The day has finally come for bike share to spring forth on the streets of Portland. We have waited nearly 10 years for this (our first post about Portland’s plans for bike share was in February 2007) and now it’s time to take the plunge.
Come on Portland. We can do this!
We’ll be at the launch party this morning and will be tracking any developments and updates as needed. But before the crazy starts, here are few things you can expect to happen today:
Even though the Portland Bureau of Transportation has done their homework and our system (run by Motivate Inc. with bikes by Social Bicycles) is relatively simple, we might see some technical glitches here or there. Keep in mind that we are launching the largest “smart-bike” system in North America (that’s a reference to the fact that the operating software is on each bike instead of at a central server/kiosk). The bikes themselves are pretty bombproof (they even have a shaft-drive which is much more reliable than a chain), but you just never know what might come up.
Will the on-board software work smoothly? How about that new app? The good news is that Biketown is a top priority for PBOT and for Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick so we’re confident they will throw everything they can at making sure the system works — and/or fixing an unforeseen glitches — from the get-go.
Pranks and vandals
Uh-oh. Something not right with @BIKETOWNpdx rack at 12th & Broadway. Upside down, partially in lane! #LiveOnK2 pic.twitter.com/7H99D6jO1D
— Mike Warner (@MikeKATU) July 19, 2016
People will surely vandalize the bikes and the stations. We’ve already seen some grafitti (someone wrote “Nike = Hitler!” on a station marker) and what looks like a bike-tipping incident on Twitter. The bikes are novel and high-profile so they’ll attract the wrong kind of attention for as long as they’re on the street. There will probably be more pranks tried in this first month or so but it will subside in the months to come. Then it’ll be no different than the damage mean people do to bus or MAX stops from time to time.
Some people — even “cyclists” — will absolutely hate it
This is a tradition when Portland launches a big bike thing. Someone will be on TV saying how bike share is dumb and will fail. And that person will likely be wearing a helmet or will be labeled by the media as a “cyclist” to give their opinion more weight. This happened in a big way back in 2008 when Portland debuted our bike boxes. The TV news swarmed the one guy at the City Hall launch event who was absolutely enraged by them and made it seem like they were a big controversy when in fact they weren’t.
Orange bikes and their riders doing strange things
If Biketown works we’ll have a lot of people who don’t often ride downtown suddenly on two wheels. Even — gasp — tourists! This means there will be people riding in ways and in places we’re not used to. And yes, some people will do things that are illegal or generally not appreciated by other road users. I know this will happen. My only hope is that courtesy and kindness prevails. Let’s be patient and extra nice to Biketown users. The last thing our world needs now is more anger.
There’s a strong possibility that the local news media will eagerly report on everything I mentioned above in alarming and breathless tones. Despite their good intentions the media might find themselves making a mountain of controversy over a molehill of an issue. This happens so often with high-profile bike-related stuff that it’s become a tradition. Remember the “Bike path to nowhere” story when the Holgate buffered bike lanes opened or the “Sewer money for bike lanes” hysteria when the Bike Master Plan passed?
If/when things get ugly out there, you might want to keep Copenhagenize’s Bike Share Whine-o-meter handy. Then wait about 48 hours and all the insanity will have stopped.
Can’t believe this day has finally come. Fingers-crossed for a successful launch!
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com
Our work is supported by subscribers. Please become one today.
I for one welcome our bikeshare overlords.
ooh, ooh, can I be the helmeted naysayer on the evening news?
Sure, as long as you’re also decked out head to toe in hi-vis yellow. That’s what cyclists look like, right?
How else are clueless news anchors going to spot you?
Oh goodie! I’m coming to visit Portland. I can’t not see this. Maybe I’ll even ride one around a bit, hit some food carts or Go Pokemon or whatever pTowners do these days. Hope everyone keeps a sense of humor about it. It’s just bikes.
“It’s just bikes”
I still cannot figure out how to sign up. When I go to register, it only presents the annual member option. And I can’t rent a bike without registering. Am I just an idiot or is this thing broken?
