office and his Chief of Staff Tom Miller took it for a spin.
According to Coffman, advertising would likely play a role in funding the system, but he says Adams doesn’t want to be completely reliant on ads:
“Ads could provide some of the funding, but Sam does not want to plaster downtown with billboards and ads are not a deciding factor.”
To try and sweeten the pot, Coffman says he’s met with TriMet, PDOT, the Port of Portland, the Portland Business Alliance, and others to come up with ways to leverage exposure for potential advertisers.
Most likely, the bikes would be funded by a combination of ads and per-minute rental fees. Portland’s proposal will also make maintenance of the bike fleet the responsibility of the chosen contractor.
Photo: freddy on Flickr
Portland’s not the only U.S. city working toward a government-backed bike sharing system. The San Francisco Chronicle just published a story about that city’s efforts:
“Now comes the next step — making bikes plentiful and accessible, and available on the same up-front fee model as the city’s car-sharing program….The bicycles would be part of San Francisco’s effort to become the first major U.S. city with a government-backed bike-sharing program, something that has caught on in Europe.”
And sources tell me that Chicago has already put out a request for proposals for a JCDecaux-type system.
So it sounds like San Francisco, Chicago, and Portland are all trying to make this happen. Who will be first? The race is on!
Of course forward-thinking European cities have already beaten us to it. Bike-sharing systems already exist in Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cordoba, Spain, and others.
At this point, Coffman says he needs input on suitable downtown locations to park the bikes. If anyone has feedback and/or expertise in that area, feel free to leave a comment or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: According to Bikestation board member and City of Vancouver (WA) Transportation Planner Todd Boulanger, Washington DC has won the race…
“This year DC will be one of the first urban shared bike projects utilizing the JCDecaux technology common in Lyon and Brussels (The CycloCity system). It will be located next to the next new Bikestation (DC Union Station). CONTACT: Paul DeMaio of MetroBike, LLC.”
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In Vienna, you need a local cell phone account to check out the bikes, but if you return it to any location within the hour it is a free ride. A pretty clever way to heavily promote cycling for short trips and commutes.
OK, wait. Lemme get this straight…
I’d be riding on a saddle where someone else, perhaps even just recently, was perched?
Dude, I won’t even let my wife straddle my Brookie.
I mean, like, that’s MY assgroove.
Do they have tissue gaskets in bike seat size?
Donald: damn, dude, is that homophobia or something else? Do you have a specified time you wait before sitting in someone else’s chair, too?
I’m with you Ethan… The first hour free program in Vienna sounds great! And it seems really appropriate given Tri-met’s “fairless square” program downtown. It would fit right into the Portland Psyche… Looking forward to hearing more!
I think this can only help cycling in Portland, so I fully support it. But…
It seems as though the plan operates from the assumption, as stated in the SF Chronicle article, that government efforts should be focused on “making bikes plentiful and accessible” in order to get people to cycle more.
I can hear people over at the CCC going, “Wait a minute!” Bikes are already plentiful and accessible. A lack of easy access to bikes is not the primary reason why people don’t cycle more.
The primary reason people don’t cycle more is safety. The City should be focusing its efforts on making the streets safer for cyclists! Are you reading, Mr Adams?
…more bike boulevards, an ordinance setting a wider passing distance, more signals triggered by bikes, more free lights, more signage re bike rights, etc…
Then people will be more likely to get on a shared bike.
These systems are a far cry from the CCC’s model.
And, the City is focusing on making streets safer.
We need to approach increasing cycling from many angles…this is just one.
Also, funding for this system won’t come from the same pot as safety measures….hopefully it will be completely funded by advertisers and user fees.
…last time I checked no one wanted to advertise on bike boulevards and/or charge people a fee for using them! ;-).
And finally, getting more people on bikes is a great way to increase safety. Stats show a clear decrease in crashes as bicycle use goes up.
NOIP, Donald’s comment wasn’t homophobic – more like bacteriaphobic – note that he said that not even his wife gets to sit on his Brookie. Besides, it appears the comment was made, at least partially, in jest.
Frankly, if someone else wanted to sit on my Brooks, I probably wouldn’t get too weirded out, but he or she would be REALLY uncomfortable because the saddle is shaped to my bony butt, not their’s.
That said, I also don’t mind sitting on a bus or train seat that has been recently vacated – I can’t tell how Donald would feel about that 🙂
I understand all that, really. And I agree that we need a multi-faceted approach. AND of course I said that I supported the program.
I just really want to see the City be more aggressive with regard to making the roads safer.
