Portland plans for bike sharing system

[A bike-sharing system, like this one in Vienna,
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.

[Lyon’s system debuted in May 2005. Photo: laughtonb from Flickr]

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.

[Cyclocity system shown here in Cordoba, Spain.]
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


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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