Support BikePortland

Should you buy a Biketown membership right now? Here’s the calculation

Posted by on June 14th, 2016 at 7:29 am

hello biketown is here

There are a few scenarios to consider.
(Image: BIKETOWNpdx.com)

Now that we finally know the prices to use Portland’s new public bike sharing system, it’s time to start making a decision: What do you want to commit to?

Even broken out into $12 monthly payments, $144 a year is a pretty big commitment, though far cheaper than, say, an annual TriMet pass ($1,100). And unlike TriMet or most U.S. bike sharing systems, month-to-month passes apparently won’t be an option with Biketown. You can pay $12 for 24 hours or $12 each month for a year; nothing in between. Or you can put up $2.50 for a single ride any time you need one.

So what’s the best option for you? Here’s a short BikePortland guide to the $12-per-month decision.

If you can make it part of your commute, probably get a membership. Maybe you live in Northwest and commute to Washington County via MAX at Goose Hollow. Maybe you attend OHSU and hate waiting for the streetcar transfer from downtown. Maybe you work the early or late shift and can only take TriMet in one direction because of its schedules. Maybe you both live and work within the service area. Congratulations — 55 cents for 90 minutes per day is a great deal for you. Might even be cheaper than maintaining your own bike. And the tires stay pumped.

Leaving your car at a friend’s place after your second IPA will never be an annoying decision again.

If you both live and drink within the service area, maybe get a membership. Biking while drunk (or seriously high) is a dumb idea. Buzzed biking? That’s your call. If you live anywhere within or near the bike-share service area, even far from a station, the $2 fee for dropping a Biketown away from a station is going to be a lot cheaper than a cab. Leaving your car at a friend’s place after your second IPA will never be an annoying decision again.

If you live in the service area and often host guests who don’t have bikes, maybe get a membership. My least favorite thing about out-of-town visitors is that they force me to leave my bike at home and switch to car and TriMet. If I lived in the service area, I’d jump at the chance to loan them my Biketown card (note: this isn’t technically allowed) and get them on a freakin’ bicycle, the way Portland ought to be experienced.

Advertisement

If you frequently ride TriMet through the central city in early morning or late evening, probably get a membership. For years, I took my bike with me on every trip even though I had a TriMet pass, because I always wanted the option to stay out until after buses stopped running regularly and I needed to bike to avoid a half-hour wait at the end of the night. This was annoying. Biketown is the cure for this situation.

One thing you should think about is whether Biketown might make it worthwhile for you to become more of a transit rider than you are today.

If you’ll average about one trip per week all year, get a membership. This is the purest financial formula: $2.50 x 5 = $12.50, and $12.50 is more than $12. Remember that the $2.50 per ride option isn’t a round trip — but also remember that the whole joy of bike sharing is that, unlike a private bike, it doesn’t have to be a round-trip vehicle. You can hop in the car with your spouse, skip the uphill with bus, Lyft or car2go, or any other improvisation you can think of.

As we’ve written before, and as you can see in the scenarios above, bike sharing is much more for people who mostly ride transit than for people who mostly bike. But one thing you should think about is whether Biketown might make it worthwhile for you to become more of a transit rider than you are today.

For those of us who already own and ride private bikes, Biketown’s basic promise is to free us from having to think about our personal bicycles while we’re out and about. That’s not quite as exciting as freeing yourself from your car, but it’s a pretty great feeling. Think about it.

โ€” Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

Our work is supported by subscribers. Please become one today.

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 โ€” Jonathan

66 Comments
  • Avatar
    Mike Quigley June 14, 2016 at 8:29 am

    Boy, you sure can complicate a relatively easy decision by flooding it with minutiae.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Justin Carinci June 14, 2016 at 8:39 am

      You may be kidding, but I’ll reply nevertheless. I appreciate the minutiae. For people who consider their transportation spending carefully, these things matter.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      9watts June 14, 2016 at 8:54 am

      Did you consider that if this is an easy decision for you to make perhaps Michael’s post wasn’t aimed at you?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) June 14, 2016 at 10:26 am

      Heh, guilty as chaaged, more or less … as you can see from the URL I realized halfway through writing this that I was going to have to remove “simple” from the headline.

