Wow. Yesterday’s bike share news was pretty amazing. Our heads are still spinning here at BikePortland headquarters.
Nine years ago when we announced that Portland wanted to be the first U.S. city with a bike share system, we never expected it would take this long. But now that it’s happened, we’re just glad that the deal was done. And, like many people in Portland, we’re eagerly awaiting the sight of 1,000 orange bikes being used in our city.
We’ve posted 70 stories about Portland’s bike share saga since 2007 and things are just now getting interesting, so expect a lot more coverage in the months to come. For now though, Michael and I want to share some brief thoughts about PBOT, Nike, Biketown, and what this means for all of us. Some are fun, some are serious, and like always, we’d love to hear your thoughts…
Wait. Before we get started. I want to publicly congratulate the team at PBOT. There are some smart and dedicated people who worked very hard under a lot of pressure and ups-and-downs (understatement) over these past nine years to pull this off (I won’t name names, you know who you are). Something like this doesn’t happen in a city unless someone makes it a priority and sees it through to the end. High-fives all around.
OK, let’s go…
Hey, wanna’ grab a Biketown? Let’s Biketown to the Timbers game.
I’ve been wondering how the system’s name, Biketown (pronounced bike, not bikey), will be used once it becomes common parlance. It works well as a place name, but it’s not so great as a noun. And will it work as a verb? This is only the second time naming rights have ever been sold to a title sponsor of a U.S. system (the other one is CitiBike in New York), so we’re all a bit new to this.
Did Nike just make cycling cool, or did cycling make Nike cool?
Yesterday I wrote, “With one fell swoosh, Nike has made cycling cool in Portland.” To my surprise, several people took lighthearted offense to that. They said cycling is already cool and it’s Nike that benefits from an association with cycling, not the other way around. My point was that, while cycling might be cool to you and I (and other bike nerds), the vast majority of Portlanders disagree. Sorry to break it to you, but most people prefer to drive and young people especially don’t see cycling as being cool. But with Nike now in the picture, cycling has instant street cred. Cycling in general will benefit from the halo-effect of Nike’s powerful brand association. Pretty cool huh?
Hopefully this one miracle can lead to others
This was a miracle deal. After all the years searching for a corporate sponsor, PBOT pulled a rabbit out of the hat. If they mustered the urgency and commitment to make this deal, surely they can solve other pressing transportation problems — like find more money to improve streets, build more protected bike lanes and fill in glaring bikeway gaps that exist all over the city. Momentum is our friend, let’s ride it.
The visual impact
Imagine: 1,000 beautiful orange bikes designed by Nike strewn all about the streets of Portland. Once these bikes are out in the wild, they’ll serve as a constant reminder of this city’s belief in bikes. The impact of having more humans riding bikes downtown will itself be a game-changer, but the orange bikes themselves will be a real-life, tangible version of Strava’s heat map. The data these bikes yield will be invaluable to researchers, engineers, planners, and advocates; but to everyday people who see them on the street, they’ll serve as a free daily advertisement for cycling.
Nine years is a long time
While we bask in the euphoria of Biketown, let us not forget it took us nine years to get here. And let’s hope that PBOT doesn’t see this planning process as a great template to replicate with other big projects. We need to get better at delivering game-changing solutions to our city’s problems in a much shorter time-frame.
It’s not all about downtown
This will be a big deal downtown but it’s arguably an even bigger deal for Northwest Portland, because its residential density makes private bike storage so annoying, because public transit options aren’t great, and because there are so many homes within bike share’s service area. Inner northwest will likely be the epicenter for bike share memberships. The downside to this is that northwest has even less bike-oriented infrastructure than downtown.
Welcome to the neighborhoods
With more money than expected from the title sponsor and 66% more bikes than originally announced, there’s a much greater chance that Biketown will cross the river into Portland’s inner neighborhoods. When bike share’s startup funding was debated, some advocates weren’t on board because of its geographic focus on the central city. We haven’t seen a revised service area map; but our guess is it’ll spread much further than anyone expected. Lents will still be out of luck for a while, but docks on NE 28th Avenue are looking likelier (that is, if anyone can spare the auto parking space…).
“In the near future, we will begin a public engagement process to solicit input from Portlanders about station locations and the service area,” city spokesman John Brady said. “This information will help determine the service area borders for the summer launch.”
Bikes are bad for business! Oh really?
Nike just decided to spend $10 million to make it easier for people to ride bikes in Portland. Now, I’m sorry, come again, what were you saying about this new bike lane will hurt your business?
Let’s talk about profit
Will Biketown be a moneymaker? Probably. One of the great things about the size of the title sponsorship is that it’ll probably be profitable enough to finance a decent share of its own ongoing expansion. If all goes well, profits will become a growth engine that will gradually make the system bigger and bigger, which will in turn make it more and more useful.
Why do we think Biketown will be profitable? Well, other bike sharing systems are. In Chicago, Divvy operates far enough in the black that its profits are used as local match for state and federal grants to improve biking and walking. In Phoenix, which has a similar smartbike system, Grid Bikes doesn’t even have a lead sponsor and it might turn a profit anyway.
Secondly, the numbers for Portland look good — really good.
After a 20 percent sales commission for Motivate, the Nike deal will give the city $8 million over five years — 46 percent more money than the city had been expecting to get from all sponsorship revenue under an earlier version of its bike sharing plan. Add to that the fact that a smart bike system is likely to have significantly lower operating expenses than the earlier smart dock system would have.
Add that all up and it looks likely that Biketown is going to deliver at least a modest annual surplus, maybe in the six figures. Under the city’s deal with Motivate, half of that would go to the operator and half to the city itself. PBOT’s John Brady said Friday that any city profits will get reinvested in bike share.
