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Portland bike-sharing update: Vendors confirmed for demonstration event

Posted by on July 29th, 2009 at 11:56 am

A bike from Montreal’s “Bixi” system.

Five companies interested in partnering with the City of Portland to implement a bike-sharing system have responded to a call for proposals to take part in a demonstration event in mid-August. Meanwhile, the Boston Globe is reporting that the City of Boston will implement, “the nation’s first citywide bike-sharing system” with hundreds of bicycles at dozens of stations.

As we reported last month, the City is planning two events in August (14th and 16th) to garner feedback from the public about what type of system they might like to see in place someday in Portland.

The companies hail from all over North America and one of them is local. According to documents released by the Bureau of Purchasing and the manager of the project for PBOT, Steve Hoyt-McBeth, the companies slated to participate are:

A Bcycle docking station.
  • Portland Bicycle Tours – Locally based Portland Bicycle Tours is owned and operated by Evan Ross. They currently offer a variety of guided bike tours and bike rentals.
  • BcycleBcycle is the new bike-sharing company created from a partnership between Humana (a Louisville, KY health care company), Trek Bicycle Corporation, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky (a major ad agency).
  • Schweers Technologies, Inc.According to their website, this global firm, with U.S. offices in New Jersey, specializes in mobile computers and “parking enforcement solutions”.
  • The Bike Share Group – The Bike Share Group is from Seattle, Washington. I’m awaiting more information about them.
  • Public Bike System Company – Based in Quebec, Canada, this company is behind the Bixi bike-sharing system launched in Montreal in September 2008. That system was built from the ground up, has won several awards, and with 3,000 bikes and 300 stations, it is largest bike sharing system in North America.

At least one potential bike-sharing vendor, Bill Burton of Arcata, California-based Library Bikes, said he won’t be showing up because the City wasn’t will to reimburse any expenses. After being personally invited to the event by PBOT’s Hoyt-McBeth, Burton declined, saying that he spent about $40,000 preparing for Portland’s previous Request for Proposals that was scrapped back in June 2008 without any decisions being made.

Burton owns a fleet of bikes previously used in Lyon, France’s public bike system. In an email to Hoyt-McBeth, Burton wrote that it’s “too bad” he won’t attend because those bikes are still being stored in Portland. Burton contends that a request for only volunteer participants, will result in a “marketing white wash” and than if the City wants more experienced operators they should be willing to pay vendors.

The Portland Mercury weighed in the City’s latest bike sharing plans in last week’s issue. They reported that PBOT is planning to deploy 660 bikes for a total start-up cost of $2.64 million (based on an estimated $4,000 per bike).

That number raised eyebrows, but Hoyt-McBeth told us the 660 number is nothing more than a “back-of-the-envelope approximation” based on having docking stations every five blocks (similar to Paris’ successful Velib’ system). Hoyt-McBeth added that, “we don’t know what the size or scale of a program would be.”

The Friday, August 14th event will be at the Pavilion on Waterfront Park (almost under the Burnside Bridge). That following Sunday (8/16), the demonstration will take place at the Sunday Parkways Southeast event.

— For previous coverage of this topic, browse our Bike-sharing System story archives.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Boston’s Bike Sharing Myth, And China | Something's BrewingJonAvatarCharlesShea Mayer Recent comment authors
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Anonymous
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Anonymous

Looking at these docking stations how do users return a bike if all the slots are full?

Do they have to find a station with open slots?

Could be pretty inconvenient if the nearest docking station is 20 blocks away.

Are there plans to have a station at the airport?

RyNO Dan
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RyNO Dan

I’ve read the articles, and everytime I ask – Who are these bicycles for ? Until I get some plausible answers, I can’t support spending $4K a bike for this unknown group. New residents have a large number of cheap choices for bikes that can be acquired immediately. Visitors can rent or borrow from their friends. Existing residents have bikes. This program really does not seem to fit Portland.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Reply to Ryno Dan…

That is a fair question and should primarily affect parking locations and fee structure.

The more successful bike sharing programmes should be seen not only as a replacement of bike ownership (similar to carsharing) but as a trip transfer option for transit riders or walkers. This latter option is the greater opportunity.

After having seen what similar programs have done for city biking in Lyon etc. The amount spent could be the quickest way to double the city center bike mode split. [Though likely taking trips from bus and walking. It would not get a Beaverton commuter out of their car – no one is suggesting this I hope.]