I found a twitter post after looking around, it looks like it will launch for non-members after 11:30AM.
It would’ve been nice if they had something on their website, for those of us not on twitter.
Thank you. I just had the same issue. I’ll wait an hour or so.
You can sign up for a day pass or single rides now. I just subscribed!
Not too worried about bad press on local (mainstream) media as compared to 2008 because in 2016 I don’t know anyone who reads or watches it for anything but laughs or to keep the cat occupied.
Sad that I can’t sign up yet unless I select the annual membership. Any idea when it will go online?
Jonathan, please change your site color to something other than screaming orange. It burns my retinas and reminds me too much of our corporate overlords.
***This comment has been deleted. Please treat others with respect. Thank you. – Jonathan ***
Because without those corporate overlords, this service wasn’t getting off the ground. Years of planning and nothing until Nike came in with the cash. You want the corporate overlords out of the mix, start raising those funds yourself. Please point me to your webpage where you are doing just that, you know to keep Nike out and to build protected bike lanes. It’s easy to snipe at the corporate overlords, it’s another thing to actually replace them out of your own pocket.
Or Swoosh, in this case! =D
Just noticed this site uses the same orange as NIKE BIKETOWN. Clearly Jonathan is in cahoots!
its an official PBOT color.
Why does PBOT have official colors?
Because it’s easier than making official bike routes 😉
So they can play other BOTS in kickball.
Well, the satirical tone was clear to me, anyway.
“Because without those corporate overlords, this service wasn’t getting off the ground. Years of planning and nothing until Nike came in with the cash. You want the corporate overlords out of the mix, start raising those funds yourself. ”
Nobody I ever met ever wanted a bikeshare. Some didn’t want it, waste of money. Nike isn’t exactly on my favorites when it comes to corporates. But at least it isn’t Nestle.
BikeMobil, brought to you by ExxonMobil.
BikePortland IS our corporate overlord… why do you think biketown picked orange as their color? because over the last decade BikePortland has helped people think of the color orange when they think of bicycling in Portland…
Orange is also the favorite color of the Dutch. Just sayin’. 😉
Orange…for the Dutch that support the royal family.
Or the national football team. 🙂
Orange is also the color of the little street-sign toppers on the greenways.
Some evil-doer already flipped the bikes upside down at one of the sites this morning. Apparently they were in the travel lane too.
So there were bikes parked in the car lane.
That guy in the lead photo. CAN’T WRAP HEAD AROUND… WHAT AM I SEEING HERE??
Man, I will try to be nice to clueless new riders, but simple ignorance is much easier to tolerate than the “I’m the only person on the road” attitude that I sometimes see. It’s not a toy, you’re operating a vehicle!
I’m all for this in spirit, anything to get people on a bike is a good thing. I doubt that I will ever utilize the service though, I already have more bikes than shoes…they are my fashion accessory, plus orange clashes with my skin tone.
I’m in the same situation. I’d have to ride my bike, take Trimet or drive (!) to a biketown corral in order to ride one. Trimet usually occupies the middle of my rides, with long stretches from home or the office on each end. An inner city bike share does not accommodate that sort of mixed-mode travel. Judging from my ride through town today, however, it works for quite a number of folks. I saw a couple of Biketown riders during my skirt around city-center today and a couple more over near Moda Center, all in the space of a half-hour. That seems like a quite a few for the first day of service.
what exactly happens when one gets a flat? Just leave it where it stands and walk away? Your average tourist isn’t going to be able to fix it.
Use the app to report it as broken and lock it up at the closest docking station.
which could be……miles away. brilliant.
Bike share isn’t really meant for people to ride miles outside the service area, but for transportation within it.
ha, right. I wish them luck with that.
No one is saying you can’t do it. Just don’t complain if you get a flat and are “miles away from a docking station”. If you use the system as it is designed, a flat is a very minor issue.
a minor issue? having to a walk a bike upwards of a mile (if not more) out of your way to lock it up, then find alternative transportation elsewhere. That’s a minor issue. your average tourist is going to do that? what if your ever-important cell phone dies? then what? these bikes will slowly disappear, just like the yellow bikes before them. Likely they will be found, disassembled, along the Springwater somewhere in the near future.