Now that you’ve had time to process the news, what are your thoughts?
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— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – email@example.com
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This is super exciting. The orange looks fantastic on those bikes, and will be a constant reminder of everyday biking, as it has become in other bike share cities. Hopefully this deal helps the system expand into more of N/NE/SE. North and Southeast especially can benefit from a bike/MAX combo, since those areas are so poorly served by rail service.
This deal will also hopefully prompt better protected bike lanes throughout the city, as more and more people ride. Perhaps Nike could even sponsor some cycle tracks? If I remember correctly, they had some sort of branding on Chicago’s Lake Front Trail, so it’s not completely unheard of.
As far as corporate sponsors go, an athletic wear company is certainly better than a bank. They have a reason to get more people active and bike share is a great way to do that with little upfront cost to the user.
I’m not loving the name, but then again, I hated “Divvy” at first and eventually it sounded natural enough to use in conversation. It will take a bit of getting used to.
Summer can’t come soon enough! In the meantime, we can all have fun with the station map comment website and trying to compete for the lowest member number! I foresee a Pedalpalooza ride where everyone rides BIKETOWN bikes!
Though I’m not keen on corporate sponsorship of everything, I like the idea of sponsored tracks. If having a logo spray painted every few blocks (or on signs) means getting it done, then I am all for it. The sooner the better.
“If having a logo spray painted every few blocks (or on signs) means getting it done, then I am all for it.”
That is very pragmatic of you.
So the branding public space doesn’t bother you at all?
Sure it does, but not enough to outweigh the benefits. Take the signs that direct you on Greenways. If those had a symbol/slogan, I could deal with it. We already see about 14,000 advertisements a day (just made that number up), and I’m not sure seeing a few more while riding is going to have that much of an effect.
I realize I seem to be on the losing side of history here, but you do realize that there is another way to proceed, that rejecting corporate sponsorship categorically and demanding that the taxes we already pay be spent according to different priorities (a) is possible, but that (b) this is made that much more difficult every time we accept and then celebrate high-vis corporate sponsorship deals like this one.
Yep. That route is certainly preferred and doable, but at what cost(s)?
The cost to Nike and Co. of us, (collectively) saying no to corporate underwriting would probably be huge. But I think all the benefits would accrue to us.
Maybe I’m not understanding your question. I don’t think we lack for (tax) money. We lack for good prioritization of that money. Right now a sizable chunk of our taxes go to service debt/interest: no good infrastructure comes of that. We could easily have spent only what we had and not borrowed. The banks don’t need all that interest. Another sizable chunk goes to autos-only infrastructure which soon enough will be considered a stranded asset like nuclear power that no one wants and we come to grief over (CRC being just the most egregious and visible example, but there are hundreds more). All that money and more is money we paid into the state coffers only to see it burned for no useful purpose. It could have been spent on infrastructure that has a future, that offers a clear return, that meets the needs of actual people rather than feeding anachronistic, ideological purposes.
My apologies for the poorly worded question and delayed reply to yours. Did a long ride yesterday that wiped me out. The costs I was thinking about weren’t necessarily monetary. I would love to wake up tomorrow and hear that a much larger chunk of our taxes is going to be spent on making a world class cycling city, but I don’t think that is realistic. It is going to take more time and energy to make that happen, and that is time and energy that advocates could get back. For example, when off-road cycling options are created throughout the city I know a few people who will suddenly find themselves with more times on their hands. Additionally, with the delay in waiting for the cycling infrastructure people continue to choose the auto (and the costs for that choice we all know all too well). What if as part of this bike deal NIKE sponsored a downtown loop, and that sponsorship lasted for 5 or 10 years? After that the marketing for NIKE on that loop disappears. Money that would have been used to build that loop could now be spent on other, much needed, cycling projects in the city. What if it became competitive amongst companies to get their name in helping to create the best Biketown in the world, in exchange for some positive press and temporarily having their company names on the signs for whatever they funded?
“I don’t think that is realistic. It is going to take more time and energy to make that happen”
But when our elected officials spend almost ten years of their time/our money pursuing and crafting a deal with Nike, and we all then celebrate the outcome, how is this not working against any sea change in how these things are funded? The way I look at this, a successful Nike sponsorship is not a deal that sunsets, but one more nail in the coffin of any alternative approach.
“What if as part of this bike deal NIKE sponsored a downtown loop, and that sponsorship lasted for 5 or 10 years? After that the marketing for NIKE on that loop disappears. Money that would have been used to build that loop could now be spent on other, much needed, cycling projects in the city.”
That is an interesting alternative, Brian. My chief concern is with the last sentence. Money that would have been used to build the project…. We already have that money now. Going to sponsorship route suggests I think to nearly everyone that we don’t need to spend our tax money on bike infrastructure because it is easier to find a corporate sponsor and we can continue to spend our tax money on car-pork (for instance). I’d rather turn the tables. Bikes will be the first loading order in any spending plan, and any infrastructure that is only useful for cars must look for funds somewhere else, unless there is money left over.
“What if it became competitive amongst companies to get their name in helping to create the best Biketown in the world, in exchange for some positive press and temporarily having their company names on the signs for whatever they funded?”
Cute, but I reject the whole framework. Why are we even having this discussion? And in having it how are we not reifying this lopsided prioritization that says that when it comes to tax dollars, car is king?
