“Having become chronically homeless, this [Biketown for All] program has empowered and enabled me to be able to enjoy bicycle events that otherwise I would have had a hardship of being able to find a bicycle.”
According to the City of Portland, 244 Biketown bikes were vandalized in the past two weeks — rendering nearly a quarter of the entire system out of service. As the City of Portland struggles to get the bikes fixed and back out on the streets (sources say they don’t have enough spare parts on-hand to fix them all) and the police bureau works to track down the suspects, we’ve been following the community response.
The vast majority of people we’ve heard from here on the blog, and on Facebook and Instagram, have expressed anger and outrage. While the Biketown crew is crestfallen (having just recovered from crazy winter snow and ice storms), they must feel good about all the support that has poured in. It seems like most of you think of Biketown as a shared, common good: A sign that it has quickly become a respected pillar of our public transit system.
On that note, one comment in particular stood out to us. It came in yesterday afternoon from a reader named “Zed”:
I too, was one of the many individuals disheartened at a Nike swooped bicycle fleet entering into the city for some time having lived off and on in this city for the last 6 years.
I, too, felt it was a sign of gentrification, rising tides and making the city a place for those tourists who had fat wallets and were barely able to maneuver a bicycle.
However, I recently discovered a program partnership where Biketown has partnered with Community Cycling Center partnered with Biketown to offer the bikes to those who were disenfranchised and not well off (the ‘Biketown for All’ program).
Basically, the program allows individuals from several non-profit agencies (Central City Concern, StreetRoots) to use the bicycles for a $3 monthly fee.
Having become chronically homeless, this program has empowered and enabled me to be able to enjoy bicycle events that otherwise I would have had a hardship of being able to find a bicycle.
I use the bicycles extensively now thanks to this program and often find myself going for the white version so I am not giving off too much of a tourist vibe.
Do I still cringe at many of the aspects out-of-reach in this new landscape of Portland? Of course. But, I am a lot less angry at Biketown because of the Biketown for All Program which has empowered me to be able to bike 5-8 miles daily.
They would do well to tell this other side of Portland’s story – those given strength-based narratives from this bicycle distribution program.
I’d like to try the yellow bikes, give love to the ride and be free movement of old Portland – but they are mostly at the bottom of the Willamette. So orange becomes the new yellow.
“Orange becomes the new yellow” — a reference to Portland’s original bike-sharing scheme where yellow bikes were simply left out for anyone to use — is an apt mantra for how Portland has changed in the past two decades. Remember in 2004 when anti-corporate activists tossed a Molotov cocktail through the windows of a Starbucks? When that happened, the global coffee chain didn’t enjoy nearly as much support as Biketown did last week.
Maybe this speaks to how Portland has become more accustomed to (or just desensitized to) the slow burn of change in a fast-growing city — or maybe it’s because bicycles have such a life-changing impact on so many people that use them (yes even moreso than coffee). Or maybe it’s a bit of both.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Zed. You’ve won yourself a crisp $5 bill and a few other goodies.