The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

UPDATE: Portland will pick bike-sharing vendor next week

Posted by on November 29th, 2007 at 4:56 pm

[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)

Clear Channel’s system in Spain.
(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
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…

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  • b November 29, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    for the love of portland, please don\’t go with clear channel.

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  • a.O November 29, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    You think people are pissed off at the PPB now when they refuse to enforce traffic laws against drivers who kill cyclists, wait until the City itself starts putting clueless tourists on bikes.

    I can see it now, \”City and Portland Bicycle Co make no representation as to the safety of travel by bicycle within City limits…\”

    Sign here, please. Enjoy your ride. Watch out for the giant trucks. Many of them won\’t see you, and others won\’t even look… And remember, you can\’t sue us if you get run over.

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  • wsbob November 29, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    More bike riders on city streets would likely help a great deal to raise the consciousness of motor vehicle drivers to the presence of bikes they\’re obliged to share city streets with. An increased bike presence on city streets might also help to move along the process of obliging and more clearly directing officers of the PPB in how to enforce traffic laws in relating to motor vehicle drivers that fail to acknowledge the presence of bikes on city streets.

    I hope the local company can pull it together to win the vendor contract for the bike sharing program here in Portland. This has got to be a tough, expensive program to manage successfully, but putting the support behind their efforts would be smart.

    Show Clear Channel the door, because this company has not been a friend to Portland. It is locally infamous for the nasty way it\’s attempted to abuse freedom of speech provisions to expand the proliferation of their obnoxious advertising and electronic billboards upon the Portland cityscape. Their efforts have cost the city money and time in lawsuits, and held up the ability to create and mount art-based murals around town.

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  • Matt Picio November 29, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    I agree – experienced or not, Clear Channel is not a good fit for Portland.

    My vote is for PBC – I applaud the way they\’re reaching out to local shops and companies to help implement and maintain the system. Reinforcing community ties is always a good thing.

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  • John C November 29, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    Wow, what an opportunity for Portland no mater who is chosen! Portland is becoming the leader in the bike as transportation movement (of course all of you already know that). Other cities are watching closely, including the one I live in now. I would like to think that not just visitors would use the system. Maybe some drivers who have thought about bicycle commuting could pick up a bike to test the waters with anonymity, and without a huge investment in equipment. Great job Sam and staff.

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  • revphil November 29, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    i met Bicycle Bill, one of the people involved with the Library Bikes of Arcata, on a Zoobomb of all places.

    I like his style.

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  • Tweety November 29, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    I\’d love to see a program like this in place and hope they go local with their pick, instead of farming it out as so much of everything else in our lives seems to be.

    I just hope that renters/borrowers of these bikes are made to take some kind of an on-line test (maybe at the rental kiosk) before checking them out, so we don\’t suddenly have a slew of rookies riding the wrong way in downtown traffic, making life dangerous for those of us who ride lawfully and pissing off more motorists than we already do in the process. Anything to get more people out of their cars is wonderful.


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  • no name November 29, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    If Portland is such an up and coming leader in bike as transportation; Portland needs a proposal in getting someone to donate, better bike racks for kids to lock their bikes up while at School at a few of the SE Portland. Have you every seen a school with out a bike rack and the kids have there bikes looked up to the chain link fence. Or how about a bike rack; that is the same bikes rack that was there when the School was built.

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  • joeb November 29, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    I don\’t know if I would be physically capable of riding a Clear Channel bike. I\’m sick to retching with the consolidation of media in general and seeing Clear Channel plastered on literally every single billboard in Portland makes me itch. For the love of Portland (thanks b) … disqualified.

    My first bikeportland rant. Make a note of it. It won\’t happen often.

    I love the bike share idea. I think it would advertise what Portland is and would provide great opportunity for mentoring new riders. Additional sales and maintenance contracts to local companies sounds like a clincher to me.

    I understand the skepticism though. Bike share rides all over the sidewalk (that would suck), theft and abuse. I hope a financially viable solution can be implemented. I\’d sure like to see it happen.

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  • Ken Wetherell November 29, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    I\’m in favor of the local option. Go team PBC! Regardless of the viability of other vendors, the impact to our local economy should be high among the selection criteria. Creating, maintaining, and managing this thing right here in Portland makes so much sense.