Putting food on the table is “…king…”, for most people across the U.S., and for most of them, bikes don’t help much to put food on the table. There’s a dubious aspect to corporate sponsorship, but I doubt that, it’s a big enough reason for the public in America to resoundingly reject corporate sponsorship. People are willing to accept corporate sponsorship because it helps fund things they’d like to have, but can do without if it comes down to having it, or feeding their loved ones.
pragmatism over principle!
Whether you like it or not, cars are not going anywhere soon and, frankly, should not. So, the argument that says for the last ten years we could have been spending tax dollars are non-car infrastructure is completely irrelevant. Cars and trucks still have tremendous utility in our economy and youre in a decided minority that wants to strand people to bikes in this country as a solution in search of a problem. We are not some tiny euro country where we can just plop trans and bikes into our cities and call it good. We, collectively, dont want it. Until you stop trying to shame the rest of us into abandoning our cars and trying to abuse the government’s power to punish car owners, you wont get much traction.
“Whether you like it or not, cars are not going anywhere soon and, frankly, should not.”
They won’t shrivel up and blow away because I say so. This has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the relationship between our transportation choices and the habitability of our planet (for starters). Cars on the scale we’ve grown used to and exported around the world are incompatible with this. I won’t list the dozens of reasons because they are well known.
The fact that cars are (for us, right here, right now) also massively convenient because we have found ways to externalize nearly all the social, health, environmental, military, and economic costs has little bearing on these larger questions. I would like to think that we could look beyond the edge of our steering wheels and acknowledge the larger ramifications of our fossil fuel binge.
SALES TAX!!!!!! As our current level of taxation doesn’t quite seem to fund all the basics, like school. LETS DO THIS – FINALLY!
And why would we do that when the gas tax is staring us in the face, would not only raise all the money we could ever hope for, it would simultaneously discourage the very activity that is costing us all this money we think we are short.
Arthur C. Pigou, man.
Horribly inefficient and is regressive.
You have to establish first that there is insufficient tax revenues to fund even basic government functions and services. And you simy cannot do that when, for example, every City of Portland office is getting their own equity/diversity staff or when PBOT is blowing cash on marketing campaigns.
Like 9watts, there’s plenty of money to spend, it’s just spent wrongly.
“…doesn’t quite seem to fund all the basics, like school.”
This is what I don’t understand. Over 70% of my Oregon property tax goes to the school system, yet the demographics in my county consists of mostly retirees and many childless people like my wife and I. The number of school-age children has actually gone down over recent years, yet my taxes only ever went down (slightly) in one year: 2008.
While I’m a fan of a reasonable (say 5%) sales tax on non-necessity items – certainly a better idea than a kicker check that costs more to mail than its returned surplus – I’m more inclined to believe there are other forces at work here (and that’s not to say that teachers are overpaid – not by a long shot).
But you have to first establish that a bike share program not only should be a spending priority, but also establishing that it is a popular priority. On the first, at the local level, thats a maybe and, on the second, a decided no.
What local spending would you cut, specifically, to pay for a bike share program here in Portland?
In this country, having something corporate sponsored at least means it’ll more likely get built, get traction, and have serious momentum behind it. It also means there are 4-6k Nike employees that will end up hearing about it too that are otherwise auto-dependent people (see recent stats on % that actually bike to the Nike Corp Offices).
In this case, I’m not concerned about the means, I’m concerned about getting actual results. So far, Portland is a decade or more behind where it should be a could be because of a gross lack of cash and political momentum. Corporate/business buy in helps with both of these things.
Well then what is preventing us from just giving Phil Knight the keys to the city?
Brace yourself for 5-6 months of higher than normal anti-bike fervor peaking in June and then immediately dropping off when the bikes finally arrive on the streets and the world fails to end.
To be honest, I’m still a bit mystified as to how PBOT did it. Looking from the outside (well, the BikePortland subscriber outside), bikeshare seemed to go from Amanda Fritz yanging on about people riding on downtown sidewalks, to 150% sponsored and funded overnight. There really is a “magic trick” feel to this rabbit out of the hat.
However it happened, I’m glad it did. I have higher hopes for better central-city infrastructure now. Let’s hope it doesn’t take Tourist Killed on Biketown Bike headlines to speed that process up.
Can’t wait for all those downtown biz leaders to start experiencing riding a bike downtown, then we will get some momentum to improve the infrastructure. What ever happened to Spinlisters bikeshare?
I know they want it pronounced bike-town, but I love calling it BIKEY-town. It’s cute, and it rolls off the tongue easier. Bikey! Bikey! Bikey!
Agree. I totally plan to call it Bikeytown. “Let’s get a Bikey.” “Shall we Bikey?” Hee!
Taking bets, though, on what people will wind up calling it, and I’m gonna guess “orange bike.”
good stuff Anne. You might be right about “orange bike”. “Just take an orange bike.” “traffic sucks, I’m just going to orange bike it to my meeting.” not sure Nike would be happy about that… or maybe they don’t really care. Knowing them, they’ll try and tell us how to talk about it.
Word has it that the bike wheels lock up if you are wearing any competing brand shoes. 😉
But the software will segfault if you’re barefoot and then your ride is free.
Maybe call it a TOWNBIKE?
I think everyone should be required to say “Bikey” with an Australian accent. “Crikey traffic’s bad! Let’s get on a Bikey!”
Honestly, I think people will just end up calling then Nike bikes.
Definitely. Every time I see the name, I sing “Oh won’t you take me to…Bikey-town!” in my head.
…or that damn bikey thing just ran me over…;-)
Amanda Fritz, is that you?
I’m so stoked to hear this news, and I hope these bikes become prevalent all over Hellsboro and the Beav in addition to Portlandia. So many times when I worked for an Intel subsidiary I’d have loved to take an airport Max and use a bike for that ‘last mile’ to meetings, but had to rent a car instead.
