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Beyond vandalism, Biketown faces ridership test ahead of summer season

Posted by on April 11th, 2017 at 10:58 am

Biketown bike share -14.jpg

Biketown is popular with tourists, but the system needs more annual members if it wants to flourish.
(All photos by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s bike sharing system could have a bumpy road ahead even if political vandals decide to leave it be.

Annual members

A comparison of three bike share systems.

  • Biketown Portland: 2,837 (after nine months)
  • Pronto Seattle*: 2,878 (after nine months)
  • Capital Bikeshare Washington D.C.: 16,000 (after 12 months)

*Pronto has ceased operation.

Biketown launched nine months ago next week with 1000 bikes and 100 stations. Thanks to title sponsorship from Nike, it was one of the country’s largest bike-share launches — double the station and bike count of Seattle’s Pronto system when it launched in 2014.

Pronto, which like Biketown was operated by New York-based Motivate Inc., turned into the country’s highest-profile bike-share failure to date. Plagued by low ridership and a series of financial missteps and miscommunications, it shut down at the end of last month.

And though Portland’s Biketown is a very different system with a different price structure, its annual membership numbers for year one are on a very similar trajectory to Pronto’s.

In Pronto’s month nine, June 2015, that system had 2,878 annual members. As of Monday, the city says, Biketown has 2,837.

Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, by contrast, had almost 16,000 annual members by the end of its first year, in 2010.

But it’s not time for Biketown’s fans to panic. Though the system faces challenges and definitely couldn’t be described as a roaring success, it also has an unusual amount of time to pick up its growth pace — and some clear steps that might help it do so.

Biketown’s private operator will underwrite any losses through 2019

Bike Share passage press conference-9.jpg

Motivate CEO Jay Walder at press conference for Portland bike share in September 2015.

Biketown arrived last year at an important time for Motivate, its private operator. That may be proving lucky for Portland.

The company had first existed as the then-Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share, founded and bootstrap-financed by the owners of the respected consulting firm Alta Planning + Design. Those early years could be described either as catastrophic success or gradually mounting chaos. Almost too big to fail because of its huge contracts in New York, D.C. and Chicago, Alta Bicycle Share escaped a complicated set of problems by selling itself to a New York-based joint venture, which rebranded the company as Motivate and hired internationally celebrated mass transit executive Jay Walder as CEO.

Meanwhile, bike sharing technology had advanced quickly, threatening to leave Motivate in the dust. “Smart bike” systems with free-floating bikes and on-board computers were spreading rapidly; all of Motivate’s launches had relied on more finicky “smart dock” hardware. So it was in Motivate’s interest to prove that it could score a high-profile launch and operate a system on newer technology.

Motivate sealed the Portland smart-bike contract by guaranteeing to cover any of the system’s losses for its first three years, through July 2019. (If there are surpluses in that period, the company gets to pocket half of those.) That’s not as long as Biketown needs to exist; its initial $10 million Nike contract runs for five years. But it’s much longer than Pronto had. And it creates a backer with relatively deep pockets; cash flow was a major factor in Pronto’s collapse.

All that means that if Biketown needs to try some experiments to move its revenue or profits up, it has two more years to do so.

Annual members aren’t the most important metric of bikesharing success

Washington DC-12

The number of annual memberships isn’t everything. For one thing, each Biketown membership is unusually valuable.

“Long story short: If you compare Portland to similar cities, we’re doing just fine.”
— John Brady, PBOT

Capital Bikeshare’s first-year annual memberships sold for $75 per year and allowed unlimited “free” trips of 30 minutes or less. Pronto’s sold for $85. Biketown annual memberships cost more: they bill $12 monthly for an annual commitment of $144, and allow 90 minutes of “free” ride time per day.

And though annual members are essential to a sustainable system (in part because they’re its core political support), short-term bike sharing memberships are usually more profitable. And what really matters for the long term is how often people are finding the system useful: average trips per bike per day.

Portland Bureau of Transportation Spokesman John Brady said in an email Monday that Biketown’s launch year was line with its peers.

“We usually look to Denver and Minneapolis because they are roughly similar in size and density,” he said. “If you compare Portland to Denver and Minneapolis in the years that they opened (that is, not a full year), Portland’s 1 trip/bike/day stacks up nicely. Denver’s utilization was 0.9 trips/bike/day while Minneapolis’ was 1.1.”

“Long story short: If you compare Portland to similar cities, we’re doing just fine,” Brady wrote.

