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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.

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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.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Mike Quigley
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Mike Quigley

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

Justin Carinci
Guest
Justin Carinci

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

9watts
Subscriber

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

Paikiala
Guest
Paikiala

$2.50 x 52 weeks = $130 > $144

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

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

9watts
Subscriber

“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…

Adam
Subscriber

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.

soren
Subscriber

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

Vinny
Guest
Vinny

> Buzzed biking? That’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

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

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.

Vinny
Guest
Vinny

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?

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

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

soren
Subscriber

Walking home buzzed is less safe than cycling home buzzed.

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

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

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.

soren
Subscriber

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

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

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

jered
Guest
jered

I’m intoxicated on life.

Maxadders
Guest
Maxadders

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

soren
Subscriber

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

Adam
Subscriber

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

Adam
Subscriber

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

Mike 2
Guest
Mike 2

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….

Adam
Subscriber

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

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

Adam
Subscriber

Those bright orange bikes will be hard to ignore. 🙂

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

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

Cory P
Guest
Cory P

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

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

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.)

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

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.

Paul Cole
Guest
Paul Cole

“Buzzed biking? That’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?”

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

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.)

Adam
Subscriber

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

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

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

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Buzzed biking is legal.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

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.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Cheers to this!

Paul Cole
Guest
Paul Cole

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?

Adam
Subscriber

Who said anything about a Smart Car?

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

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.

soren
Subscriber

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.

soren
Subscriber

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.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

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

Adam
Subscriber

That sounds like a symptom of a healthy city to me. 🙂

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

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.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

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.

KYouell
Guest

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.

Early & Often
Guest
Early & Often

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

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

> Biking while drunk (or seriously high) is a dumb idea. Buzzed biking? That’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.

Maxadders
Guest
Maxadders

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

John Liu
Subscriber

Bought a membership.

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

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

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).

Adam
Subscriber

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

John Liu
Subscriber

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.

Adam
Subscriber

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.

patrick
Guest
patrick

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.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

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.

Sophie Elise
Guest

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