    The comments about inexperienced tourists riding amok are well-founded. Creating safety awareness and training when needed should be part of the solution. Addressing this need will increase the likelihood of success through greater enjoyment and reduced liability. Maybe a volunteer operated program could help in showing newbies how to be safe, where the best rides are, and send them off pedaling with big smiles.

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  • Bjorn November 30, 2007 at 12:05 am

    When I saw the bike rental system in oslo it appeared that clear channel was their vendor. The bikes weren\’t clearly from clear channel, but their was a logo from them on the ads at the return stations. I think one of the big questions for a portland system has to be do we want to fund it with ads or do we want it to be subsidized/user paid. One thing to consider in a contract is that clear channel knows how to write a contract like this to their advantage. When the city of corvallis added bus wraps to their transit system they had visions of tens of thousands of dollars rolling in, the actual income ended up being much much less because the company had trouble selling all the ads. I was the only member of the transit committee who voted against the bus wraps when they were approved. I believe if the other members of the committee had known how little money we would get they would also have voted no.

    I hope we will avoid clear channel not because of their business practices, but because our city doesn\’t need a whole bunch more advertising in our public spaces. The right to put mini billboards all over downtown is what clear channel is after.


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  • zac November 30, 2007 at 3:31 am

    It seems like an obvious choice to me. Portland if anything, has always been a city that prides itself on supporting its local businesses, and reinvesting in itself, instead of throwing dollars at global mega-conglomerates. A company that is based in Portland, would contract local bike shops for it\’s maintenance and support the BTA in the process, is going to be better for our city than a company that will swiftly invest any revenue created in other places.

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  • Moo November 30, 2007 at 7:14 am

    No to clear channel…ad revenue is their bread and butter and their top priority, not putting smiling faces on bikes. I think P-town is rushing into this way to quickly. Let\’s first deal with the fact that we can\’t even keep the cyclists that are out there now safe.

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  • Jstern November 30, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Portland is such a great city for supporting local vendors, why stop now and choose clear channel?

    Also, I do have to agree with a.O (#2). Doesn\’t this make the issue of enforcement all that more pressing? Before we get even more wonderful cyclists out on the road, I\’d sure like to know that drivers aren\’t under the impression that if they hit me or any other cyclist that they can get away with it and not be held accountable for their negligence.

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  • Machu Picchu November 30, 2007 at 8:38 am

    I agree with you, too, Moo. Heh.

    These bikes would make great showing from day one, but who\’s going to ride them, and where? It seems like the logical places to locate them are some of the places that scare even some experienced local riders. Am I off base?


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  • Stripes November 30, 2007 at 8:54 am

    Never Clear Channel, never Clear Channel.

    Never, never, never.

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  • Elly November 30, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Paris just was chosen for a prestigious international award for their Velib\’ project. It would be great to see Portland do them one better with a homegrown effort.

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  • jm November 30, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Hey it would be great to beat SFO in a friendly competition of who can get this service first. I intend to use \’em when I have family in town for sure (sorry I don\’t have the buckeroos to buy and store extra bikes! Rentals are a good option, too). Sounds like fun.

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  • poser November 30, 2007 at 10:12 am

    I think this is great. tourists on bikes (although a hazard/annoyance for those of us who bike everyday) will force some outstanding issues front and center; like enforcement, bike safety and cyclist\’s rights, dangerous intersections and corners, etc. Example – the first time a tourist gets mowed down by Very Large Vehicle and the driver walks away without any additional paper-work, city-hall and the sheriff\’s dept will suddenly have a PR nightmare on their hands. Can you just see Fox News affiliates handling this story… \”up next… Are Portland officials are enabling the murder of local tourists? If you\’re planning a trip to the Northwest, you might want to change your plans…\”

    Golf applause for Clear Channel for being bike advocates (for whatever reason) – but I have to admit that I got the same chill up my back that happened when I heard about Monsanto being a big proponent of bio-fuels. Got to go with PBC on this one; as long as they feel that can make it work financially. It would be a shame to go through all the trouble of setting this up, just to pull it down the next year because the business model was doomed without a focus on advertising.

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  • concerned November 30, 2007 at 10:25 am

    I agree with poser and a.O.
    this is a potential PR nightmare.
    the city is not ready for tourists on bikes.

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  • Spencer November 30, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I think only a fraction of the users will be tourists. While in Oslo, I saw mainly locals using them by combining mass transit to run around local shopping areas.