I would really like to see an ordinance enacted mandating a 5-feet passing distance and associated ~$500 fine.
I would also like to see an ordinance that suspends the duty of cyclists to move to the right to yield to cars in right-hand lanes of certain couplets.
And then there’s the yield rule…
Interesting. I have used a similar system in the Nederlands called OV Fiets http://www.ov-fiets.nl Basically, a national rental system, like flex car. Where you reserve a bike online to pick up at an OV kiosk, usually at the train station or small kiosks in the city. The idea is for business folks who travel within the country and need wheels in another city.
I think the proposed Vienna model sounds great for PDX!
Next we just need wide spacious SEPARATED bike lanes going everywhere, oh and the yeild thing A.O. mentioned.:)
I’m not against this system by any means. Bikes=good. I’m just wondering who the targeted user is? I know a lot of folks who are not cyclists, and I can’t imagine any of them wanting to use it.
I wouldn’t use it because I own a bike and it is always with me.
Is the targeted user someone from the burbs who commutes into the city by car or train and wants something to make a trip on during the day?
I applaud the City for taking on this effort and attempting to bring such a program to fruition. I think the benefits of the program would largely be for visitors — that is, people who arrive in downtown or other regional centers by transit, but then need mobility within that local area, beyond what could be accomplished by walking within a reasonable amount of time.
So, the program is essentially targeted at commuters, tourists (to the extent that they could negotiate the initial hurdles to gaining access to a smart card to get a bike,) and others who find themselves someplace, without a bike, wishing they had one.
I suppose there might be some downtown residents who also use the bikes because they don’t want to make room in their cramped apartments for their own bikes, but I suspect this would be a minuscule portion of the users.
Finally, there probably should be a nice public debate about the value of these bikes vs. the value of advertising associated with them. Is it appropriate for the bikes and bike racks to be plastered with some variety of logos and/or advertising campaign? Will the populace of Portland accept this as a necessary trade-off for corporate-sponsored-and-maintained free/shared bicycles? Will there be public hearings on this topic?
this is encouraging. I wonder if sam would be amenable to having a citizen group help spearhead this effort? I get a little nervous when a “staffer” and a city “special transport” person are writing RFPs without public input and racing against other cities to prove how effective they are. Also, a review of sams blog reveals no information about this plan. which is interesting.
I imagine that the number of comments here will show that there is interest among the bike community to help.
as far as paying/reserving bikes – the question raised by Jim F is the most critical one. I can imagine using library cards for residents and a credit card system like our parking meters for those who do not have library cards. And, yes, I am suggesting that these bikes be available for free for the people of portland.
lastly, how about using a few of the parking spaces in downtown portland to provide storage? We could construct weatherproof bike sharing stations throughout downtown by utilizing a few of the existing carpark spaces, as we already do with the flexcar spaces.
either way, good to see some progress…
Tweakers should have these bikes stripped in about three weeks after the city puts them in.
This could help to lighten the load of bikes on tri met. Instead of bringing your bike downtown on the bus or max you can borrow one. This will leave more spots on the bus and max racks for folks traveling to destinations not near the rentals. It will also help to encourage folks to explore bike transportation without much cash investment. I think this sounds great. Of course security of the system must be addressed.
I can think of some uses for them. My mother would be happy to be able to use one periodically on her visits here from Detroit. A couple of months ago, a man from Maryland in town for a city planners’ convention struck up a conversation with me on the MAX about the ease of getting around on bikes here. He was wishing he had his bike so he could take some rides around town and I was wishing I had a bike to lend him. I could also see these being popular with shoppers wanting to get around downtown or to the Pearl/NW faster than by walking or the streetcar, and wouldn’t it be nice for them to park their car and leave it in one place the whole time they’re shopping?
Like felix, I do have some reservations about how they would be kept intact and secure.
The idea of having a bike sharing program is cool. But the idea of a group of people who don’t usually ride bicycles riding in high traffic areas with no helemts or lights scares me.
The city should educate people on bicycle safety and traffic laws before they start handing out bicycles.
Spokane brings up the point that I was about to bring up, but I’m going to bring it up anyways.
I assume that it would be fairly simple to build LED front and rear lights into these bikes that ran off built-in generators. That’d solve the light question.
But how might helmets be provided? I’m sure there’s an engineer out there, somewhere, than could provide a safe, sanitary and stylish solution to this question.
Also, I assume these bikes would also have bells built in, and all the built-in components would be at least moderately theft-proof?
Yes this type of system tries to serve both the user who owns a bike but who does not have it with them and the user who does not own a bike. Both are key ways of making bicycling more accessible to a wider audience on a daily basis.