Those figures from the year of launch don’t include Portland’s unusually harsh winter of 2017. Counting the first quarter of this year, Biketown has averaged more like 0.7 rides per bike per day since its July launch — barely ahead of the 0.6 rides per bike per day (year-round) that eventually doomed Seattle’s Pronto.

In other words: if Biketown is going to continue to do just fine compared to the modestly successful systems in Denver and Minneapolis, it’ll need usage to pick up sharply again this summer.

Biketown’s biggest challenge is the environment it’s serving

How many people would buy a ticket to ride here?


Here is the central dilemma for bike sharing in Portland: in a city without that much transit commuting or tourism, who is the customer base?

Biketown has decided, logically enough, to put a big bet on “people who live in the service area.” But because of how Portland is built, that’s not a huge number — about 86,000, to be specific.

Many of us would love to have a Biketown station three blocks from our place. We’d probably like a hardware store, a post office and a cute independent cafe there, too. But just as most of Portland simply isn’t dense enough to support those amenities within walking distance, most of it isn’t dense enough to support a bicycle transit system that’s operating with a direct public subsidy of $0.

That’s why Biketown’s stations have been most concentrated in the part of town that has true urban density: the Pearl District and the Northwest 20s. In Northwest, bike-share station density is one of the best in the country: almost every resident has a station less than three blocks away.

Some people complain, mistakenly, that focusing on Northwest Portland keeps Biketown out reach for all but the rich. But it’s a myth that Northwest Portlanders are homogenously well-off. The area has far more price-controlled housing, for both the poor and middle-income, than north Portland’s huge New Columbia development.

Instead, the problem with Northwest Portland is that it’s the close-in neighborhood with the worst bike infrastructure.

The perfect Biketown trip — in software terms, its killer app — would be a commute between a Northwest Portland apartment building (many of which offer terrible on-site bike parking) and a job in downtown Portland or the Central Eastside. But to make that trip, you have to cross Interstate 405 at an intersection like this:

NW Portland Week - Day 5-10.jpg

NW Couch where it crosses I-405. The crossing includes three intersections, two of which have no traffic signal.

And there’s no great route from Northwest to the Morrison Bridge, which ought to be the biking thoroughfare that feeds the Central Eastside.

Much of this is supposed to change soon. Northwest Portland’s hodgepodge of neighborhood greenways are up for improvement. The 19th/Alder/Burnside intersection is getting big improvements, and the long-delayed Central City Multimodal Safety Project might (or might not) give downtown a connected network of low-stress protected bike lanes, which Washington D.C. (for example) has been building but Seattle has so far failed to link up.

For Northwest Portland in particular, the crucial infrastructure improvement will be the planned Flanders Neighborhood Greenway and Flanders Crossing bridge across I-405, approved last year and scheduled (at the time, at least) to open in May 2019. That’ll be two months before Motivate stops backstopping Biketown against any losses.

There are a lot of experiments left to try

Bike share in the wild-1.jpg
If things go seriously wrong in the next two years and Biketown fails, people might point to its unconventional lack of tightly regulated performance standards. They might point to Portland’s unusual decision to give the system no direct operating subsidy. They might point out that an uncommonly large 29 percent of Portland metro area adults already own a bike.

All of those factors could contribute to a failure, if things do go wrong. But each could also lay the groundwork for a system that, through a series of entrepreneurial innovations, sets the system up to gradually become one of the most successful in the country.

My own pet belief is that bike sharing will take off in the first U.S. city that offers it in a free or cheap bundle with a transit pass. A few people I talked to on the Internet yesterday had similar thoughts:

As Robert Getch notes, later this year TriMet will launch the Hop Fastpass, a tap-and-go electronic fare card that could make this bundle theoretically possible. But getting it in place by 2019 seems difficult.

Whatever happens, I know that my homeward bike commute Monday was the nicest I’ve had this year. Summer is coming. We’re all about to find out what that means for Portland’s newest bicycling experiment.

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

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153 Comments
  • Adam H.
    Adam H. April 11, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    This obsession to turn a profit will be bike shares downfall. No other public mode of transport is held to this standard. We don’t expect to make profits on road building or MAX operations, since they are seen as a vital public service. Bike share, on the other hand, is still treated as a toy for wealthy urbanites and tourists (regardless of the truth of this sentiment). Being forced to rely on full funding by corporate sponsorship and farebox recovery is a massive crutch.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty April 11, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      Taxis, rideshare, and carshare follow a similar financial model.