    If the same model applies here, you would be getting the suburbia set out of the car and onto Max and around town on the bikes. Maybe this will start to breakdown those Us vs. Them debates we have been talking about. \”walk in someone elses shoe for a day\” and all that. I really think this will be a good thing for the city.

    I would pefer to fall on the side of \”local approach\” for ownership. They should also look at means other than advertising to help subsidize them. Maybe they can be sold as carbon-offset credits. Say PGE who is generating green house gasses, can subsidize X amount of bike trips, offsetting a corresponding amount of car trips and carbon emmisions. They could then put their logo on the offset bikes so they also get some good PR out of it. Maybe Landrover, who advertises that they are selling offsets for the first 50K miles driven.

    Being good portlanders, we just need to think outside of the box and not be totally dependant on advertising.

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  • Bill Stites November 30, 2007 at 11:07 am


    Local players will understand the local issues, and be more responsive to local input.
    Yes to Portland Bicycle Company, no to Clear Channel.

    More toward user fees, less toward advertising.


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  • Tim H November 30, 2007 at 11:10 am

    I\’d vote for the local group, Portland Bicycle Company, who live here, who have demonstrated an understanding of Portland\’s bike culture and who present the opportunity to create an original, sustainable transportation model that other cities would want to follow. I expect their priorities are in the right place: making cycling accessible, safe and practical; developing a transportation system compatible with all vehicles and pedestrians and promoting Portland as a world leader in original alternative transportation development. It makes sense since they have been doing that very thing here for years. They seem to be about people.

    Clear Channel using bike rentals to leverage expansion of their outdoor adverting enterprise is a much different model. It\’s reasonable to assume their priority is to make money. There\’s nothing wrong with making money, however, if that\’s the primary objective and the money is going to a corporation outside the area it is unlikely that decisions will not be based primarily on what\’s right for Portland, bicycling in general and bicyclists. They seem to be about the media industry.

    It\’s important to note too that they would be capitalizing on Portland\’s reputation as a bike and transportation leader. I believe that stellar reputation was largely earned by the hard work, passion and commitment of the organizations comprising Portland Bicycle Company. I would trust PBC to operate and be inspired by those same principles.

    This argument doesn\’t need to exclude or vilify Clear Channel (although some people have made some good arguments for that above). The revenue from some type of media use of a bike share system could make the difference in making it financially viable. Perhaps they could be included as a secondary partner or vendor but they should not be the owner or director.

    I think the true value of creating a successful bike share system is making cycling accessible, safe and practical; developing a transportation system compatible with all vehicles and pedestrians and promoting Portland as a world leader in original alternative transportation development. The very principles I\’m thinking the PBC represents.

    I say home-grown is the way to go.

    Sorry about the ramble but one more thing.

    Maybe we shouldn\’t assume the people who\’d use the system would all be inexperienced novices or dismiss them as tourists. Portland is a magnet for people seeking to experience and participate in what\’s perceived to be the cool, progressive, alternative thing happening here. Everywhere I go people are infatuated with Portland. And a lot of them come here to check it out. Maybe they\’re cyclists, maybe they\’ll take away an image of a better way to do things and spawn programs in their own hometowns. Maybe they\’re cool people and we should do whatever we can to make their experience here positive and fun, and be the cool place we\’re perceived to be. And some will probably just be dorks. What can you do.

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  • Metal Cowboy November 30, 2007 at 11:22 am

    The local collaborative effort would get my vote. Question: should all those who want to see it go to this local option vendor give Sam Adams office a call/email to let him know our feelings, or has the decision already been made?
    FYI: A few years ago in Cleveland there was the Clear Channel DJ advocating that drivers run down cyclists – The company stonewalled at first then caved and shifted folks around and threw a few bucks at bike advocacy … then just weeks later I heard nearly the same stuff out of local Clear Channel DJ\’s here in Portland over on 105 The Buzz – claimed it was all just in good fun when I complained. Not sure this is the company that would do best by the community. Plus, I\’m guessing the bikes will be pimped up in advertising more than NASCAR. Perhaps a nice reflective jersey full of ads to wear whilst we pedal around honey. I could be wrong but CC didn\’t get to be the largest outdoor ad firm in the world without … blanketing the world with advertising.

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  • BrianR November 30, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    I had the same, sinking feeling when I saw that Clear Channel was in there, but think about it for a second. Putting the bikes on the streets is the easy part. Keeping them there and making the program a commercial success as well as a community success is the hard part.