Very good point about the data gathering value incorporated into ‘smart’ decentralized bike share systems – nine years ago you wouldn’t have this. Speaking of which, some time back there was a BP article about an open source bike share technology project whose name escapes me; IIRC sponsored by Intel. Anyone know if that went anywhere?
Also: interesting that these are orange and not green… 😉
This is a no-brainer opportunity to install bike share stations on Nike’s campus and at the nearby MAX stations. SoBi’s service is far more robust than Nike’s current “text and unlock” bike share system.
Hopefully Nike would put some more $ in if they want to expand that far west
The color orange is Nike’s signature color. Have you ever seen a Nike shoe box that wasn’t orange? No.
Thanks, I didn’t know that. I just thought the Beaver color ironic… Knight being a Duck, after all. 😉
I love the whole point about this being super great for NW, and “The downside to this is that northwest has even less bike-oriented infrastructure than downtown.” Especially with streetcars tracks AAAUUGGH
Has this not already been established? Bikeshare tires have wider tread than skinny road tires. Which is good because you’ll see several bikeshare docks on former streetcar station platforms if the city is successful in consolidating stops.
Those are great points about Northwest. I don’t think there’s any part of the city where the potential and actual cycling rates are further apart. I really hope PBOT is successful with the application for the Flanders Greenway. It would be a step change for the neighborhood.
So is it Biketown or BIKETOWN….just curious.
All caps. NIKE branding is typically in all caps, afaik.
All caps should be reserved for acronyms (IBM). Companies love to push all caps but media typically doesn’t go for it. It’s marketing. After all, you wouldn’t pronounce BIKETOWN by each letter as you do IBM: “b-i-k-e-t-o-w-n.” Sorry, former journalist in me.
You gotta shout it, with EXCITMENT.
Given your first example, what happens when everyone in the city tries to bike(y)town to that Timbers game at the same time?
Well, it’s certainly less of a disaster than with the setup used in NYC, DC, and Chicago. If every CitiBike in Manhattan were to converge on Madison Square Garden only the first handful of riders would find a dock to end their trip — the rest would have to ride out from the stadium until they found one. Or, considering human nature, some would be left on the street unlocked and, considering human nature, they’d be stolen.
With this system the first several riders to a big event would find docks right near the entrance, the rest would find city racks nearby, and if those filled up, some would lock ’em to street signs and garbage cans. That’s not ideal, but rebalancing operators can still find them. At a big event with a bike valet some riders would probably try to take the bikes to the bike valet…
… which points to an opportunity. A well-run bike valet can smooth out the remaining wrinkles. People arriving can drop the bikes off there; if system operators need bikes for rebalancing they could pick them up there; at the end of the event people can find bikes there, or if they run out the system operators can “rebalance” to the area by dropping bikes off there. The valet would reduce the need to circle for a place to lock up, reduce improper or crowded parking, etc., just as it does with privately owned bikes, for the duration of the event. This sort of system could be worked out for NYC-style bike share, but with Portland-style bike share it could be done with no extra hardware, just human coordination.
On a more routine basis, people have a hard time ending bike share trips near mass-transit stations every day because the docks are full. This system would handle that situation better, too. System operators will still need to rebalance to keep bikes available and easy to find, but they won’t need to rush urgently around during rush hour to keep docks available.
NYC already uses valets at the big commuter trains stations and downtown, even during the winter: http://citibikeblog.tumblr.com/post/136749072327/winter-valet-service
I was wondering about that.
Either you have a significant portion of the bikes tied up in one location for 3-4 hours or they have to do some SERIOUS balancing. I don’t know how useful it will be events like that. The dockless system certainly helps, but the Timbers (and other events) will still have to find places for these bikes to be stored during the game (as their current bike parking is pretty full).
I can’t wait to “ride it like I rent it”. Oh yeah!
I wonder if these bikes will get a reputation for unskilled/dangerous cyclists? I’ve personally noticed that people who use the Car2go service can be a little inept, probably on account of lack of practice behind the wheel.
In my experience I find Car2Go drivers more attentive and don’t seem so dangerous to be around. I speculate that it’s partly the type of car they are, being small, and partly that the people driving only drive occasionally so know what it’s like to be in a different mode.
I’ve always chalked more of it up to Car2go drivers being charged by the minute. It saves them money if they run that orange light.
I think you’re right, davemess. When stopping for that red light might cost you an extra dollar (and you’ve already rung up several extra dollars for multiple red lights in a row), some people will go for it. As a car2go member myself, I know I’ve been tempted once or twice.
“I wonder if these bikes will get a reputation for unskilled/dangerous cyclists?”
Fortunately, there are bikeshare systems all over the country so we can form some impressions of that by now. At least here in Minneapolis, I don’t think the public (or fellow cyclists) generally have that impression of sharebikers. I think share bike riders tend to be on the cautious side, actually, since most aren’t wearing helmets and at least our bikes’ Shimano roller brakes are really, really weak.
Also, as I think somebody else has pointed out, despite millions of miles racked up – and extremely low helmet usage – there have so far been NO fatalities of bikeshare users around the country.
That’s right: when it comes to bikesharing it isn’t Vision Zero. It’s Reality Zero.
More pictures of the bike and maker please. It’s the quality/ease of use of the bike (not) the marketing hype that could make this work…
My issue is the with cost. I current live in Taiwan where the city bikes are FREE for the first hour! I thought the whole argument for city bikes was equity, but according the city it costs as much as a bus ticket for only 30 minutes!
What gives? 30 minutes won’t get your east Portland to your job downtown.
