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Intel employees set to launch ‘Open Bike Initiative’ on Hillsboro campus

Posted by on June 18th, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Employees at Hillsboro-based Intel Corporation are spearheading an effort to make bike sharing less expensive and more widely available. Using their own volunteer time, a group of employees at the company have been working on the Open Bike Initiative since January. I’ve heard murmurs about the effort for months and they just released some bare-bones details at OpenBikeInitiative.org.

Key advisors on the Open Bike project include Nike, the Westside Transportation Alliance, the Community Cycling Center, Portland State University, and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

According to the website, the main objective of the effort is to design a low-cost device that incorporates GPS/cell data and a locking mechanism that can be attached to any standard, off-the-shelf bike. Then they’ll create software that allows the bikes to communicate and be managed as a system via an online portal. The final step will be to freely distribute the results of their work and experiences with an open-source license.

Intel’s motivation is clear: Some buildings on their sprawling Hillsboro campus are over 3.5 miles apart. That’s too far to walk and the perfect distance for a bicycle ride. Here’s more from the Open Bike site:

If successful, the project could provide a template for a new bike sharing model that could be implemented (relatively) easily and (relatively) inexpensively, even by small organizations. Most current bike sharing programs utilize expensive kiosks and costly custom bicycles, and require services from a single vendor. The few emerging “smart lock” based systems eliminate the need for kiosks, but continue to use custom bicycles and proprietary software and services from a specific vendor. This project envisions a model that utilizes standard bikes with minor “do it yourself” modifications and free software. Organizations like corporations, university campuses, housing projects and the like may be able to implement a bike sharing program completely on their own, or new vendors may emerge to supply particular components (e.g., bicycles, control devices, software management, load balancing and maintenance services, etc.). Our hope is that this will result in a significant increase in the number of bike sharing programs, with corresponding environmental, health and economic benefits.

On July 8th, Intel plans to launch a pilot implementation of the system with 30 bicycles on their Ronler Acres and Hawthorne Farms campuses in Hillsboro. They expect to have the technology “fully functioning” by late this summer.

Will this disrupt the current bike share market? Can it work on a larger scale? Stay tuned for more on this exciting project. I’m planning to visit Intel tomorrow for an exclusive look at the science and the people behind the initiative.

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  • BellaBici June 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    I was just reading about this for the past couple of days. Certainly a different, and very feasible, approach to bike share implementation.

    Unfortunately, both articles have the same title, that may be slightly confusing:

    Inventropolis: Bikeshare’s Technological Shift, by Joe Schumpeter

    E3 Think: Bikeshare’s Technological Shift, by Tom Glendening

    Exciting news!

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  • Heather June 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I couldn’t be more excited about OBI and the implications it could have for large suburban campuses. Brad Biddle of Intel is providing amazing leadership to bring this pilot project to fruition. It’s exciting to see such innovation regarding transportation options coming out of Washington County. Now let’s make sure the infrastructure exist to support this low-cost, open-source, innovative last-mile solution.

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  • wsbob June 18, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    This project raises some questions which the Intel employees voluntarily lending their efforts to the Open Bike Initiative may have answers to, or ideas about. Such as, how many people are employed at the two Intel Hillsboro plants where the project will be tried out, and how many of them have regular need of traveling from one plant to the other on any given day. Just 30 bikes are planned for the pilot project.

    Citing stats used in Oregonian articles, the wikipedia page for Hillsboro: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillsboro,_Oregon
    …says Intel plants in the area employ about 16,000 people. This Intel page says the company has a total of 7 plants in Hillsboro and Beaverton. I wonder what percent of that 16,000 work force live within a 2-3 mile biking distance from the Intel plant branch they work at, and do in fact bike to work.

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    • wsbob June 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      Link to the Intel/Hillsboro info page: http://www.intel.com/jobs/usa/sites/Hillsboro/

      Not a lot of info there, but some interesting bits, including that under the ‘Cool Stuff at Intel Hillsboro’ section.

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    • matt picio June 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm


      Ronler Acres has about 6,000 employees, Hawthorne Farm about 1,500 – 2,000. It would be great if they add Jones Farm (5,000) later on. Ronler and Hawthorne Farm have a significant number of people living within 3 miles, probably over 1,000. Employees who live at Orenco Station walk to work, and the number there is not insignificant. Jones Farm has a shuttle service carrying 250 a day to and from MAX, and Ronler’s shuttle carries close to 500 (as of 2 years ago when I worked out there). Both shuttles travel less than 3 miles from the MAX, and both routes are perfectly bikeable.

      It’s a shame the program is only for Blue badge employees, but then Intel has no incentive to provide benefits to their contract and managed service workers.

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      • wsbob June 18, 2013 at 11:16 pm

        Matt…thanks for those figures. At about 13,000 employees, the three Intel Hillsboro plants, Ronler, Hawthorne and Jones, employ the lion’s share of Intel’s 16,000 Oregon workforce.

        Employees immediate family members included in an estimation of how many people Intel employees living within a 2-3 mile radius of the plants, helps towards getting some idea of the population existing in that area, that may have some interest in active transportation amenities such as bike share, or that would seek and support a bike based urban center something like Amsterdam’s Jodenbreestraat, discussed recently at bikeportland in a story and comments to it.