    If the small guys are going to attempt something like this, we all need assurances that they can handle the upkeep and commercial side of things. I\’d hate for Portland to put in a large investment in this type of program and then have it fail. To put up a fight to get this program in place, just to have it fall flat would be deflating, to say the least.

    As for ads, well, nothing is free in this world. Ads already support all the free radio and TV airwaves. Might as well have the advertisers taking the risk on this venture rather than charging exorbitant prices for taking the bikes out or having the city subsidize the effort, taking money away from other uses.

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  • Paul Tay November 30, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Car rentals require some kind of insurance. I am not quite understanding how insurance would work for bike rentals. Tulsa has a similar system. It\’s probably great for image to have bike rental.

    But, suppose someone rents the bike and wrecks it. Assuming I survive the crash, I\’d probably just bring the mangled bike back to the rack and leave it for someone else to pick up the pieces. Hmmmm…..on second thought, might be a great way to get around town on someone else\’s dime.

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  • Sam November 30, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    This will never happen.

    Good PR for Adams though in light of upcoming elections.

    There is a reason why it is successful and implemented in Paris or Barcelona: appartments are so small you cannot afford to use your precisous livable space to park your bike!
    … And… I guarantee that you cannot leave your bicycle out overnight in the street.

    Portland, give me a break!

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  • joeb November 30, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Should bike boxes precede bike share… downtown at least?

    I can see a real concern for increased confusion and animosity with inexperienced people on bike share bikes in downtown traffic. I can also see inexperienced cyclists having a terrible first experience riding in downtown traffic.

    Just thinking, but if bike boxes and supporting laws existed, it seems like it would greatly simplify the lesson needed to send a newbie out on a bike share bike. The lesson has to be simple:
    1. Don’t ride on sidewalks
    2. Use bike boxes. Cautiously proceed between cars to the front of traffic stopped at a light
    3. Take the lane when traffic is flowing. The lights are timed so cars travel the same speed as you do on a bike
    4. Obey traffic devices
    5. See how much better you’ve got it on a bike than that car that is hanging out in the cross street intersection (point at car currently stuck in the middle of the nearest intersection)

    I hope a few bike share kiosks would make it east of the river, but I assume most would be downtown. Although I commute everyday by bike, I don’t often make it into downtown. So I have to say, I could use lessons about riding downtown. What is the law for taking the lane vs. riding up the middle of two lanes of cars downtown? As an increasingly experienced cyclist, I take my responsibility of being a HPV to be the same as a motor vehicle. Downtown, I obey all traffic devices and take the lane… behind a parking lot of CARS WAITING FOR THE LIGHT FOUR BLOCKS AWAY! Who are these people DRIVING downtown?

    Maybe people who drive downtown know what they are getting themselves into and are more patient, but when I am on my bike downtown, I try to not add to the confusion so I act like a car and take the lane. Then I get no benefit from being on a bike. Yeah when possible I’ll slide along to the right of traffic, very slowly, mindful of car doors and pedestrians. It would be safer for me to ride the white line between two lanes of parked cars up to the light to beat the lines (just a little added advantage, I’m not talking alleycat). But by doing so, I want it to be a demonstration of the advantage of being on a bike and not arrogance that motorists are bound to perceive.

    It seems that bike boxes and laws allowing bikes to proceed between cars stopped at a light would be a great increase in the flow of traffic for cyclists and therefore reduced impedance and confusion for drivers and cyclists. As it is, it seems like bicyclists only option is to take the lane or ride wherever they can fit a bike darting into gaps in traffic or riding sidewalks, crosswalks or beside parked cars. Bike boxes may not work everywhere, but seems good for downtown.

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  • Nelson Muntz November 30, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    So Lamar\’s interest in the local group is purely benevolent? They won\’t place ads on those oversized fenders and baskets like Clear Channel would? They wouldn\’t sell poster advertising or make you watch a 15 second ad at the rental kiosk before receiving your lock release code or printed receipt?

    Paul (#26) – I am guessing that it will take a membership number (like Flexcar) or a credit card to rent a bike. Wreck it or fail to return it? I suspect that you will receive a hefty bill already charged to your VISA.

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  • Dan (teknotus) November 30, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Is there a process for public input on the matter? Can we show up, and demand for our votes to be counted?