They’ve made it pretty clear along the way that this system will have no real service for folks in outer areas of Portland. Joined with transit it can, but not by itself.
Soon enough these bikes will be so prevalent that practically EVERYBODY will want new bike infrastructure downtown because people will ride in the auto lanes anyway which will make them even more congested. Give all those bikes dedicated space and everyone’s trip will be smoother. The momentum will be huge!
Sellwood and the Springwater Trail corridor (and it’s extensions east and west, one hopes) could be a great market for this. How about having some cargo bikes in the fleet, too?
“Did Nike just make cycling cool, or did cycling make Nike cool?”
This I think is perhaps the most interesting question.
My take is that those at Nike empowered to enter into this arrangement with the city seem to think that cycling-(at least)-in-Portland is already cool enough for Nike to get involved, work its branding magic, leverage what has already been cooked up into something they can use to build their brand. The potential for both Nike and cycling-as-lifestyle to win is I think very real, and I appreciate your introducing that angle which I-who-boycott-all-multinational-corporations had not (and would not have) thought of 😉
Nike is just showing the uninformed masses how cool it is. Also, you can’t see a person’s shoes when they’re driving a car.
I think it’s more a matter of Nike building their brand in a niche where they don’t have a lot of market share. Though frankly I think Portland is pretty saturated with Nike in almost all walks of life. I almost wonder if this money wouldn’t have been spent for them in another city where they aren’t as popular (hint: many US cities still have a little more “evil” view of Nike).
Waiting for the first orange bike hucking video
Over a Lamborghini!
I will call it an orange bike. I won’t type Biketown in all CAPS just because Nike wants me to. I probably won’t use them anyway if I have to pay as much as a bus unless there are a bunch on the east side, then *maybe*. I would not use these on Springwater, nor where there hills. I predict there will be lots of them running around Waterfront with pink boxes of donuts on Pleasant Valley Sundays.
It’s natural for us to want to see this go city wide, even metro wide right off. (reflected by some letters here) There’s no doubt many areas of the city further afield from downtown can make an equal claim to need. And some seeing the concentration as planned might see the old PDX trope of “neglect of less core areas” as showing up. But we must remember how people are known to use bike share schemes and why it’s important to start an area quite concentrated.
We know truly successful mass transit must run with people feeling they can just show up at a stop without having to check stop times, or matching with time of cross routes they will transfer to. You just walk to a Max stop knowing one will pull up shortly and you don’t confer to see when the Red line you’re on intersects with the Green line you want to transfer to. So with bike share we already know people will only walk so far to pick up or drop off bikes. (especially non-cyclists and/or the curious, newbies or out of towners) For the debut of a cycle share, much better for it to work really well in a given, smaller, high density high profile area first. Everyone in the area knows a pile of the bikes are close at hand. Hits the ground running as a mature, workable network for the area and its practicality is immediately perceived. Then after it can move to a new (also relatively small) sector and is mature and fully functional in that area right off. (and so on)
So spreading too thin by aiming too wide right off will be counterproductive, even if well intentioned. Few if any readers here need to be sold on this or doubt it’s workability and most also go out of their way to incorporate cycling into their lives. (yey to us 😉 But this has to work for a different demographic with different expectations and higher skepticism. Like it or not, convenience and no-brainer ease are critical to both public acceptance and broader use. Thanks for the thoughtful coverage Jonathan!
Verb or noun? No. I’ll probably just call it bike share. Like how I just use the term “the bus” or “the car.”
I’d probably vomit all over Portland if I ever heard “Oh, well, today I Trimetted to work, Biketowned to lunch with my co-workers,Trimetted home, and then VolVoed out to the coast with some friends for the weekend.”
I do frequently use MAX as a verb. I’ll MAX it downtown to meet up with friends.
After Googling the best restaurant in the Pearl and Yelping about lunch.
ALL CAPS is commonly used for named parties in legal documents, and sometimes people in the business world tend to all-caps the name of their company, because they’ve seen it done that way in legal documents.
But outside of the special variant of English known as Legalese, it is incorrect. Neither Nike nor Biketown is an acronym, so neither one should be all caps.
After all these comments, I can’t believe no one has thrown out the classic quote: “It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” Just replace that with: “It will be a great day when we have all the money we need for non-motorized transportation and we have to spend nine years hunting for a sponsor to add another freeway lane.” I’m certainly glad to see that bike share will be happening, but it is interesting to think how many other $10s of millions of dollars have been spent on vehicle infrastructure in the past nine years, while we waited for a corporation to step forward and fund bike share.
Some of us have…. Maybe not today in this thread, but I think of that phrase just about every day when it comes to prioritizing how public funds are spent.
Of course, “…vehicle infrastructure…” is infrastructure that can be used with bikes as well with motor vehicles. There is an essential need for road infrastructure that can be used with motor vehicles, that is much more apparent than any particular need for bike share.
Whether Portland really needs bike share, or whether it’s a good response to the travel need challenges the city must meet, will be subject to continued debate, given that in this city, bike share is basically an entirely new thing. For the public and private interests, will the system turn out to be worth the money and effort invested it? Will the system come to be anything close to as essential infrastructure to the city ‘s and individual people’s travel needs, as is infrastructure that can be used with motor vehicles?
As we heard Jonathan express in his time with Lars, many here, including Jonathan it seems, are in a position to determine and have determined that many of the ways we use cars are not justified. Hence, the” needs” you’re appealing to won’t ever be accepted by the “spandex mafia” (lol, i knew i could use that!) The “spandex mafia” is surely in the position to tell the rest of us what our transportation needs are and how we should not have to use cars except under circumstances that are acceptable to them. The notion that private car ownership facilitates life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is only accepted when we’re subsidizing electric cars for the wealthy while stranding the poor and middle class to the max and bikes when we’re allowed to travel at all.