The issue of theft rarely happens with other bike share systems. The parts are not easily removed or interchangeable, plus if you dump the bike in the river, you’ll incur a heavy fine. Also, all the bikes have GPS tracking on them. I highly doubt theft will be an issue.
Have you ever used a bikeshare system?
Systems been live for 20 min and I just found the first glitch. The blue staple racks that say “FREE LOCK UP!” are only free if the nearest hub is completely full. (I found out the hard way)
Just took a ride around the block. The bikes handle great and are nice and zippy. Shifting was a bit wonky, as the bike would randomly shift, but that could have been just the way I was holding the grips. Unlocking and locking took a bit to figure out, but seems relatively easy once you figure out what to do. Make sure to only lock up from the right side of the bike, as they won’t lock at all from the left side (even though it looks like there is a hole for it).
When to returned it, did the little onboard computer ask if there was anything wrong with the bike that needs attention (flat tire, etc…). Or do you simply lock it and leave it. Just curious.
I just left it and the ride showed up as complete in the app.
Adam…how is the shaft drive? [On other bike share bikes (BikeNation, etc.) I found it to be very heavy and hard to pedal (high friction) on bikes that were in the field for period vs. opening day.]
The shaft drive was eerily silent, but the ride was nice and smooth. I didn’t find it sluggish at all.
Just signed up for the pay as you go membership ($2.50 for 30 min). Was easy to do. Now I have another transit option in my arsenal (car2go, trimet, uber, zipcar, etc…)
In my five, minute two block walk from my office downtown to the burrito, joint, already saw three separate riders on Biketown bikes. I doubt its just the novelty. So much for all the naysayers.
I want to see this succeed and think they’ve done a good job with the rollout so far. I expect it will be awesome for tourists and anyone else who does short hops in the downtown area. However, the service area needs to expand a lot to make this usable to a huge number of people.
I can see why they wouldn’t want bikes migrating from the center, but it needs to be more than a substitute for walking to be practical. If you have to take some other form of transit to get to the service area, it kills the point.
I’d sign up for an annual membership in a heartbeat even though I own 5 bikes. But practically all my trips start and end well outside the service area despite passing though it. At least one critical point like home or work needs be within the service area, and that’s not going to be true for a huge percentage of potential users.
I’d love to see some data on bike migration.
I’m expecting east-side bikes to head downhill.
You’re probably right. For someone wanting to do a bit of bar hopping, it would be tempting to ride down the hill, but return via MAX.
What I’m looking forward to is seeing people pedal those tanks up Interstate. I might make a special trip just to see what it’s like 🙂
Why go all the way there? Just pedal up Harrison on your way home.
Harrison is both flatter and shorter. Plus too many lights. But you raise a valid point.
A better ride would be to pick up a bike at PSU and take it up Marquam Hill. Plenty of fun options going both up and down. Wondering how the shaft drive perform with reasonable climbing torque.
The shaft drive starts to feel a bit rough on anything more than a ~4% grade. It’ll do it, but it doesn’t like it.
I climbed up campus drive which has a 7% grade in a few sections and had no difficulty. I’m going to do Council Crest tomorrow.
there’s a biketown tabor ride this evening, fwiw.
Yes, but this is one advantage bike share has over MAX and bus: no limited service hours. Try taking MAX home from downtown at 3am…
This was one of the specific things I thought bikeshare would be great for. But as a practical matter, a lot of people trying to get home from downtown at that time might not be in shape to ride and the service area is so small they could be on foot.
I personally have no objection to a $20 fee for taking a bike out of the service area, particularly since I doubt they make money on that. However, $20 plus riding time can get you pretty far with Uber, Lyft, or a cab.
The company that manages the bikes makes bulk data available from other bike share programs. Hopefully they do the same for Portland, then we can all do our own data analysis!