    I have a strong opinion in favor of the Portland Bicycle Company just because they are reaching out to organizations I know \”get it\” with regard to bikes in Portland.

    I would have a strong opinion against Clear Channel as I can\’t say that I\’ve ever seen anything they did that I approved of, and they do a lot of things that are very visible.

    I really like non profits, but the fact that Library Bikes ended up going out of operation makes me think that they may not have what it takes to get the job done.

    Correction to TheMetalCowboy 105.1 the buzz is run by entercom not clear channel

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  • Jonathan November 30, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    What would the vendor do about helmets? Riding without is IMHO foolhardy. I can imagine the legal problems if helmets aren\’t provided, but who would want to wear them? I would rather not wear someone else\’s bike bucket, lice, nits, and all.

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  • Metal Cowboy November 30, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Thanks, Dan – The Buzz = entercom. Their DJ\’s comments were no less repungnent. The bigger issue that I haven\’t seen answered – Is this a done deal or do we have any way of lobbying Adams etc. with our opinion.

    As to advertising and Clear Channel – I know that advertising feeds the funding of our world – google\’s rise as one example, but Clear Channel is not my idea of a cycling champ and a good corp citizen in this arena. I\’m gussing they could make it commercially viable, but I also think the local coalition could.

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  • Bill November 30, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    I hope folks will look at the website to get a feel for our decade of experience with loaning out bicycles. To compare you should have the proposal before you.

    Our proposal under consideration provides for 1000 bicycles, half would be long term loan bikes, like borrowing a book from a library, thus the name Library Bikes.

    The other 500 bikes would be bicycles actually from Paris from the Roue Libre system, these are short term use bicycles. These bicycles will be distributed on the Call-a Bike model, where the bikes are available throughout the city; a short phone call gets you the release codes for the individual bike you are needing. The first half hour will be free too.

    We will operate out of a helpful \”Hub\” shop downtown, similar to the garage in Arcata. Bicycle infrastructure includes the human interaction of people and riders at such a facility. A system of only automatic rental bicycles will have many impersonal problems. Think about if you rent a car from the airport, there are almost always personnel to handle any difficulties that arise, this is proven rental system that works well. So also with bicycle rental, we have found people generate questions and concerns (sizing equipment, safety, safe routes, helmets, current road events, rules of the road, adjustment questions, weather related concerns, lights, carrying loads, best type of seat, efficient pedaling and gears, clothing problems, …, and occasionally more air in a tire!).

    We intend to create about ten jobs for bicycle folks, to interact with other riders and maintain the operation. We have already helped thousands of new riders, we know how to successfully operate a huge fleet of public bikes, in every weather condition and social climate, and we are a public bicycle rental program that is already insured in America.

    I hope this helps everyone with a picture of what can be, and what we at Library Bikes have proposed.

    We have decided to focus our work in Portland if the city desires to go this route. We have successfully operated in Arcata for over ten years, and are now moving. Ask folks who moved to Portland with the Yakama company about us, they moved from Arcata too, a few years ago.

    Being cyclists helps. We understand to frustrations of low air in tires, fenders that rub, clothes that get dirty. Our upscale program will get past these frustrations, in fact the trendy vibe of public bikes is assured, lets get started soon.

    Personally, I remember participating at Bike Summer in Portland, playing bike polo, and I was at the Oregon Bicycle Builders show a few weeks ago, (and yes, I went zoobombing on a normal street bike, with lights). Your community is the best for cyclists in the States, and I would like to add our experience to your success.

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  • wsbob November 30, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Bill, it seems you are with Librarybikes. As you suggested, I checked out the website. The links under the bicycles didn\’t work for me, so what I could learn from the site was very limited, though the home page was beautiful. I really, really like the philosophy of the Librarybike organization as you describe it above (comment 33). This sounds to be an honest, resourceful and socially uplifting concept that could be a great service to the city.

    Worth checking out, is Humboldt State University student newspaper, The LumberJack\’s article, \”Library Bike program loses its wheels\”, accessible by the link in the lead article to this thread (under Library Bikes). That article essentially says that your organization in the city of Arcata, went out of business, because it had trouble meeting operational expenses. Operating on too slim a margin it sounds like. Perhaps a solid business plan was lacking. This is the kind of thing that would not be good for the future of bike-sharing in Portland. What certainty can you offer that your organization\’s business plan will not suffer that same fate in our town?