Partly because my pc is on dialup, I haven’t listened to the Larson and Maus excerpt. I don’t much like the kind of personality Larson has, or his technique, so I probably won’t listen to it, even when I’m in wi-fi range. The few remaining newspapers in the nation, generally seem to me to be far better sources of info topical subjects, than the hot button talk show hosts could ever hope to be.
Generally, I make efforts to avoid resorting to the use of phrases like ‘spandex mafia’, because they seem to prompt certain people into ‘unthink mode’. Like on the talk show programs, just a bunch of emotional, irrational froth seems to ensue, rather than carefully though out reason and logic. It gets silly on those shows, and I don’t think they ever rise to much more than shallow entertainment.
As for bike infrastructure, living near a big city, myself, improvements to bike and walking infrastructure seem to me to be increasingly essential for many people, rather than a relative few,( which has been the case in our area for decades.) to meet their basic travel needs. Many roads literally are filled to capacity during commute hours due to excessive motor vehicle use.
Does that mean personal car ownership is going away soon? I doubt this very much. Does providing the very best, well integrated bike infrastructure system imaginable, mean there soon will be no major percent of the population that needs regular use of a motor vehicle to meet their basic travel needs? Very doubtful.
I don’t think people have to be against cars, to be a bike advocate seeking road infrastructure that’s better for practical biking. Also, I don’t think people need to be against bikes or bike specific infrastructure, to help have roads built that will enable more efficient, safer travel by motor vehicle.
This has zero impact on me as a east Portland citizen. My bike commute to and from the inner city is still terrifying.
My only experience with a program like this was in Paris. I found it to be a pain because it was really hard to find a dock, and you’d lose all sorts of money and time trying to locate one.
How can a system like this work for someone who is in danger of being late for work / a bus / a plane / a movie / a date if they can’t find somewhere to dock the damn bike, and don’t want to leave the meter running, as it were?
It will be interesting to see if and how the program manages to work out the bugs …. I’m probably never gonna ride one of those things anyhow, got my own bike after all.
This system will allow you to lock up the bike to any bike rack or signpost, not just the official BIKETOWN ones. Each bike has a U lock that attaches to the frame.
“Each bike has a U lock that attaches to the frame.”
I’m curious where the key lives when the bike is locked up? Or will the rider merely wave the magic plastic in the direction of the lock?
Lars Larson’s head just exploded.
He’s still around ?
Everyday at 1.
he’s definitely still around… and he invited me on his show Friday to talk about bike share. Here’s the clip… https://soundcloud.com/the-lars-larson-podcast/lars-larson-northwest-podcast-010716#t=8:31
Nicely done, Jonathan!
Is there a bigger tool on the Portland airwaves than Lars Larson?
Spandex Mafia? Are you kidding me?
Limbaugh Light, right here in River City.
What a waste of air. You could have honestly guessed his points before the show even started.
All this from a guy who doesn’t even live in Portland. What a buffoon.
I don’t think Lars concerns himself with this too much unless the public is getting milked for something it doesn’t want or need. He does’t like taxpayer money wasted on anything…nor should you.
“He does’t like taxpayer money wasted on anything…nor should you.”
Funny you should mention that.
Just listening to the show Jonathan linked to it was obvious that Mr. Larson isn’t worried about waste or facts or anything like that. What Mr. Larson doesn’t like, can’t surround, is grey, is the messy real world full of compromises and nuance, oh and he clearly can’t stand bicycles. When Jonathan tried to explain to him that cars are subsidized he wasn’t interested or listening. All Larson wanted to repeat over and over was that these bicycles cost $12,000 ea., of which the taxpayers had contributed $2,000. He never even got to the part where (as I learned here on bikeportland) the system may end up paying for itself (which cannot be said for anything to do with the car here in the US).
I used to be a huge fan of Lars Larson. So much time I will never get back. It took years to reprogram my brain.
I’ve never listened to him before this afternoon and once he let Jonathan go there was no way I was going to listen to another minute of his make-people-look-ridiculous shtick.
Well, when the host says “you’re a good sport” during the interview, you know you’re the punching bag. JM handled himself very well.
These bikes would be overpriced at $2000. But $12000? And nobody questions that? Other people’s money makes it cool I guess.
There is no way the bikes cost $12,000. I haven’t listened to the show, but I assume that figure was arrived at by adding the $2 million federal grant to the $10 million Nike sponsorship and dividing by 1,000 bikes. That’s really dumb, as it ignores 5 years of operations and maintenance costs.
“These bikes would be overpriced at $2000. But $12000? …” pomegranate
Larson somehow came up with those figures? Somebody that listened to the show carefully, please explain to us reading here, where from or how he came up with those numbers. Usually, what may be, or seem to be inflated costs suggested by controversy thriving media hosts, for commonly known items, such as in this case, bicycles, (but more than that: bikes that are part of a system for public use…), are intended to reflect poorly on the bureaucracy they’re part of.
For example, if the particular bikes that will be the choice for the BikeTown system were something sold down at the bike shop, it might retail at let’s say $600-$1200. As part of a government system offered to the public, figuring also all the costs of administration, maintenance, employees, etc of the system to a per bike figure, the cost of each bike probably would be much higher than the retail cost of the bike.
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess whether investment and experimentation with bike share, will be worth it for Portland. Everybody, including Larson and his fans, are entitled to their opinion about that. My feeling, is that it’s worth it for Portland to try this, whether the system winds up costing much more than the system brings in, or not. This will be an opportunity for everyone to observe the viability of the system. If the system doesn’t work out…not a big deal…auction the bikes off, or scrap them, send them to the next city that wants to give bike share a whirl.