As for payment…the European systems promoted by the likes of Adshel and JcDecaux require a credit card with chip (not magstripe) for ease of collecting payment and to provide a deposit to minimize theft. These are very well maintained and planned systems that due to their payment method will be a barrier to some who either do not have or want a credit card. This is less of a problem than it used to be but still a problem. When I went to see this system in Lyon this fall as part of our Bikestation technology tour, my US credit card was not accepted for payment and I could not find a way to rent one.
As for using another form of payment…this could be done but at what cost…either in reconfiguring the machines, setting up a parallel card distribution, or in higher theft rates. The use of a reloadable chip card like Portland’s parking meters is possble, but currently these cards have too low of loaded values and my not provide the level of security (returned bikes) desired once cards are near empty.
All these questions could be addressed as part of a stakeholder panel to review technology, payment methods, fees, locations, critical mass of user awareness of system (regional network of cities with same system), economic accessibility (access for low income users to a public funded system), and the like in both preparing the RFP and in selecting a vendor.
During my visit to Lyon, I was impressed at the number of regular users who where riding around town at all times of day and night with these bikes. I can say that it was well used and you could find a working bike with little trouble.
In my 10 years of studying shared bike systems…These two previous issues are often failings with other systems…the Copenhagen system is affordable but the bikes are never around or working when you need one, or they are available but you either do not see them or have to go out of your way to find one (OV-fiets).
In addition, similar intelligent systems have failed in very bike friendly cities such as Rotterdam NL (Stad Fiets) due to everyone having a bike and not needing one or due to ‘concept overload’, where the designer tries too hard to do everything and yet does nothing well or affordable and the system never becomes big enough to be sustaining (Depo Fiets – ‘New White Bike’, Amsterdam NL).
As for tweekers and theft of parts, the system designer has to make an important decision: design the bike with unique parts to minimize theft for reuse of parts or accept such theft in order to have an affordable and quickly deployable system. The JcDecaux system seems to be a balance of these two competing issues…plus the use of a credit card for security. In my tour of Call-a-Bike in Berlin in 2004, Dr. Franz mentioned that their system was moving towards a generation 2 bike with a simpler design to reduce costs in markets with higher vandalism rates. The gen2 bike was about 600 euros vs. 1300 euros for the gen1 bike.
The Lyon and similar systems are designed to be installed on the street in what used to be car-parking lanes. This makes deployment very easy and the systems very visible and accessible. The one tweak I would suggest for the Portland system would be to add a bike parking rack for private bikes next to it so that all bicyclists could use these public improvements and to minimize desperate bicyclists from locking their private bikes to this shared bike machinery. This is a problem in Copenhagen.
Todd Boulanger, Boardmember
So, what about helmets? Or lights? Or bicycle bells? Any signs of these on the European models?
Thanks for the great update, BTW.
In addition to bike-sharing, a relationship with an outdoor advertising company could also be used to pay for public toilets downtown, as it does in San Francisco.
Great summary of your research Todd. Thanks for the education. So when is Bakfiets sharing going to become more mainstream? I asked Flexcar about this about a year ago and their response was that they are focusing on their core market of automobiles rather than bicycles. However, I think their customers would definitely overlap. Anyone from Flexcar care to comment?
I love Adam’s comment #16. I love the idea of them being available to everyone who has a library card–thereby making them free to Portland residents. This could also have a nice side effect of getting more people into our libraries reading books–or checking out other multi-media material. One other option is partnering with Tri-Met. After all, the slogan on their website does say “See where it takes you.” This seems to be a logical extension of an organization whose first sentence in their Strategic Direction is “TriMet is striving to build a safe, comfortable, reliable and innovative transit system that delivers transportation options to our growing region.” Yes, thats right, it says transportation options. I’m sure there is a lot of information and politics that I am completely oblivious to, but it just seems logical to me from a simplistic point of view.
npGREENWAY.org core group member
City Repair is most probably moving into the old Multicraft Bldg on Broadway
and Weidler (right where they split by the coliseum)
This seems like it would be a great place. Close to Amtrak and downtown.
I used the system in Vienna and in Belgium. It was great to get an hour for free. I was so happy to be able to get on a bike and explore the cities. I also returned the bikes to places far away from where I rented them. There have to be stations all over the city, not just downtown to make it make sense, I think.
I like Scott’s idea (comment #22) of partnering with Tri-Met. How about some bikes on places like Sauvie Island, so I could take the bus out there, ride my bike around to the farms, return the bike at the bus stop, then take the bus home?