    Another considerable concern I would have, is whether this concept would be up to the operational rigors of the major metropolitan downtown that Portland is. For example, surely you don\’t believe the sound return of your bikes can be ensured with a $20 deposit… .

    I like the idea of the helpful \”Hub\” shop downtown, as Jonathan (comment 31)raised the question of how the bike-share vendor would deal with the issue of helmets, and maybe it\’s through this hub that your org would do that.

    I figure any outfit taking on this bike-share contract is going to have a major challenge keeping their fleet in one piece in addition to staying in the black economically. Seems like from the moment those bikes hit the streets, they\’ll be the target of every thief and crackhead in Portland.

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  • Todd B December 1, 2007 at 8:55 am

    As for the helmet issue…perhaps it can be both avoided and surmounted:
    – Avoided by NOT renting to children (due to the age requirements for helmets)

    – Provide helmets to those adult riders who want one…to be included as part of their membership fee (perhaps subsidized by public safety heath groups) and distributed from a central \’bikestation\’.

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  • Todd B December 1, 2007 at 9:00 am

    And as for the complaint for advertising (setting aside the national politics of the venders)…what are folks feelings when they visit other cities with municipal contracts for advertising companies to provide public street furniture (benches, information kiosk, toilets, etc.)?

    Are you put off when walking around San Francisco, NY, Chicago, Paris, Lyon, etc? Or do you enjoy finding a place to pee, check a street map, etc.?

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  • Timbo December 1, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    If you want the idea to have the highest chances to really succeed then give it to the company/agency that has proven it can do the job.

    If it takes a couple of ads on the bikes to make it fiscally senseable for them then who really cares. Looks a lot better then that crap that people staple to telephone poles.

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  • Dan (teknotus) December 1, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Proven is a relative thing. Portland isn\’t the same as other cities, and the US isn\’t the same as other contries. No one has proven that they can do it in Portland. I think all three of the organizations have credibility that they could pull it off. How do we want to represent Portland to the rest of the world? With a home grown commercial soution with representatives from several of the major players, a nonprofit inport with strong ideals that mesh well with Portland, or a consumer whore import. The city made the wrong decision with advertising supported municipal wifi, and got a vender that put more effort into making sure advertisements were inserted into every web page than reliable service. Lets hope they don\’t make the same mistake again.

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  • wsbob December 1, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Unpleasant as it may be to acknowledge something positive about Clear Channel, \’proven\’, is one thing they can probably claim over the other candidates for this bike-share vendor proposition is concerned. The article for this thread offers details of some that companies past success with the bike-share concept on a large city scale.

    The thing about a massive corporation such as CC, especially in working out the bugs in a relatively new concept like public bike-sharing, is that it has the resources to take on the massive start-up costs of doing that. The article about CC\’s proposed contract in SF(link above in thread article) gives a suggestion of what those costs might be.

    The article describes the current state of the bike-share program as \’third generation\’: \”The third generation of bike-sharing programs is high-tech, with electronic payment, tracking and locking systems.\”. I asking myself how essential that kind of sophisticated, high-tech system would be for a successfully run bike-share program in Portland, and which of the other two candidates, Library Bikes and Portland Bike Company, would most likely be able provide and maintain one. Or, maybe something simpler would work.

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  • Antonio Gramsci December 2, 2007 at 1:01 am

    Another approach would be: award the contract to PBC, but tax existing Clear Channel billboards an extra surcharge, with the resulting revenues to be earmarked for subsidizing the bike rental operation so it can get over its early growing pains.

    This would allow the city to tap into those hefty resources that Clear Channel enjoys from its advertising monopoly, enhance the stability of the bike rental program, and foster the development of locally based expertise and economic development, all at the same time.

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  • Antonio Gramsci December 2, 2007 at 1:04 am

    Also, this approach would generate additional funding for the bike rental program paid for by existing advertising, without having the effect of giving Clear Channel a license to further inundate the city in advertising.

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  • Cris December 2, 2007 at 9:14 am

    I dont like clearchannel either, but having spent the last 2 months in Europe and passing through Lyon, Paris, and Seville it seems they are doing a good job. I was thinking of this issue while here, and I wished that Portland, if able to get this off the ground, would have a program as smooth and the above-mentioned cities. The only ads I remember seeing on the bikes is the name of the system, whether it be velib in Paris, velov in Lyon, or Sevici in Seville. So I dont think ads are a big problem. Plus, I think it would be more detrimental to award the contract to a local business that would possibly not do such a great job, and have the idea fail, than to go with clearchannel and have a proven company run a smooth system. If a local business cant do it and the system fails will we get a second chance?