Thats because this “subsidy” argument is bogus, just as the city-builds-streets-so-on-street-parking-is-a-car-subsidy is bogus. It misuses the word “subsidy” and is fallacious.
The problem is “what the public wants or needs” is VERY subjective.
What amount of bike theft is anticipated? It could be costly:
“Under the Capital Bikeshare member agreement, when a bike is kept beyond the allotted time “then the Capital Bikeshare bicycle is deemed lost or stolen, Member’s credit card will be charged a fee of $1,000, and a police report may be filed with local authorities.”
The number of stolen Bikeshare bikes in DC is somewhere around 0-1 a year. They are not valuable on the black market both because they are obviously stolen and they are super utilitarian and not particularly nice for biking on (nice enough, but barely)
Now that this is going to happen… where are all of these novices going to ride? That’s my major concern. Downtown is still a pretty horrid place for a novice to ride. Will they know they can take the lane? Will they take the lane? Will they let motorists squeeze them in and get ran over? Will they bike into a MAX (hey, it’s been done before)? Where are the clear paths between notable points (like say the Target to Pioneer Square to PSU, no path exists that is clear or safe for 8-80 year old novices)?
This is awesome, I’m stoked that it has happened, but I am concerned where and how people will figure out (if they do) how to get from point A to point B downtown. The only people I know that can easily do it are confident, strong, and somewhat aggressive riders. Everybody else is left to very round about, not interconnected, and disparate bike lanes. This simply will not do.
As has been mentioned, this is going to put major pressure (I hope) on politicos to make the bike infrastructure network downtown finally work!
Does the new bike share system mean Portland will start installing covered bike parking across the city? Or do the bikes just rust outside in the rain?
Old Nike slogan: Just Do It.
New Biketown slogan: HTFU Portland!
The more people who bike…the more people who will vote for biking.
That’s what ticks off the Lars Larsons of the world.
Perhaps it is about demand. Or perhaps Erik Lukens and Lars Larson both see the (supply) writing on the wall: ODOT has no money, we are staring the end of cheap oil in the face, there is simply no future for cars.
Hard to rationalize that when oil is dipping below $35/barrel (a 7-8 year low).
Sheesh, how many more decades will we have to listen to people insisting that oil is soon to disappear?
It has a nice parallel to the doomsday global warming, er, climate change scenarios that should have already happened two or three times now…
It will happen… The Day After Tomorrow.
“Sheesh, how many more decades will we have to listen to people insisting that oil is soon to disappear?
It has a nice parallel to the doomsday global warming, er, climate change scenarios that should have already happened two or three times now…”
How about a reasoned argument, something we can discuss, rather than a casual dismissal?
There is an oil price we (as consumers) can afford, and there is an oil price our economy can afford. Right now oil is cheap (which given our fickle consumer proclivities is seen as good for Hummer dealers and gas stations and the car companies and sprawl and a few other nasties). But this cheap oil is a disaster for the oil sector, and tough on the economy.
Oil price is a complex, fickle thing, but it would be a mistake to conclude that all was well in the oil sector or for the future of automobility simply because the world price of oil had recently fallen through the floor.
And our climate change agreements, toothless though they may be, require that we abandon burning fossil fuels yesterday, quite apart from volatile oil prices. You are of course free to believe that climate change isn’t happening and that the price of oil will remain low and automobility is under no threat. But for sake of discussion it would be interesting for you to offer some reasoning or analysis that supports your contention.
Well, i was casually dismissing what was not a reasoned arguement, a tired cliche that you posted re: oil. As well, I have no obligation here to post a reasoned response to an already and thoroughly discredited oil scarcity theory. Just as the always-around-the-corner global climate change disaster has never happened, the oil scarcity theory, like the overpopulation theory before it, has been discredited. So what do you want? You want me to present somethingg more to discredit what has already been discredited?
Cheap oil is a disaster for Big Oil (are you really not cheering this ;)). However, cheap oil is an economic bonanza for ordinary people. Im not sure why you ignored this simple fact. People are paying less for products derived from oil and overall that is a positive economic result. Im sure Obama will be taking credit for it just as he took credit for more oil-related jobs last year (despite none of that job increase haplening on federal lands – oooops).
BTW, 9, how can a “toothless” agreement “require” anything at all? It seems to me that the recent “agreement” was universally laughed away precisely because such “requirements” dont exist at all…
“Just as the always-around-the-corner global climate change disaster has never happened, the oil scarcity theory, like the overpopulation theory before it, has been discredited.”
You’re a riot.
climate change, Peak Oil, and overpopulation are all three alive and well. Want me to add a few more? Overfishing, deforestation, desertification, drinking water crisis, habitat loss…. Just because you and I can sit here and type on our laptops in the mild climate of the PNW and argue about bikes enjoying central heating and cheap gas doesn’t in any way call into question the fact that on all fronts I can think of we’re pushing the limits, in what is called overshoot. I am under no illusions that you will have any of it; you’ve already made that clear. But your consent is not required.
But because arguing with you is so fun: You should read some of the ‘Limits to Growth: forty years on’ articles and books that have come out recently. The ones I’ve read find that the original 1972 study’s model parameters (for the Business as Usual scenario) were right on the money.
Here’s just one:
Hey sorry not everybody here can afford a MacBook. Some of use are still anchored to huge (but cheap) beige PC towers.