        If considerably more than 7-8 percent…1000 of those 13,000 employees, lived within a 2-3 mile distance from the plants, that could raise interest in the availability of bike share at points across that area, or first class cycle tracks planned into the reconfiguration of roads, that’s an ongoing part of providing places for people to live around Hillsboro’s centers of employment.

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      • Giedre June 19, 2013 at 11:04 am


        The OBI bike share is actually open to temporary and contract employees, as well.

        Those wanting to participate have to register, and the testers will be consequently selected on the indicated usage of bikes.

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  • Spiffy June 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I enjoyed the multi-mile walks around Ronler Acres… but sometimes I’d wished I had a bike to get across and back quickly…

    Hawthorne Farm isn’t big enough to need bikes, it’s 3 central buildings all interconnected… nobody goes outside…

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  • Lynne June 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    It is apparently for blue badge (Intel employees) only. I work AT Intel (not to be confused with FOR Intel); can’t get to the page. That said, the RA campus is HUGE. Sometimes workers have meetings at other campuses (HF and JF), and there is no inter-campus shuttle. Car parking at RA can be challenging. Easier to park a bike 🙂 Nike has shared bikes; again, quicker and easier to bike to a meeting across campus or to/from one of the off-campus leased buildings.

    My unofficial survey (looking at the bike racks) shows that a tiny fraction of workers ride bikes to work at RA. The racks are full; there just aren’t many of them. I ride a couple times a week, 20 miles RT.

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  • Peter W June 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    This is perfect timing considering that Washington County is just starting to develop modal plans for their TSP update and will be doing so over the summer. I’d love to see more ideas for how the county’s planning efforts could support more use of bike sharing systems.

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  • Alan 1.0 June 18, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Cool stuff…could this be what anon1q2w3e4r5t alludes to superceding present bike share systems? But even so, it won’t be rolled out en masse for years, giving time for a conventional system to be amortized. It has problems that a conventional system already solves, especially in more hostile environments than a corporate campus (bike durability, load balancing, concentrated repairs, non-member rental). I’m not holding my breath on this concept, I just hop on and enjoy bike shares in whatever form I find them.

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    • anon1q2w3e4r5t June 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      Baaaaackup! I’m not alluding to anything superceding present bike share systems. I’ve said in the past that bike sharing systems, particularly those that are city-wide, will hurt the long-term goals of the livable cities/streets community, period. I have been working on a project that contains information that will back up my claim. I plan on revealing this project sometime in future, but in the mean time, I need to build up some credibility for making such a claim. So, recently, I had an epiphany that has inspired me to start a second project, which will be revealed much sooner than my first project. It is my hope that this second project will prove I’m not just some anonymous commenter who hates bike sharing. I plan on having a website up within a month or two discussing this second project.

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      • Alan 1.0 June 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm

        Thanks for clarifying. As one who’s witnessed bikeshares improving my urban experience in more than a half-dozen cities, you’ll need to clear a high bar to make your case! (Incidentally, I’ve never seen a bikeshare system which covers an entire city’s area, limit-to-limit. They work in the dense core.)

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  • john June 19, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I just moved out to Hillsboro and work downtown. So far I haven’t been out on the bicycle, but I’ve been walking about a mile to the max stop. And here’s my impressions:
    1. Lots and Lots of traffic driving silly fast. (fancy cars going well over 50 in 35 zones).
    2. I am the ONLY person walking at about 630 to 7 am on my way to the max or on the walk home at 5:30 pm.
    3. I have seen Maybe 1 or 2 cyclists, in that hour of walking.
    4. In my 4 walks, 2 near incidents, cars racing through right turns, etc.. This is in broad daylight. Oh they saw me, but obviously didn’t give a sh!t. Holy crap.
    That said at least they have sidewalks and some bike lanes unlike Beaverton.
    My impression is that its really hard to walk or ride, when driving is made so incredibly easy and convenient. Lots of money out there so price of fuel is obviously not an issue either.

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    • Chris I June 19, 2013 at 10:13 am

      And free parking everywhere! The car is truly king in Washington County.

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    • anon1q2w3e4r5t June 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      This reminds me…..

      Just yesterday, while I was on my bicycle waiting at a red light, a woman with a stroller and her kids were crossing the crosswalk towards me. Also coming towards me were two cars making a left turn heading into the direction of the woman and her kids. The two cars slowed down, but once the woman and her kids were out of the way, the first car honked at them, and then the second car honked at them. Unbelievable!!!

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  • was carless June 20, 2013 at 10:04 am

    I don’t know about this, I still want a “big boy” system for Portland. We’re a world class cycling city, after all.

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  • was carless June 20, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Ah, didnt realize it was for campuses. Why don’t they just buy a whole bunch of bikes like google did, and spread them (and bike racks) around campus? Too easy?

    30 bikes/16,000 employees = not much!

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 20, 2013 at 10:11 am

      It’s not specifically for campuses. This post doesn’t do the effort justice. I visited Intel yesterday for the full scoop and will post a follow-up soon. My feeling is that this is a very big deal that could potentially shake up the entire concept of bike sharing.

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  • Chris Mcnally June 23, 2013 at 5:54 am

    This idea is similar to SoBi http://socialbicycles.com

    But SoBi has proprietary bikes and locks.

    This sounds like a good solution for a place like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, where everyone is riding personally owned bikes and so they are left parked for hours at a time. With Obi, you could have fewer bikes because instead of sitting unused ppeople would be using the same bike for several trips per day.

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