      The thing is, it’s not actually a simple calculation — you can’t just port over your current travel habits and figure out if they pencil out, you have to think about the ways that bike share could make new travel habits possible. Bike sharing is interesting because, like car2go, it’s an actually new way of thinking about mobility. Hence all the scenarios.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        peejay June 14, 2016 at 12:29 pm

        I’ve wondered why they couldn’t combine Biketown and TriMet, but maybe the better match is Biketown and Car2Go. I could see taking trips with both vehicle types, and managing the fleet is very similar, from an operations standpoint.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          J_R June 14, 2016 at 6:33 pm

          Managing the fleet is very similar?! Really? Buses are operated by professional drivers who have to be trained on the equipment. Buses return to the same destination every night. Buses receive, at least, a cursory inspection every day. Bikes in the sharing fleet are operated by people of varying skill level, are picked up and dropped off at random locations, servicing will be done at some unspecified time according to some undefined metrics. It’s a bit of a stretch to say they are even remotely similar. I can’t imagine a poorer choice for operating the bike fleet than Trimet.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Avatar
            AJ_Bikes June 15, 2016 at 7:46 am

            I think he was noting the similarities between bikeshare and Car2Go? Which actually are pretty similar from an operational perspective. Definitely very different operational characteristics between bikeshare and trimet, but I do hope that those two figure out a way to play nice on the new HOP pass coming next year…

            Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Adam H.
          Adam H. June 15, 2016 at 9:50 am

          At the very least, we should be able to use our Hop cards to check out a bike share bike.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paikiala June 14, 2016 at 8:35 am

    $2.50 x 52 weeks = $130 > $144

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) June 14, 2016 at 9:28 am

      It’s a rough calculation, man. ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus there’s some value to the convenience of just waving your card.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Eric Leifsdad June 14, 2016 at 12:35 pm

        Like the convenience of waving your hands instead of doing math. This pricing is screwy. You can take out 3 extra bikes on your account, but it will cost more than even a single ride pass for each. Riding twice 180min on a day pass would cost more at $6/hour than getting a second day pass? Usually the little bit more costs less because transaction cost is already covered. Maybe they’re hoping to get more contact info to sell for marketing.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        el_timito June 14, 2016 at 2:10 pm

        And the math is not that straight-forward either -$2.50 on a one-time pass gets you 30 minutes of riding. An annual sign-up gets you 90 minutes of riding per day, or the equivalent of 3 day tickets for an average of $2.77/week.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Gary B June 14, 2016 at 10:52 am

      Hey now, if we’re critiquing math, you gotta at least get your “less than” sign right ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    9watts June 14, 2016 at 8:56 am

    “bike sharing is much more for people who mostly ride transit than for people who mostly bike”

    Thanks for pointing that out.

    …still intrigued how this is all going to play out…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Adam H.
      Adam H. June 14, 2016 at 9:19 am

      Yeah, this is how many people used the Divvy system in Chicago. Bike share serves as a great solution to the “last mile” problem, especially in Chicago where the main commuter rail hubs (Union Station and Ogilvie) are west of downtown.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      soren June 14, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      I essentially never use mass transit in PDX but am looking forward to using bike share for spontaneous short trips when I walk.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Vinny June 14, 2016 at 9:14 am

    > Buzzed biking? Thatโ€™s your call.

    For a lot of people, “buzzed” is in the 0.06% to 0.10% BAC range. Your crash risk starts to get a lot higher around 0.05% and you’re DUII at 0.08%. Let’s not do buzzed biking, it is dangerous and irresponsible.

    http://bikeportland.org/2011/04/27/bike-law-101-biking-under-the-influence-52045

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Chris I June 14, 2016 at 9:46 am

      Better than buzzed driving, which is the option most people choose. Anything that gets those people out of a car is good for our society.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Vinny June 14, 2016 at 10:33 am

        The lesser of 2 bad decisions is a poor choice. Better options might be to hang out a little longer after that drink, or drink a little less, or walk home, maybe hop on TriMet, get a taxi/Lyft/Uber. Even better, have a friend with a big cargo bike give you a ride. I wonder how tandems work with DUII, does the stoker have to be sober too or just the captain?

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          Gary B June 14, 2016 at 10:57 am

          Probably just the captain, else there would be a lot of BWIs for those 8 person pub crawl bike things.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          soren June 14, 2016 at 2:17 pm

          Walking home buzzed is less safe than cycling home buzzed.

          See slide 21: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/556894

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Avatar
            Aaron June 14, 2016 at 2:31 pm

            Perhaps if you only count alcohol, fine, but if you include all intoxicants, they are essentially the same. It certainly doesn’t exonerate buzzed biking.