They stopped making Hummers in 2010, shortly after the recession and the IRS disqualified them as depreciable business expenses when it rewrote section 179. (The Tesla Model X qualifies for a $25K business deduction now, though, in addition to many state and federal credits).
OK you win. 🙂
Sorry, it’s just that you guys are both so black and white about it – neither one of you really is ‘wrong’. Oil pricing is incredibly complex – people make careers of it. And no, BR, cheap oil is not great for consumers, even though it appears so in the form of an immediate uptick on consumer spending and production (that was last year’s bull run). Sure, the price of cars came way down when NAFTA went into effect and they started getting built by robots in Mexico and Canada instead of America, but there are many US cities (besides Detroit) that still haven’t recovered fully since the `80’s. There is a similar wave of economic concern coming this year (which is bears are running on Wall Street now).
From where I sit, there’s another factor to consider. The oil & gas industry has been (believe it or not) quite ahead of the curve when it comes to spending on industrial cyber security. These expenses are hard to show an immediate ROI on – which is why so many other industries have fallen behind. Sure, we know many family-wage Americans will lose their jobs this year due to cheap oil, but spending on O&G infrastructure security will also pull back, increasing the risk of successful breach – and make no mistake, we are already well into an active worldwide cyber war (recent example: search for “Ukraine power station outage”). We are only slowly learning about the implications (both financial and physical) of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure – including the pipelines that diesel and natural gas flow into our power plants with.
Anyway, as you well know, none of us really ‘win’… we just seem to learn to change the rules to accommodate our lifestyles of choice.
“you guys are both so black and white about it”
O.K., Pete, do you think that there will be a smooth transition in personal transportation from personal automobiles as we now understand the term to something else over the next decade or two?
It’s already happening little by little with the rideshare economy and corporate busing where I live, as well as eBikes gaining adoption quickly enough that California has needed to address them with regulatory legislation. Granted none of that is wiping out personal car use on any scale, but silicon valley has also migrated to electric vehicles on a pretty large scale too – so much so that people are literally fighting each other over public charging stations.
People are definitely not getting rid of their cars where I live – if anything they’re buying more expensive ones. But they are using different options for peak commute times, including a very steady and consistent growth in bicycling.
Smooth? No, but tangible.
Oh, and add to that recent funding for BART expansion to the south bay, a transportation tax about to be approved (which has a portion pre-allocated to bike and pedestrian infrastructure), California high speed rail (which certainly doesn’t describe the speed at which it’s being deployed), and a hypertube prototype being built and tested in the desert.
Plenty of gas only cars get around 20 mph per gallon. Plenty of people don’t put more than 20 miles on their car in a week. It’s very nice to jump in a warm, dry car, when feeling not well enough to ride a bike out in the cold and rain. Or just not being able to ride a bike because of arthritis, sciatica, or any number of other maladies and disabling incidents people are subject to, regardless of age.
Do the bikes have any theft deterrents? Like trackers.
So excited we are finally getting bikeshare! I love using it while traveling to other cities. The Nike sponsorship just leaves a very sour taste in my mouth. :-\
What company or corporation rather than Nike, would you prefer sponsor Portland’s bike share…or would you prefer that no private for profit business sponsor bike share?
Love how Lars addressed Jonathan’s transit system conjecture; the cost; and utility of the program.
BikeShare is not a transit system intended to move a group of people and economic goods as a road or rail network does. The interstate system and state and local roads were not constructed to facilitate and popularize private car ownership, either. Private car ownership is wholly a byproduct of the existence of publicy-funded roadways. Which is why like national defense and public safety and education, transportation is a core government function/responsibility which is why public funding for roadways is appropriate and rational.
Non-car people need to pay for a transportation network because their lives and livelihoods rely on the ability to easily, quickly, and safely transport people and goods across town and across the country. The existing transportation network is paid for via general taxes and dedicated road/gas taxes. General fund transportation funding is appropriate given that transportation is a core government function.
This bikeshare program is a great program. I wonder, though, what happens in 5 years? How likely does it retain corporate sponsorship?
Re: cost – I wonder if Jonathan would cut out all of the staff costs for roadway spending as he does for this bikeshare program? Doing so would necessarily reveal a lower cost for roadways, no? So why try to compare the two without the same caveats?
“…Private car ownership is wholly a byproduct of the existence of publicy-funded roadways. …” beav rider
Certainly, government involvement in the creation of a national highway system, aided widespread private car ownership. Affordability of personal cars was more likely the initial driving force, aided by people tired of hitching up horses to go somewhere. For people living outside of cities, on farms and ranches…which used to be the majority of the nation’s population…motor cars were the greatest thing ‘since sliced bread’.
Gradually though, I think personal car ownership and employment options enabled by single car occupancy, came to be an integral part of U.S. economic growth and stability. What some people refer to as government subsidizing private car ownership’, really is something the public has willingly done to help facilitate the growth and stability of the U.S. economy.
There’s no arguing with anyone who views growth as the ultimate goal.
Personally, I prefer better to more.
Will the GPS data be accurate enough to show all the newbies riding on the sidewalks?
So why was a service like this ever legalized that didn’t require helmets or other safety guidelines? Bike shops that provided bike rentals were required (I’m assuming due to litigious insurance policies) to issue helmets and such, but afaik biketown has no such regulations. How? Why? Smells of corporate privilege. Personally I hope this service goes right down the toilet. It’s simply going the wrong direction for legitimizing bicycles as a responsible transportation option.
Citi Bike hasn’t had any fatalities in more than 3 years — here’s why
Is bike share safe?
Oh, wait, maybe you are referring to cars? Head injuries or death to car occupants are a very big problem, and requiring car occupants to wear helmets would have significant effects on those numbers.