[Update: 12/6, 9:47pm (see below)]
Commissioner Sam Adams’ office has put together a panel to review the proposals of the three companies who responded to their request to implement a bike-sharing system in Portland.
The request called for a company that could manage the “delivery and operation of a bicycle fleet [numbering 500 bikes] for rent to the general public and stationed in the public right of way to further promote the City’s use of a multi-modal public transportation system with a focus on the City’s core area.”
According to the official document from the the City’s Bureau of Purchases, the three companies are:
- Clear Channel Outdoor (Global, with an office in Portland)
- Library Bikes (Arcata, CA)
- Portland Bike Company (Portland, OR / Seattle, WA)
(Photo by Jane Grimsrud/Flickr)
Clear Channel Outdoor
Clear Channel is by far the largest and most experienced company in the mix. They began offering bike rental systems 10 years ago and recently, to meet huge demand, they’ve had to expand their fleet in Barcelona Spain to 6,000 bikes. They’ve also signed a contract to manage San Francisco’s system if/when it gets launched.
In Barcelona, users can rent bikes a variety of ways including through cell phones, credit cards, and subscriber cards. Clear Channel is the world’s largest outdoor advertising company.
Library Bikes is an Arcata, California-based non-profit that maintained a fleet of free bikes for residents and visitors for ten years. However, according to the Humboldt State University newspaper, they very recently have closed down due to a lack of funding.
Their system, which had repaired and recirculated 4,200 in the last four years was modeled after other community bicycle programs and relied on a brief checkout procedure and a $20 refundable deposit.
[I’m not yet sure what impact their recent closure has on their ability to carry out this contract.]
Portland Bike Company
Portland Bike Company is a recently formed company backed by a Seattle-based investment group and headed by lawyer and entrepreneur Gary Duvall. For this project they’ve set up partnerships with several Portland organizations.
To help implement their plans, Portland Bike Company has partnered with:
- Alta Planning and Design, a bicycle and pedestrian planning firm headed by former City of Portland bike coordinator Mia Birk. According to Portland Bike Company documents Alta’s role will be to “support bicycle usage and kiosk placement optimization”.
- The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA). They’ve been tapped to do advocacy, education, and outreach around the project.
- The Community Cycling Center (CCC). The CCC would help provide maintenance of the fleet along with education.
- Local bike shops. Several local bike shops would also help maintain the bikes.
According to Steve Durrant with Alta, Portland Bike Company is also working with advertising company Lamar Advertising who currently does a lot of business with TriMet. Durrant says Portland Bike Company sees this project as much more than an advertising opportunity — “Our interest is in providing the service. We want to increase bike mode share and have these bikes be used as much as possible.”
Instead of relying on advertising, Portland Bike Company favors a user-fee based system which they say would give them, “an incentive to improve the user experience, without flooding the City with new advertising”.
Advertising and how to pay for the system will likely be a thorny issue. The City’s RFP states that they hope to see “creative approaches” and that advertising should be “just one component of the business plan.”
Senior transportation policy staffer for Commissioner Adams, Roland Chlapowski told me today that a panel made up of staff from PDOT, Metro and the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee plans to meet and make a decision this Tuesday (12/4). After a decision is made, Adams’ office will negotiate legal details and other logistics.
Chlapowski said they also plan to have opportunities for the public to weigh in on various aspects of the bike-sharing system such as; where to put kiosks and how much they should cost to use.
Initially, Adams favored the bike-sharing systems of JCDecaux, an arch-rival of Clear Channel. Last winter, a JCDecaux representative even visited Adams’ office. However, citing concerns about liability issues amidst America’s infamous legal environment, they ultimately declined to submit a proposal.
As for when the system will be up and running. At this point, Chlapowski says — mostly because of legal/liability issues — it’s still too early to tell;
“The timing question really depends on figuring out the legal and liability issues. In Europe [where bike-sharing systems are common] the legal environment is a lot different…we’re yet to figure out how issues around liability will translate into an American city like Portland.”
UPDATE: The committee to select a vendor met today (12/06) but did not reach a decision. According to Chlapowski they want to “review and deliberate” a bit more. He says this could be a few weeks…so we likely won’t have a decision until 2008. Stay tuned…