            I honestly don’t understand anyone who thinks it’s OK to operate a vehicle — human-powered or motorized — when you’re impaired. It’s irresponsible and absurd.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • Avatar
              soren June 14, 2016 at 2:50 pm

              My bikes are not vehicles. I don’t drive my bikes any more than I drive my shoes.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

              • Avatar
                Aaron June 15, 2016 at 8:49 am

                The law disagrees with you. ORS 814.400(2)(a): A bicycle is a vehicle for purposes of the vehicle code.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

            • Avatar
              jered June 14, 2016 at 4:07 pm

              I’m intoxicated on life.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Maxadders June 14, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      You heard it here first: BikePortland recommends drunk driving. Unbelievable.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        soren June 14, 2016 at 5:12 pm

        Your outrage will have a leg to stand on when you support strict WUII (walking under the influence of intoxicant) laws.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam H.
    Adam H. June 14, 2016 at 9:18 am

    I bought a yearly membership despite the fact that I know I won’t use it that much. I want to support the program.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Adam H.
      Adam H. June 14, 2016 at 9:21 am

      Also worth noting that I live a half mile outside the service area.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Mike 2 June 14, 2016 at 1:40 pm

        Well I just bought memberships and not only do I not live in the area, but I don’t even like bikes. And I adopted a team of unemployed sled dogs from Kenya!
        Just saying…not to toot my own horn or anything….

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Adam H.
          Adam H. June 15, 2016 at 9:52 am

          ยฏ\_(ใƒ„)_/ยฏ

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Buzz June 14, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Or just ignore it all and continue to ride your own bike.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Adam H.
      Adam H. June 14, 2016 at 9:29 am

      Those bright orange bikes will be hard to ignore. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Chris I June 14, 2016 at 9:47 am

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on something that you don’t care about. We appreciate it.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Cory P June 14, 2016 at 9:32 am

    I just got the membership. I look forward to seeing how many of my skateboards can fit on the bikes!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Eric Leifsdad June 14, 2016 at 10:23 am

      How about that thing where they credit your account whenever you leave the bike at a higher elevation than where you started? (There is not this thing, but should be.)

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Eric Leifsdad June 14, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Gym membership vs riding one of these up Mt Tabor once a week? Seems like a year pass for every one of your employees would be covered by your group health plan.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Paul Cole June 14, 2016 at 10:57 am

    “Buzzed biking? Thatโ€™s your call.”

    Remember that a person who is legally impaired may think of themselves as “buzzed” and trust their judgement.

    Would you say this about “buzzed driving?”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Eric Leifsdad June 14, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      However impaired a person may be, I would prefer they be sitting upright pedaling a 35lb orange bike with their 0.25hp rather than laying down driving a 3500lb car with 250hp. Wouldn’t you? Seems like the law should show a similar preference. Unlike a car, the bike has the added benefit of not allowing you to go far or fast when you’re too drunk to balance (yet I would still prefer to dodge a sleeping drunk rolling by on an electric trike than behind the wheel of a car.)

      Doing many things drunk is not safe. Driving, biking, carpentry, electrical wiring, etc. Unlike driving, some of these things are more dangerous to you than the people around you.

      Maybe the orange bikes can be coupled together side by side into a “drunk buddy buggy”. Two drunks are safer than one? (Somebody will post an instructable showing how to do this with empty PBR cans.)

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Adam H.
        Adam H. June 14, 2016 at 12:17 pm

        I look forward to the day when the worst problem Portland has is drunk cyclists.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          Aaron June 14, 2016 at 1:52 pm

          It’s still irresponsible to suggest that buzzed biking is OK.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Avatar
            Chris I June 15, 2016 at 8:27 am

            Buzzed biking is legal.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • Avatar
              Aaron June 15, 2016 at 8:52 am

              Just because something is legal, it’s OK? Interesting. I’m also not so sure that it’s any more legal than driving buzzed, and I doubt anyone would say that’s OK.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          Brian June 14, 2016 at 1:59 pm

          Cheers to this!

          Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Paul Cole June 14, 2016 at 1:06 pm

        So driving a Smart Car while impaired is a better decision than driving a giant SUV while impaired? Seems like the law should show a similar preference.

        Seriously though, the idea that drunk bicycling is only dangerous to the operator is nonsense. What about the psychological impact on a sober driver who hits the impaired cyclist? What about the danger to pedestrians or sober cyclists?

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Adam H.
          Adam H. June 14, 2016 at 2:03 pm

          Who said anything about a Smart Car?

          Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          Alex Reedin June 14, 2016 at 2:47 pm

          It’s about the likelihood of the risk, and the magnitude of the harm if the risk is realized. A person on a bike is much smaller, slower, and lighter than a person in a car, thus MUCH less likely to do serious harm to a person walking in the event of a collision. About the psychological harm of being involved in someone’s death if a sober person driving hits a drunk person biking and the person biking dies – yes, this is considerable, but it’s nowhere near the level of harm of actually DYING.