Other Portland “destinations” would be lovely, too.
A follow up to Garlynn’s good question…
“Bells, helmets, etc…for these bikes?”
The Jc Decaux CycloCity bikes all have a bell, … and…front basket, fenders, 1/2 chain guard, skirt/ jacket guard, puncture resistant Marathon Plus tires with reflective sidewalks, and Shimano hub dynamo for the front and rear lights. Some systems (Brussels) have these bike pods with a rain awning to keep the bikes relatively dry.
But no helmets. There is no place to store them and they would likely be easily damaged or not used.
…Adult bike riders in much of the bike friendly European countries do not use helmets for town riding. Some children now do. But it is generally not needed and is a bit silly. Europe’s TBI rates are much lower than US rates due to more experienced riders and drivers, better enforcement, better facilities, slower speed limts, higher fault issued to drivers in crashes, etc.
As for another comment on tying shared bikes to public library card holders…there is a shared bike programme (Library Bike) in Arcata CA that lends bikes from local government office and civic places to citizens:
It has been up and running for many years now.
Here is a bike sharing news update from Portland (today):
CoP Commissioner Sam Adams, “In an effort to upgrade our Bicycle Friendly Communities rating from gold to platinum, we are investigating bringing a program like Lyon’s Vélo’v to Portland. With the assistance of the Bureau of Purchases and input from the Bicycle Advisory Committee, we have put together the attached Request for Proposals (RFP).
Now we want your input! We’re particularly interested in hearing where kiosks should be located and how the program should be operated. Please have a look at the RFP (the interesting parts are on pages 3-6) and either post your comments here, or e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to release this request by 1 April 2007–sooner if possible.”
Thanks for all your input on the self-service bike rental model.
I just posted our draft RFP on Sam’s website for public comment. Please have a look, weigh in, and spread the word!
Max Thorn Coffman
Office of Commissioner Sam Adams
503 780 0020
Here are some recent local press coverage of this and similar efforts:
Free bikes failed, so P-town thinks rentals
Getting around – City leaders consider dozens of pay-to-use kiosks as a way to provide easy cycling options
And another article in Sunday’s Columbian (Vancouver) newspaper.
Good Morning All.
Bicycles are wonderful machines. Stripped down to the bare bones, one realizes that a bicycle is a simple, yet very effective machine. It takes human power, and allows the human to travel at speeds much faster than one could achieve without the use of a machine. And comfortably too!
Having studied physics in college, I realize that a bicycle is a manifestation of all things Newtonian, gravity, centrifugal force, leverage, torque. It is wonderful and beautiful all the same. Two wheels, low resistance, speed, comfort.
Best of all, bicycling is a great method of exercise and efficiency. Though people can spend $10,000 on a bike, most do not. Riding a bike saves time, money, fuel and stress. It also improves health, provided you ride sanely.
Having said this, I must admit I am not a serious cyclist. I ride only on rare occasions for pleasure around the neighborhood on my cruiser. I don’t like riding in the rain, and I’ll be the first to admit I am lazy. I commute by max or sometimes car. I believe that most of Portland’s citizens are more like me than the 2% or less of Portlanders who ride bikes regularly enough to be considered bicycle commuters.
Reading comments on this page, I see many pros about the bicycle rental program. I wonder if it will work though. Please keep in mind, I am not anti-bicycle. Why would I hate these beautiful machines? I am just trying to bring up points which may be overlooked by you wonderful bicycle enthusiasts, due to your optimism and enthusiasm for bicycle transportation.
In the first few comments, I see that many advocate safer streets for bicycles. I agree! This will make everyone happier, even those in automobiles. Why? Everything will flow a lot smoother. But how are we going to pay for these expensive road improvements? When we want to keep our teachers from getting fired due to budget cuts, we propose taxes and levies. When we want to fund our wonderful library system, we pay taxes. And it is all worth it. So I think that if we want excellent bicycling streets, maybe there should be a one time tax on the sale of bicycles or bicycle licenses? We can’t tax any other way, because there is no fuel to consume, so it wouldn’t be paid by a road tax. I think this would allow the funding of some great improvement projects, which would make cycling fun, safer and more accessible. How wonderful would that be? We could be the first city in the nation with an actual bicycle transportation department.
More about the bicycle rental system that Sam Adams proposes: Who will use these bikes? Many in Portland who are interested in riding bicycles already are on their own bicycles. People here in Portland especially have really nice bikes, ones which are customized and are adjusted for the user. People love their own bikes. They are an expression of themselves, much like the automobile is for Los Angelinos. So, very seldom would you have local Portlanders use these bike rentals. Who does that leave, besides tourists?