Sadly, the paradigm for cycling that emerged in the naughties is that cycling substitutes for walking, not driving. Note the patheticly short median distance for rides in Copenhagen (about half a kilometer), which is unfortunately the model being used by those who have taken to cycling and advocacy over the past dozen years.
Strangely, people who advocate that cycling is for the type of short, flat trips that were previously done by walking are surprised that for all their efforts, they are not succeeding in removing any cars from the roadways.
Using bikes for short trips to replace walking is a gateway to replacing car trips with bikes. That was my path to becoming a daily bike commuter anyways…
The more bikes on the street–even piloted by newbies–the better, as far as I’m concerned. Come on over to SE 26th, sea of orange! Take it over! Please! The presence of bicyclists is about the only thing that seems to (sometimes) slow motorists here.
I’d like to see it handled like the public library were running this service. The library seems to have a better handle on accessibility.
But yes, hey, more bikes. Except where they removed existing racks.
Agreed! I’d like the racks back.
Hope it works out well.
Still wish I could have come up with a reason to join. Best I could come up with was riding an orange bike up and down Hawthorne might annoy people more than my own bike.
Second best was to rent/return bikes from the 39/taylor location which is a quick walk that I make regularly anyway.
Alas, I’m only really antagonistic online.
Jonathan – was your write up relying on a couple of press releases for content?
I ask, as your news article had a mixed viewpoint and used the term “we” as the operator or owner of the product would say vs. a reporter…or are you speaking as a Portlander ?
Text: “Keep in mind that we are launching…”
I often use “we” as a way to refer to something that we are all invested in as Portlanders! I do not see a fine line between citizens and city staff and elected officials. We are all in this together and we all have a part to play.
I agree with you Jonathan. We are indeed in this together. With with the city, the interested groups and create something feasible, practical and intriguing to grow the base.
Although I don’t think I’ll be using it much personally, i’m excited for this! Hopefully it will help normalize cycling more.
I’m still mad they removed the bike corral outside Dragonfly Coffee for a Bikestation though. The City stated the need to “balance” the needs of all road users, but come on!!
A bike corral takes up TWO PARKING SPACES, and can accommodate, what? Twelve bikes or some such thing. It’s hardly breaking the bank losing two people’s car parking spaces to have a bike corral on your street that helps out twelve people.
Dragonfly Coffee agreed for the corral to get replaced, and PBOT will likely distribute those extra racks around the immediate vicinity.
Every founding member who attended the launch this AM received a free 30 minute pass for friends to try it out. Mine is already gone.
Rode one back from the grocery store this morning. There were fewer glitches than I’d expected. The first one I logged into wouldn’t unlock, but the next one in line worked fine. It felt heavy and clunky when I wheeled it out of the rack, but had a smooth, easy ride. My worst problem is that its gear shift works the opposite of my own bike, so I kept shifting down when I wanted to shift up. It’s definitely an errand-running bike, rather than a recreational one. But I think that it will extend my range quite a bit.
Random thoughts, in no particular order:
a. Nike as “Corporate Overlords”? Sure. Okay. And let’s remember how they made the money to support this thing (as long as we’re corp-bashing…).
b. If it’s for tourists (because it sure seems redundant for anyone who already lives here), and we can count on some of them to ride stupidly; and we can count on folks to vandalize them at least for awhile; and we might even see one of three of them somehow end up in the Willamette with the ghosts of the Yellow Bike program —
Then you have to wonder if the powers-that-be padded the budget to anticipate for all this (and will possibly pass the savings along to us)?
c. The bikes are sleek, modern, outfitted with the latest gee-gizmo technology (independent computer operating system; shaft-drive) and certainly intended to attract a certain class of user. What is the end-goal? That said users will move to Portland with their nice incomes and buy more gee-gizmo technology to drive an economy that lives and dies by the purchasing power of the better-off?
d. The money that Nike chose to spend on getting this thing off the ground could have been spent on a public-private partnership that actually employs more lower-income people, and/or helps them get into affordable housing and/or opens up more educational/vocational opportunities for those in need. That this project is taking off at the same time that thousands sleep in the streets every night and people go to sleep hungry just really, really bothers me. Because, I don’t know, I guess I want the growing chasm of class division to be on everyone’s radar — and Biketown proves once again that it isn’t. I have a hard time seeing tourist-driven efforts as little more than expensive window dressing for a city that needs to continue to look expensive, and therefore more desirable to The Right People.