          Likelihood of risk and magnitude of harm matter. They’re why we justifiably think wearing a seatbelt while driving is sensible, but a healthy person becoming a hermit all winter to avoid getting the flu is going way too far.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Avatar
          soren June 14, 2016 at 5:10 pm

          What about the psychological impact on a sober driver who hits the impaired cyclist?

          This may come as surprise to you but there is an incredibly effective way to avoid killing or injuring your neighbor — even when they are drunk — slow down. 20 is plenty.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      soren June 14, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Walking buzzed or cycling buzzed is in and of itself essentially harmless. The risk of walking or cycling buzzed is almost entirely due to people driving. Driving too fast, driving inattentively, driving aggressively, and driving drunk are pure sociopathy.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    CaptainKarma June 14, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    I foresee a lot of orange bikes weeble-wobbling around the waterfront park with pink boxes full of greazy donuts.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Adam H.
      Adam H. June 14, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      That sounds like a symptom of a healthy city to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    GlowBoy June 14, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    I’ve signed up even though I don’t live in Portland anymore. I’m in Portland 5-6 times per year. That puts me well beyond the usual $12/day tourist model, so I figure an annual membership works out to around $25 per visit.

    That’s pretty easy for me to swallow, since bringing my own bike costs a minimum of $70 per round trip in baggage fees, and since I sometimes end up doing the occasional $10/hr Zipcar rental if I don’t have a bike with me.

    I should point out that I don’t *ever* rent a car for the duration of any of my visits to Portland, so it’s not like I’m saving the $150-400 per week expense of a conventional car rental, but even without that it still makes sense for me to belong.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    GlowBoy June 14, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    I’ll also add that I would have signed up if I still lived in Portland, even though I have my own bike(s) and live(d) half a mile outside the initial service area.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    KYouell June 14, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I’m wondering how this will help out for the times I don’t want to use the bakfiets. Not curious enough to buy a membership for fun/support, but I’ll certainly try it out.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Early & Often June 14, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Did someone say “First Day 1,000-Bike Parade”?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Aaron June 14, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    > Biking while drunk (or seriously high) is a dumb idea. Buzzed biking? Thatโ€™s your call.

    Please don’t do that. It’s certainly irresponsible to do either, but it’s also irresponsible to suggest that sometimes buzzed biking is OK. It’s really not, especially in the age of Uber and Lyft.

    Disappointed to see this.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Maxadders June 14, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Yeah, this is a pretty big blunder if you ask me. You can get a DUI on a bike, so even the law agrees.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John Liu
    John Liu June 14, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Bought a membership.

    The cost is inline with other bike share (I was also a Citibikes member).

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      GlowBoy June 14, 2016 at 3:09 pm

      Overall, that’s more or less true. The lack of a monthly option will be a deterrent for some, although the higher membership fees compared to other programs may more or less offset the 90 free minutes (as opposed to 30 or 60 elsewhere). Obviously this will depend on your usage pattern.

      One distinction that does matter: Biketown is a year-round program. I think most other bikeshare programs are in cities with winters, and may not operate all 12 months. Although Biketown’s nominal monthly cost ($12) is only slightly more than Nice Ride’s ($10), my $132 annual BT membership is almost double what I’m paying ($70) for my NR membership.

      FWIW this may change soon, as NR has been talking about expanding to a year-round program (presumably with winter tires on the bikes).

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Adam H.
        Adam H. June 14, 2016 at 3:12 pm

        Divvy in Chicago runs year-round except for a few days when it’s too cold. In fact, they are excellent as winter bikes!

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • John Liu
        John Liu June 14, 2016 at 3:45 pm

        Yes, Citibikes shutters the system during the winter months. I’d guess that the expense and risk of operating when roads are snowy/icy is high, and the potential revenue from the diehards willing to ride in subfreezing weather is low.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Adam H.
          Adam H. June 14, 2016 at 4:06 pm

          No they don’t.

          Citi Bike is available for use 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 365 days/year, and riders have access to thousands of bikes at hundreds of stations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Avatar
            patrick June 15, 2016 at 1:16 pm

            One of the highlights of CB’s first year of operations was reading their gobsmacked tweets when they saw how much the system was used during a crazy blizzard that shut down the whole city.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Buzz June 15, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    OK, for everybody who’s dissing biking buzzed, think about it this way – it’s not the driver, it’s the car that makes driving impaired dangerous. Talk to your friends, everybody who’s crashed their bike buzzed has only hurt themselves, and not anyone else.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Sophie Elise June 16, 2016 at 12:25 am

    Four wheel move the body, two wheel move the soul…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar