How much to use bike sharing in Portland? About $60-$95 per year

This guest post is by Michael Andersen of Portland Afoot, a 10-minute newsmagazine and wiki for public transit riders in Portland.

If bike sharing comes to Portland as expected, it won’t really be for cycling devotees, many of whom already take their bicycles everywhere.

No, bike sharing will be for people who rode in on buses, trains, planes or automobiles. That’s what makes it so interesting, especially to transit people like me. That’s also why the price for using Portland’s future bike sharing system is going to be very, very important.

Nobody cares more about price than a newbie.

So let’s look forward to fall 2013. After eight years of debate, Zipcar-style bike sharing has finally arrived in Portland and you’re standing in front of a kiosk offering bikes for checkout. Maybe they’re the big, 49-pound Bixis, the type Jonathan said he preferred riding in a post last week. How much will you be paying to pull that first bike off its station?

Based on the six major bike sharing systems in the U.S. and Canada — Denver, Montreal, Toronto, Washington D.C., Minneapolis and Boston — you’re likely to be coughing up about $5 a day (the same as a TriMet daypass) or about $75 a year, plus another $1.50 for each ride that lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.

For longer trips, costs will stack up faster. But if you’re a regular who knows the system, you’ll rarely ride for longer than 30 minutes, let alone 60.

This price scheme is far from certain, and the Portland Bureau of Transportation couldn’t be reached for comment on this story. But every major municipal system in both countries has so far followed the same pattern: a “membership” or “subscription” fee that can be bought by the day, week, month or year, plus a “trip” fee based on the trip’s duration. In all such systems, the first 30 minutes are free.

Among the big six, the lowest annual fee is in Minneapolis, at $60, but most of the system’s 3,700 memberships were sold during the spring sale, when they went for $40 each, Nice Ride Minnesota Executive Director Bill Dossett said Monday. The Twin Cities’ system is open only from April to November. Other bikeshare prices (note that these days, Canadian dollars are basically equivalent to U.S. dollars):

What about those per-trip fees? Dossett said regular bike-share users almost never take trips of more than 30 minutes. If Portland’s future system offers the first half-hour free, as do most other modern systems, it’s hard to imagine things being much different in Portland.

Portland has promised to do bikesharing a bit differently than other cities have, and things could wind up differently here. Guadalajara, Mexico, for example, charges just $15 a year for membership and relies on local businesses to sponsor each new bike station — you can read local bike entrepreneur Ryan Hashagan’s description of that system or listen to Lillian Karabaic’s analysis on the next episode of Portland Afoot’s new commuting podcast.

As a guy who goes almost everywhere by carrying his bicycle on TriMet, I don’t think I’d personally use bike sharing enough to make it worth more than $40 a year — though I’d be less likely to carry my bike on the MAX if my annual TriMet pass came with a bike share membership. But what about you?

And more importantly, what about your non-biking friends?

The September cover story of Portland Afoot profiles Don Baack, a Southwest Portland retiree who builds urban trails where the government won’t. BikePortland readers can subscribe for $10 a year with discount code BIKEPORTLAND.

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