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Alta, B-Cycle on Portland’s shortlist for bike sharing contract

Posted by on August 2nd, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Bike share demo-17-17DSC_3069-9

And then there were two.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland announced this afternoon that they’ve narrowed their choice of vendors to manage the city’s $4 million bike sharing system to just two candidates: Alta Bicycle Share and B-Cycle.

Alta is the spinoff of locally headquartered Alta Planning + Design, a world-renowned planning firm known for its expertise in bicycling and walking. Alta’s President, Mia Birk, gained notoriety in the 1990s when she was bicycle coordinator at the Portland Bureau of Transportation. B-Cycle is based in Madison, Wisconsin and was formed in 2008 through a partnership between Trek Bicycle Corportation, Humana (a health services provider) and Crispin, Porter + Bogusky (a PR firm).

In a memo released today, the City’s Chief Procurement Officer stated that Alta and B-Cycle scored the highest of the four initial proposers and will now move into a final, oral interview stage of the selection process.

Alta has been on a major roll in the bike sharing business. In just a few years, they have emerged as the top bike sharing provider in North America. In March they secured the contract to provide a bike sharing system for the City of Chicago and last year they won a coveted contract for New York City’s system. That system will be the largest in North America with 10,000 bikes and Alta President Birk said winning the contract was a “game-changer” for her company and for bike sharing in general.

While B-Cycle and Alta are competitors in one sense, their business models are very different. B-Cycle, with its backing from Trek, is focused on selling its bikes and kiosks, while Alta is a full-service operator that manages the entire system, from providing all the equipment to planning where the kiosks should be located.

Both companies took part in a public demonstration of their systems in downtown Portland in September 2011. I shared thoughts on each of their bikes (Alta uses bikes from Bixi, a system developed by the City of Montreal) in a recap of that event and you can watch a video demonstration of the B-Cycle system and learn more in a recap by Joseph Rose of The Oregonian.

PBOT expects to roll out their 740 bike system in spring of next year. Learn more on the Portland Bike Share website.

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Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Well Congrats to Alta! and B Cycle!

I was surprised that Bike Nation did not make it to the final round here since they are on a [contract] roll in the LA Region (LA, Anaheim and likely Long Beach). Perhaps they did not try and are focusing on the LA Region.

Blair
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Blair

New York’s system will be the biggest in the US, but not even close in the whole world.

Hangzhou and Wuhan, PRC’s systems have more than 50,000 bikes already (Hangzhou expects to number 100,000 by 2015). Paris even has around 18,000.

Which is interesting when you consider Hangzhou only has around 7.5 mil people, compared with NY’s 8.2 in city limits. This says that if NY improved their separated facilities, which in Hangzhou are quite good, they could probably aim for a much bigger rollout and not have any problems.

Dan Liu
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Greetings from Madison, WI! — People here are generally happy with B-cycle here since it was installed in the spring of last year, and I see lots of people using it. Anecdoatlly, usage patterns here have varied a lot, and some of the kiosks get so full during certain hours that users have to go find a kiosk several blocks off. There has been a major expansion (almost doubling?) of the number of stations here this year, especially around the university, and I suspect the powers-that-be are taking a wait and see attitude for the moment. Contrary to what I had originally thought, there are a good number of people who use them to commute here — surprising given that most people in Madison already have bikes and bike to work already. A lot of people, especially students who live near campus, have been using them because they don’t want the hassle of maintaining and storing a bike of their own.

The B-cycle bikes themselves are very robust and a lot of fun to ride. The only minor maintenance issue the B-cycles have so far is that the bells are these little plastic thingies, and most of them have already broken off…

Sunny
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Sunny

Did you hear that Alta? Weld cowbells to the handlebar and you’ve won the game.

What a great idea, cowbells on bikes.

Walter
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meh
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meh

A little more background on Alta and their New York deal, it did not go as well as planned, a change in software delayed the go live and could result in lawsuits.

http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2012/07/27/for-bike-share-firm-delay-could-cost/

As for the Chicago deal, they are under investigation for irregularities with regards to the person who drafted the RFP (an intern for the city of Chicago) who worked for Alta before and after the bidding process and the transportation commissioner who was once a paid consultant for Alta.

http://www.bicycleretailer.com/news/newsDetail/6746.html

spare_wheel
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spare_wheel

If Alta wins will we be allowed to ride these bikes on Hawthorne?

Joe Rowe
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Joe Rowe

A bike Share might have a huge positive transportation payback in New York City, but this is not the right time for Portland. We’re not getting the same payback.

This bike rental contract is a white people’s toy and problem. It’s mostly for show that we care about bikes. Tourists currently pay less by using one of the many sustainable and less subsidized Portland local businesses who rent bikes.

I think cyclists are blind to their classism and privilege. I urge people to vote for Amand Fritz for city council because she was the only one smart enough to state we should be putting this money to services for people in poverty.

anon1q2w3e4r5t
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anon1q2w3e4r5t

I kind of agree with Joe Rowe, but I also strongly believe it’s also not the right time for NYC either. I’m warning you Portland, don’t launch a bike sharing program. The same goes to the LA/OC region in Cali, which is where the first real battle against bike sharing programs will take place. It may not be obvious now, but bike sharing programs will hurt the long term goals of the livable city/streets community. Also, what’s up with Alta?, so much shadiness with that company. No worries, karma is a beautiful thing.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

Don’t you have to have a credit card to use these bikeshare systems? That requirement alone would exclude a large segment of poor people.

Ben Guernsey
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Ben Guernsey

It’s interesting B-Cycle partnered with an ad agency. Maybe Alta should partner with W+K here.

Jade Koide
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Jade Koide

I was in Kansas City last weekend, where they recently rolled out the B-cycle system. Besides not having much in the way of bicycle infrastructure (bike lanes, sharrows, other bikers), the system was really easy to access in the downtown area. Just a swipe of the credit card and I was off.

My biggest complaint about the B-Cycle is the weight of the bike. It’s a beast! A bit hard to handle, given the large front basket and stem. Sure, anyone who rides a bike regularly could get used to the feel of the bike, but for the bike-curious or for tourists, I would imagine the difficulty with steering would be a big turn-off.

Richard King
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Richard King

Most cities with Bikeshare offer discounts to people below a certain income level following a registration process which assures collateral without need for a bank or credit card. Boston’s Hubway offers $5 yearly memberships with regular usage fees for trips over an hour if a resident meets the income requirements and verifies their residency.

Anyway, there is no reason for poor people to not have valid id or a bank card. Such things are already required to receive other government benefits!

A YEARLY membership to bikeshare (even with usage fees) is often MUCH cheaper than a MONTHLY transit pass too.