    Speaking with people in Paris, Lyon, and Seville it seems that these systems have indeed pushed a lot more people to ride bikes on a day to day or even short use basis, especially when the first 1/2 hour is free. Tourists would use them, sure. But getting more Portlanders on bikes should be the main focus.

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  • Antonio Gramsci December 2, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    It would be a different matter if we were talking about a concession to build and operate a light rail system, say, and the competing bids were coming from a business like Siemens or Bechtel with core business competency in the design and building of such infrastructure.

    But in this case, there is no logical connection between the core business of Clear Channel and the bicycle rental business. What Clear Channel have done is simply to hire people who have the skills in this area and let them run it in exchange for financing them and putting their ads on it. But there is no logical reason why the same people with the same expertise couldn\’t be hired by someone else, such as PBC. Consequently, I see no real, logically compelling reason for selecting Clear Channel.

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  • wsbob December 3, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    Just a reminder that the Bicycle Advisory Committee meets tomorrow night to decide upon which of the three companies will be selected to put Portland\’s bike share program in motion. From the committee\’s web page:

    \” The BAC meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month.
    Meetings are held in the Lovejoy Room in City Hall (1221 SW 4th Avenue).\”

    I\’m confused, because tomorrow doesn\’t isn\’t the second Tuesday of the month. It\’s the first. But anyways, I saw the notice in today\’s Oregonian too, that the decision would be made tomorrow.

    I\’m really hoping the committee decides upon the newly formed PBC (Portland Bike Company). The bike share venture probably needs to use something like the kind of sophisticated system Clear Channel is using to make it successful, but the people and organizations making up PBC seem as though they may very well have the brains to do that.

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  • Jessica Roberts December 4, 2007 at 9:21 am

    I agree that if the point of this program were to get tourists on bikes, it would be very problematic. However, as I have heard Sam and others at the City talk about it, I have come to see it as more like Carsharing/Flexcar.

    Having a \”flexbike\” membership with kiosks everywhere would allow you to magically become a bicyclist at any point in your day.

    Perhaps you took TriMet downtown for work, but you have an afternoon meeting that\’s just far enough away to make walking inconvenient, or just far enough off a transit line to make it difficult. Or you are out walking and you get a call from a friend who wants you to join them at brunch 3 miles away — too far to walk, but not too far to jump on a bike and go. Or maybe you\’re trying to work your way up to commuting all the way to work, but you\’re not there yet, so you drive halfway to work and then hop on a bike for the rest of the way.

    \”Flexbike\” will be just another tool to give you more non-car options all the time. I have come to think that it has real potential.

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  • Timbo December 4, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    \”Oregon. We love dreamers\” But at the end of the day if you want it to succeed give it to the big whore import.

    Their motives are purely captialistic and that is why it has worked else where and will work here too.

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  • Bjorn December 4, 2007 at 11:42 pm

    To me one of the big benefits of such a system would be to remove bikes from buses and max for people who take their bike along because they need it to get to or from their transit commute. More and more you see buses with two bikes in the front rack, or max with more bikes than space. As our bicycle mode share goes up we will see more and more overcrowding on transit.


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  • Martha S. December 5, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Blah with clear channel, blah I say! Also, what is the city doing to protect the people that are going to be riding these bikes? I may know how not to die on downtown streets; but I doubt that the people their immagining using these bikes do.

    I like the idea of getting more people to use bikes, and I don\’t think this is a bad way to do it; I just don\’t want this to result in a bunch of inexperienced riders trying to mix it up with car traffic or riding on the sidewalks and pissing off the pedestrians.

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  • Dave Snyder February 18, 2008 at 10:47 am

    What\’s the update? Has Portland picked a vendor for its bike-sharing system yet? What are people\’s opinions on that choice, pending or made?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 19, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Hey Dave,

    last I heard the committee that is charged with selecting the vendor is still meeting and trying to choose. Sam\’s office has likely been super busy with other priorities but I suspect this to move again soon. I will keep you site for updates.

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  • Dabby February 19, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Is the City of Portland still trying to go through with this irresponsible act?

    To encourage more cyclists to roll out onto our unsafe city streets at this point in time is exactly that: Irresponsible.