This project feels SO unnecessary and wasteful to me. And while I know that there’s a lot of support for it, and that private companies can spend money any way they please, it really bugs me that this private corporation chose to buy mobile advertising instead of putting more of their profits back into the community in a not-so-profitable way that could really lift some more boats.
e. The bike-tipping report made my day, and I salute whomever did all that work. Bless you.
b. Not designed for tourists. It’s priced with locals in mind. Not everyone has a bike, or has a bike they want to risk getting stolen, and certainly can’t use it one-way.
c. the “gizmos” counter theft, and having a computer on the bike makes the racks cheaper. It also means tracking is built in. Shaft drive means people don’t have an oily pantleg.
d. any time a dollar is spent in a way someone dislikes, the argument is that it could be used elsewhere. it’s the “there are starving kids in Africa” argument.
d. Isn’t PBOT/Motivate working with the Community Cycling Center and other non-profits on hiring low-income people as bike balancers and mechanics, as well as providing reduced-cost memberships?
Reduced-cost memberships were listed nowhere on the tower I visited today, nor on that link you provided.
Not available yet.
My point is that they seem nominal rather than primary.
d. Like complaining about how much money is spent building highway infrastructure?
e. Why do you take pleasure in people doing something that could potentially seriously damage something that our tax dollars helped fund? The bikes were protruding into the travel lane and could have been seriously damaged by a distracted driver.
Seriously hoping we’re not really concerned about drivers hitting stationary brightly colored objects. There are often things and people in travel lanes and it’s never okay to hit them, even if you’re not paying attention or didn’t expect them. Round a blind corner too fast and hit a boulder <- not the boulder's fault. If the boulder is anywhere a pedestrian or cyclist could ever be, I would say it had the right of way.
I am concerned with drivers hitting expensive things that I’ve helped pay for, so I don’t appreciate people doing pranks that increase the odds.
I don’t disagree with your statement. Drivers are pretty terrible in general. There is no accountability and no expectation of due care.
Yikes, Beth! You’re usually really well-informed about the subjects on which you comment. In this case, though, very little of what you’ve written here is accurate.
What makes you believe that because Nike put $10M into a program in the city in which 5700 of their employees live that’s all they are doing in terms of local, national or global community investment? Here’s one place to start learning before commenting: http://about.nike.com/pages/community-impact
Shaft-drive bikes date to the 90s. The 1890s.
>Orange bikes and their riders doing strange things
Does that count taking bikes into offices, apartments, and hotel rooms? Based on the map it looks like a lot of people have been doing that.
A gentleman does not make love to their bike in public.
“some people will do things that are illegal or generally not appreciated by other road users”
I’ve resolved to just regurgitating the number of people killed by drunk/distracted/hit n run drivers every morning during the regularly scheduled “someone on a bicycle annoyed me today” diatribe at the water cooler.
I don’t think it’s winning me (m)any friends. #aintcare
In my experience, regurgitating by the water cooler is a great way that make friends. I encourage everyone to try it.
there haven’t been many comments on the cost. $2.50 for a half hour seems completely ridiculous. if you have to stop along the way for an errand, you can’t ride very far. if it’s a one way trip and there’s no locking station near your destination, then the $2.50 becomes $4.50 for having to lock to a staple.
the bus costs $2.50 and you get 2 1/2 hours and can put your own bike on it.
also, most if not all the major hotels now have their own bikes they lend to guests – for free.
and that orange is so bright it’s almost painful.
other than that, great idea.
