(Photo © J. Maus)
Welcome to Part Four 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. On Friday, Tom shared experiences from the bike share system in Stockholm, Sweden, which is operated by Clear Channel (Clear Channel also had a bid in to manage Portland’s system).
In today’s article, Tom reflects on their trip to Scandinavia and ponders on what’s at stake for Portland.
Part Four: What’s at stake for Portland
We returned to Portland feeling clear we had made a good decision to proceed with caution. It’s easy to get excited about prospects of a bike share program in Portland. But it would be a great disservice to roll out a program that failed.
“You get one chance to make that first impression with your would-be user.”
It is evident that the investment would need to be substantial. Multiple millions of dollars. That’s because one of the take-home messages from cities around the world is that the initial roll-out of bikes and stations needs to be ubiquitous.
I referenced Paris earlier. It is currently the darling of the movement. Paris put out 10,000 bikes in one weekend. Shortly thereafter, it committed to doubling that number by the end of the calendar year. By contrast, the experiment in Brussels, Belgium is considered a failure by most because the number of bikes and stations initially distributed were too few. You get one chance to make that first impression with your would-be user.
The stakes are high. Anything new Portland does for bikes has national profile. Our local culture’s distaste for private advertising in the public right of way means our program would likely need to be funded with taxpayer dollars. Global best practices suggest the initial investment needs to be meaningful. We have to get it right the first time.
Tomorrow; Part Five: Questions to answer if we want to “get it right”.