    We cannot even protect the ridership we have, in any manner, let alone justify encouraging more tourists and more rookies onto the street, on inadequate bicycles to boot.

    And I don\’t care if it is Clear Channel, or a local company running these bikes, there will be advertisement involved.

    We will be turning cyclists into rolling billboards, billboards that will not look so nice when crumpled under a garbage truck.

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  • wsbob February 19, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Don\’t be so pessimistic Dabby. Tourists=dollars. Crumpled tourists=lost dollars. If anything, a heightened level of contact between tourist cyclists and urban motor vehicle drivers will bring pressure to bear on city leaders to exert extra effort towards safer road infrastructure despite the seemingly anti-safety efforts of Paul Romain and the people that hired him to defeat the Safe, Sound, and Green Streets initiative.

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  • Dabby February 19, 2008 at 3:12 pm


    Why should it take a crumpled tourist to make changes happen, when we are already dealing with crumpled citizens?

    Wait, there is no answer for that, because:

    It should not take a crumpled tourist to make changes.

    While it is very true that the City of Portland has for a long time held the almighty tourist dollar as more important than the lives of it\’s own citizens, relying on this to improve infrastructure and police response to atrocities is just childish.

    The safe. Sound, and Green streets initiative is not even enough either.

    So far, there has been no inkling of anything being done that will actually help the problems we have in dealing with the safety of cyclists.

    The proposed new bike boxes are a step in the right direction, but far from enough.

    The new guidelines in dealing with police investigations?

    Woefully inadequate.

    I stand strong behind the statements I made in my above comment.

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  • wsbob February 19, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I suppose I should explain that I don\’t think a more serious move for street infrastructure improvements would actually take a \’crumpled tourist\’ to get things going. The mere presence of greater numbers of cyclists downtown and the resulting increased contact between them and motor vehicle drivers might significantly raise fears of an injury occurring because of the current infrastructures antiquated design.

    That\’s what I\’m thinking. Of course, I suppose there\’s always a possibility that city leaders and officials would turn a blind eye to problems related to increased congestion downtown. Might they consider banning bikes from certain downtown blocks entirely? I doubt it. Increased interest in biking is one of the best things that\’s happened to this city in decades, and the city has already reaped mountains of positive publicity from it.

    It does seem as though dramatic improvements following deaths of cyclists in the last year haven\’t really happened as soon as people would hope. That\’s unfortunate, but the fact that they haven\’t seems to me to lie more with the complexity involved in making those kinds of changes rather than a disinterest in making them.

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  • Dabby February 19, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Bikes are entirely banned from certain blocks downtown now. Actually many, many blocks downtown. Although they only selectively enforce it, mainly against the working cyclist. Have been for many years.

    Have you heard of the bus mall? Is like a $242 dollar citation? And also the safest path for a cyclist to cross downtown. And also the only place where the erratic movements of the buses are planned and predictable.

    I hear where you are coming from, though, as I try to be open minded.

    I just see \”Too little too late\” as being a good new motto for the City of Portland.

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  • wsbob February 19, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Yeah, I did forget about the bus mall. I\’m not sure what this latest renovation of the bus mall means in terms of accessibility of it to cyclists. North-South Max will be running through it now, and I believe cars will have some access to it too that they didn\’t have before, though that could be just parking near hotels and such.

    It\’s important to be positive-minded. I keep thinking about Paul Romain and the coalition that he represents.

    It\’s important to remember how the force represented by that coalition was able to single-handedly stall important improvements in the safety and efficiency of Portland streets through coercing the Safe, Sound, Green Streets initiative to be submitted to a vote approval by the public. Looked at as a separate entity, Paul Romain seems to be a hard bargaining partner, but maybe not so much, some of his coalition members, at least those of them, if there are any, that are honest working stiffs.

    I keep hearing he\’s looking out for \’big oil\’ interests. Maybe some of the other coalition members might not hold out so hard against street improvement fees if they were convinced that money thus spent could lead in part, to increased profits from bike riding patrons.

    A lot of people seem to not want to recognize that Portland streets can hold only so many cars without downtown turning into total congestion typical of certain other cities around the world. Don\’t know the names of them, but seems like Turin, Italy and certain parts of Paris may have the kind of downtown traffic jams I\’ve seen pics of.

    Many, many more cyclists downtown seem like a great idea to me.

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