The 30-min $2.50 fee seems to be targeted for very special situations. A few I can think of
– You are not a member, but you are downtown when the bars close and the bus stops running.
– Rides that don’t have parallel transit service: N/S travel on the east side, travel to NW Portland, diagonal travel (most transit is E/W or N/S)
– Transit disruptions: Steel bridge is closed or is causing delays, major road work
– Tourists: most will do the day rental, but quite a few will be willing to pay a few bucks to “try it out”.
Since you can’t bike drunk anyway legally, how does that help?
Who said you have to be drunk when the bars close? What if you work at one of the bars and need to get home?
That said, we all know that people are going to be using these buzzed/drunk. It’s a risk that some people choose to take, and having them on a bike instead of driving a car is definitely better for our safety. If it replaces an Uber trip, I see the concern.
Compare it to the taxis…
Licensed cabs charge $2.50-5 per passenger just for flag drop. Already you’re price-neutral with the bikeshare. Now add in $2.90/mi when the cab’s moving and $40/hour when the cab’s stopped (seriously watch that meter, it knows when it’s moving and when it’s not, and changes rates in real time). If you’re even near a taxi zone where you can hail one without a reservation and they can legally stop for you without a reservation. If not, go ahead and add an hour to the travel time, as well.
Gypsy cabs (including Uber and Lyft) tend to be much less reliable and highly unpredictable in terms of expense.
That $2.50/hour is looking a bit better now, eh?
Very cool to see the bikes hit the street today. Can’t wait for my mother in law to visit next week, she can hop on my rack and we’ll stop at the bikeshare station just down the street to get a bike for her. Only thing I can’t fathom is why age 18 and up? Could have done at least 16 and up. Big missed opportunity to give young people another transportation option IMO. You can drive a car before you can use biketown and that makes zero sense.
Supposedly, Biketown bikes emit a high-pitched alarm when the gps senses higher-than-usual travel speed. Anyone deafen a MAX car yet? How are we expected to zoobomb with these? Sheesh.
O rly? Have a source for this?
Did some work with SoBi not so long ago. I think this is something they’re still doing…
Heh, if they do alarm like that, I guess you’d have to call it Stukabombing instead of zoobombing. Goes great with The City That’s White.
Strange they basically put them only in what was formerly Fareless Square. Making up for TriMet cutting it’s own neck by grossly scaling down bus service every time a new MAX route is opened?
Now taking bets on when all of these end up being recycled for meth money or thrown into the Willamette River by vandals.
The zone is much larger than the previous careless square.
We survive the Kerr boardwalk bikes every summer. This is nothing.
Question on the onboard payment machine: How easy or hard is it going to be for someone to put a skimmer on it?
Yes, I know that a criminal would have to a special kind of determined to put a skimmer on one of these, and then find it again to remove the skimmer later… but you know someone’s going to think of it.
You don’t insert your card on the bike controller. You have to create an account, either through their website, app, or one of the “hub stations” that have a small kiosk. You then manage your account online. I created my account online, so I’m not sure if you have to insert your credit card into the kiosk, or if you just enter your credit card info on a touch screen.
I have taken many trips already, including trips where I intentionally tried to earn $1 by returning an out of hub bike aka “BIketown poaching.” I learned some things.
From what I can tell there are some hubs that have poor GPS signal. These hubs will either allow you to make an easy buck or charge you $2 because the system can’t easily tell where the bike is in relation to the hub. Like many of you, I have seen bikes on the web or app as far as 125 feet from where they are in the real world.
If you’re interested in making $1, saving time, and minimizing your chance for a $2 penalty, use the web or app to reserve the “Out of Hub” bike nearest the hub you want to use. When you get there you’ll see that it’s probably at the hub, and not X distance away. When you find it, it will say RESERVED on the LCD streen – all you have to do is enter your pin, remove the lock, and ride. When you end your ride there’s a good chance you’ve got a $1 bump!
“I have seen bikes on the web or app as far as 125 feet”
Maybe not surprising … same thing happens with car2go in my experience. Often the cars are a half a block to a block away from where the app says.