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Reduced fares, cash payment part of new ‘Biketown for All’ program


New public plaza on SW 3rd and Ankeny-2.jpg
Now available to more Portlanders.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

A $3 per month membership, the ability to pay with cash, and partnerships with social service and housing organizations are all part of the City of Portland’s new Biketown for All program.

The plan debuted this morning makes good on the city’s promise to make it easier for Portlanders with low-incomes to use the 1,000 orange bike share bikes that hit the streets last summer.

Under the new plan, qualifying individuals get access to a monthly membership price that’s 75 percent lower than the $12 per month standard fare. These reduced cost memberships will be available in three-month blocks instead of the usual 12-month commitment. The new program also allows people without bank accounts and credit/debit cards to use the bikes.

In order to qualify, people can be referred by organizations where they receive social services like housing, their Oregon Trail Card, job training, and so on. After making that connection they must attend a workshop that covers how to use the system and includes a hands-on riding skills clinic. These workshops will also soon be available to people not affiliated with any social service organization as long as they fill out an application and attend a workshop.

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The City released this video today of Jon Horton, one of the first Portlanders to take advantage of a Biketown for All membership:

There are 500 of these reduce-cost memberships available thanks to grants from the Better Bike Share Partnership and Motivate, the operator of Biketown. The Better Bike Share Partnership gave $75,000 to the Community Cycling Center back in May and the City of Portland announced today that Motivate has kicked in another $54,000.

Northeast Portland-based Community Cycling Center will run the skills workshops and handle the social service organization referral program. This is something they are already adept at as they’ve done something very similar with their Create-a-Commuter program for many years.

This announcement comes just days after a similar program was launched by Bay Area Bike Share (a system also run by Motivate). Portland is now just the third city to offer a cash payment option for bike share membership.

The new program is just the latest in Portland’s effort to spread the benefits of bike share to a wider spectrum of income levels. Their operating contract includes provisions to hire employees from underserved populations and pay them a living wage. Biketown also got an equity boost when Nike’s $10 million sponsorship allowed the system to cover a 60 percent larger service area that now extends well beyond the central city.

Five years ago the City of Portland got pushback from community advocates who said equity concerns were not being addressed proactively. Biketown for All makes good on promises made and is now being hailed by some of the same people who used to oppose it.

For more on why bike share makes such a positive impact on wealth inequality in cities, read this excellent article by Michael Andersen published a few days ago at BetterBikeShare.org.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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