Yes many of us already have a bike or two (or 10) but there is often a time I wish I had the option of riding but cannot due to full bus/ MAX racks, bad weather turning nice, a late/ early bus, a friend without a bike (bike rentals are too pricy too far and in flexible for less than a full days use).

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Continued…

Yes most Portlanders have a bike but if you were to do an actual census you would likely find 50% not functioning/ safety defects (brakes, flats, etc.), 30% with no night lighting, etc. [These numbers are my best guess from liking around and getting requests for mechanical help. ]

gregg woodlawn
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I’m a big fan of Evan Ross’s work (Locally based Portland Bicycle Tours.)
I think that he already has some kind of a flex-car/ zip-car type of program downtown.

Bill Burton of Arcata Bike Library is a genius, and has built the largest bicycle lending library in North America. It feels like there is more to the story than is being written about. Can we get more info, Jonathan?

Clear Channel is the devil. Portland really wouldn’t let them run a bike share program here, would they?

BikingViking
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BikingViking

I have a feeling that the success or lack thereof of this program may be tied to whether or not TriMet is able to do away with the fairless square, as they are now attempting to do for the bus system (leaving fairless MAX intact).

I could imagine a lot of transit commuters renting a bike to go across downtown for a lunch date or to run an errand.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Hmmm pay bus fare to get across downtown or rent a bike.

I’d think that the bus fare would still be cheaper than a bike rental and would leave the rider in a less disheveled state.

BikingViking
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BikingViking

Anonymous (#7),
Not sure how I manage to do it, but I can ride 10 minutes across downtown without getting to my destination looking “disheveled” (or at least no more disheveled that I usually look!).

Also, we don’t know what the price of rental is going to be yet. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I read that in one of these cities with a program (Paris?) the first half hour is free. Last time I was in Copenhagen, you could rent a bike for free as long as you stayed downtown. Also, it could be a monthly fee such as your cable or internet bill.

E
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E

I think it could be very useful for folks going to/from Beaverton or anywhere else the MAX gets full. If bikes can be picked up and dropped off at different places it could be great. Ride one from near home to nearest MAX; ride MAX bike-free through congested area; pick up another bike & continue to destination. It’s like having a bike at each end of your commute – but you wouldn’t have to own two bikes and you wouldn’t have to worry about your own bikes being stolen/vandalized.

KWW
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KWW

Be sure to invite some meth fiends to the demo, so that you get an accurate predictor of how fast this program will fail.

Shea Mayer
Guest

Just wanted to clarify that there are currently 300 Bixi stations in Montreal (not 30) and that number is set to climb above 400 by the end of the summer. The program has been adopted at much higher than expected rates in its first year and is in my opinion the best thing to happen to this city in a long time!

Charles
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Charles

#1 wrote:
Looking at these docking stations how do users return a bike if all the slots are full?

Do they have to find a station with open slots?

Could be pretty inconvenient if the nearest docking station is 20 blocks away.

—-I could be mistaken, but I remember reading somewhere that the Paris system has a fleet of trucks that move the bikes around (at night?) because there’s frequently an imbalance caused by any number of possible situations.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

So they realign them nightly, that’s great if you are keeping the bike overnight.

What about that 10 minute ride across downtown where you get to your destination at 2pm and can’t find an open slot?

How far a field are you having to go to return the bike and stop the fees from racking up?

Jon
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Jon

I was just in Montreal last week and got to observe the Bixi system in action. I didn’t even know it existed before I went. I was surprised to see lots of people using it, at least in the area where I was staying (Plateau du Mont-Royal). The issue of empty stations and full stations seems to be a real operational concern. In residential areas it was pretty common to see empty stations and full stations downtown. The way the system works is if you get to a station and it’s full you can insert your credit card (which is used as a way of identify yourself) or membership card (if you’ve bought a month/year membership) and the system gives you an additional 15 minutes free to find another station with an open spot. Seems like a decent way to do it but of course inconvenient if you’re already at your destination. There were a lot of stations though. Seems like they need to offer incentives to ride the bikes from full stations to empty ones. I’m sure the engineers could develop a list of stations that run out of bikes everyday. All you’d need to do is find a way to get the word out and offer small refunds on the fees charged to users for returning bikes to problem stations.

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