Bike share in Portland Part Two: Off to Scandinavia

Posted by on November 20th, 2008 at 10:42 am

Tom Miller
(Photo © J. Maus)

Welcome to Part Two of our six-part, guest article series on bike-sharing in Portland.

The series is written by Tom Miller, chief of staff for Portland City Commissioner and Mayor-elect Sam Adams.

Yesterday, Tom gave us some background on Portland’s efforts to launch a bike share program.

Today’s article is short but sweet. Tom shares initial impressions of bike share programs in Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Stockholm from a trip last June. Tomorrow, Tom will share extensive details on what it’s like to use Clear Channel’s bike share system in Stockholm.

Part Two: Off to Scandinavia

A trip to Scandinavia in June confirmed our suspicion. Copenhagen, Denmark is one of the world’s great bike-friendly cities. Yet with vandalized bike-share bikes on its streets, we saw a second generation (coin-operated) bike share system that seemed to fall prey to neglect. Subsequently we learned Copenhagen is pursuing an entirely new approach.

Story continues below


In Helsinki, a bike-share
bike sits in disrepair.
(Photo: Tom Miller)

In Helsinki, Finland we saw the same outcome: bike-share bikes missing parts and rusting on the city streets.

Stockholm, Sweden is rarely mentioned in bike circles as a world-class bike city, but it ranks among the best. We were quite impressed with their commitment to bike infrastructure. Bike boxes are regularly employed at most intersections, dedicated bike signals are common, and a substantial investment in cycle tracks is underway. Riding a bike in downtown Stockholm felt much safer than riding in downtown Portland.

In addition to a strong commitment to dedicated bicycle infrastructure, Stockholm has partnered with Clear Channel to provide a third generation (technology driven) bike share program. One station sat right outside our hotel entrance. Many in our group, mostly non-cyclists, were excited about the prospects of getting to explore Stockholm by bike.

Next, Part Three: Lessons from Stockholm

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I hope Portland doesn’t spend a single dime on bike share, I don’t think it’s a workable idea and I’d much rather see the money go to building out the infrastructure we need to get to a 25% mode split.

Icarus Falling
Icarus Falling

I agree that bike share is not needed, or worth it, here in Portland.

I fully imagine it going the way of those described above, or, sadly, run by Clear Channel.

The last thing I want to see is Clear Channel advertising all over bikes all over town.

I hope it never happens.


Most American cities do not have the budget to implement these kinds of projects where they will be viable i.e. no rusty bikes, without the help of additional resources. Outdoor advertising isn’t going anywhere so why not put the pressure back on them to enrich the community in some way. Advertising rights don’t have to be part of the agreement and if it is, maybe local advertising is necessary to jump start consumer spending in your communities.