Well, most of America does not share this unbridled enthusiasm for bicycles like we do here in Portland. It’s just not their thing. So, most of the tourists would not be interested. You’d have a hand full here and there, probably from other west coast cities using them. But the people that want to shop at our wonderful and sales tax free businesses downtown don’t want to use a bicycle.
You know how we tease people in Portland that use umbrellas? We know they aren’t TRUE Portlanders. This is because unlike us who have adapted to the rain, and don’t mind it so much, these people actually hate the rain. I don’t think they are going to want to rent our bicycles for about 8 months of the year, leaving them to weather and rust in their racks.
So that leaves the occasional tourist renting the bikes for an hour or two on a nice summer day. I think this would be hardly enough ridership to self fund a program like this. I think if it were viable, then some company would have already seen the potential and would have already done it years ago. Especially in the bicycle capital of the US!
Finally, I would fear that vandals and meth heads may destroy fleets of these bicycles. It isn’t only parts that would be stolen off the bikes, for use on other bikes. Metal is often stolen by people who are in the deadly grips of meth addiction. Metals can be sold as scrap for money to buy drugs. We’ve even seen a man die, trying to steal wires from a sub station. He got electrocuted, all for a few pounds of scrap. People also love to deface property. This would also happen to some of the bikes, making them unpleasant to ride, and undesirable. I think with all the maintenance involved, the risk of theft and the low potential for high ridership, this simply is a wonderful sounding ideology that will not work in the real world.
These sound great for errands and quick jaunts. Plus, more bikes on the sidewalk (and handsome, practical ones at that) mean more visibility.
As long as this is, in fact, a break-even deal (it supposedly pays for itself), I’m for it. But if it’s an investment, I’d rather see the city invest in better bike parking downtown.
I’d also like to see some better longer-term bike rental options…as in options for renting by the day, not by the hour. The proposed system is great for locals doing errands and tourists taking a jaunt down the Esplanade, but if we’re going to get visitors to spin down Mississippi or Hawthorne, they’ll probably want 1/2 day rentals at least. Our bike rental options in this town seem a little lacking. Citybikes, FTF, and Veloce try, but with the exception of Waterfront Bike and Skate, there don’t seem to be any super-visible visitor-oriented affordabel rental options.
Can you imagine a bike rental operation in Union Station?
From Saturday’s Washington Post article (Effort to turn City of Light into City of Bikes set to roll) by John Ward Anderson.
Paris and Cyclocity (JC Decaux) is about to impliment a bike sharing programme starting 15 July 2007.
This programme will offer:
– 20,600 shared bikes
– at 1,450 bike pods (stations)
– one station every 250 yards across the city
– each station will vend 15 to 40 bikes
– each bike costs $1,300
– start up ‘cost’ $115 million
– City direct cost $0 (trade avertising revenue w/i ROW of 1,628 city owned ‘bill boards’)
– City to be paid all bike rental revenue and $4.3m from advertising sales for entire programme
– employ 285 FTEs over 10 year contract
– membership fees ($1.30 1 day visitor user, $38 annual user)
– rental cost $0 (first 30 minutes), $1.30 (31 to 60 minutes), $2.60 (61 to 90 minutes), etc.
– Most rentals in Lyon are short and thus free (95% of 20,000 daily bike rentals).
– Anthonin Darbon, director of Cyclocity
“It has completely transformed the landscape of Lyon – everywhere you see people on bikes,” Jean-Louis Touraine, Lyon deputy mayor
The above article provides additional data in support of this type of programme:
Lyon’s Cyclocity Programme:
– 3,000 rental bikes
– 10,000,000 miles of use since May 2005
– 3,000 tons of transportation generated carbon dioxide avoided
– bike traffic has grown 300%
– overall vehicle traffic is down 4% in city
Data provided by deputy mayor Touraine.
the bike theft issue – is not feasible that these bikes could have a GPS devices hidden in one of frame tubes? Not only to prevent theft but for tracking purposes?
I think a previous writer had it right when his concern was that street safety should be the priority. People can always get bikes, I don\’t think the government should be involved in this. If the streets were so incredibly bike friendly that people weren\’t afraid to ride on them that would get far more people out than providing rental bikes, which private businesses provide already.
I find it interesting. Kudos to the City Commissioner of Portland for attempting such plan. This project is very beneficial to tourists who wants to stroll and be familiarize the downtown city. Perhaps it is also intended for those commuters who doesn’t own a bike but then need mobility within the local area.