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      • soren April 12, 2017 at 9:33 am

        none of those are public transportation systems.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 12, 2017 at 9:45 am

          Nor is bikeshare.

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          • Middle of the Road Guy April 12, 2017 at 11:16 am

            Touche!

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    • Al Dimond April 11, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      One of the lessons from Seattle is that, at least in the northwest where people have certain expectations of government, you can have ongoing public operations subsidies, or you can have a service area that’s much smaller than the taxed area, but having both is not politically sustainable.

      Sadly, one of the other lessons from Seattle is (probably) that station density is important. The sad part of that is that we never had sufficient station density. Well, when it came time to “fix” the system, politically we had to expand it to cover most of the city, and that ate up any funding that could have gone to improving density.

      Chicago has managed to build a system with decent station density and very wide coverage. I don’t know what their funding story has been, but I’m pretty sure there’s been public money involved. Chicago is a bit different than the northwest politically — people don’t expect to have input on every little line in the city budget, so stuff with institutional support Just Gets Done, for better and for worse.

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      • SE Rider April 11, 2017 at 4:41 pm

        I’m still convinced that hills played a major (if not the biggest factor) in the Pronto demise.

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        • GlowBoy April 12, 2017 at 11:10 am

          Seattle is much hillier than Portland, and there was a helmet law dragging the system down.

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          • Uptowner April 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm

            It’s pretty incredible to see no mention of the helmet law here. Apparently, talking about helmet laws makes people uncomfortable, so it’s easier to ignore.

            ***Can anyone provide an example of a successful bikeshare system in a city with a mandatory helmet law?****

            Seriously, there are now thousands of bikeshare systems, but all the examples in cities with helmet laws (Melbourne, Brisbane, Seattle, Vancouver) have serious issues or have closed. Vancouver’s system is attracting trips at about the same rate as Seattle’s. If there’s a good example, I’d love to see it.

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      • soren April 12, 2017 at 9:36 am

        Portland also has insufficient station density.

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        • Al Dimond April 12, 2017 at 2:35 pm

          If that’s so, if you want public operations subsidy, you’d better get the station density up before that starts — or else be prepared to fight for Chicago levels of public operations support.

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  • Adam Cornell April 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Some interesting impressions of dockless bike share here: https://www.fyxation.com/blogs/fyxation-1/chinese-dockless-bike-share-coming-to-america

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty April 11, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      I think this may be the ultimate evolution of bikeshare. Carshare went through the same transformation, and is much better for it, in my opinion.

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  • SE Rider April 11, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Has anyone identified why Portland went with the unorthodox form of memberships? I just don’t get capping “free” riding at 90 mins a day when people are buying yearly memberships. The unlimited rides of 30 minutes of less makes so much more sense.

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    • Alex Reedin April 11, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      I dunno! The unlimited 30-minute rides seems superior to me. Perhaps the idea was to allow commutes from the northern end of the territory to the PSU area without time anxiety? But the idea of being able to hop from bike to bike all day on occasion seems so pleasant and carefree to me, even though I doubt few people would actually use it that way in practice.

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      • SE Rider April 11, 2017 at 4:40 pm

        That’s what makes me think bike share is being used less by tourists than it could be. For $12 you get “24 hours” of access, but only 3 hours of ride time (and I’m sorry but “only an additional 10 cents per minute” is not cheap). I would want a bike longer than that if I’m going to explore the city by bike for the day.

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    • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
      Michael Andersen (Contributor) April 11, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      I think the idea was that it’s just annoying to prompt people to game the system by finding a station and checking into it every 30 minutes to extend your free ride. Better (the argument goes) to have a simple and transparent way to pay for a long ride and not go through a rigmarole to game it.

      Also, the 45-minute leeway for a daily round trip, rather than 30 minutes, gives people a way to go a little further, which they are more likely to need to do in Portland’s relatively low-density environment. 45 minutes can get you across the whole service area, but 30 wouldn’t.

      On the other hand, maybe the game-the-system thing was actually sort of like offering a coupon … makes the product available more cheaply to people who are willing to go to more trouble while extracting maximum money from people who have it to spare.

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      • OregonJelly April 11, 2017 at 4:01 pm

        May be, but a yearly membership with a daily cap was a non-starter for me. It’s like a cell phone plan with 200mb of data.

        They didn’t even have the sense to upsell a plan with more minutes.

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        • bjorn April 11, 2017 at 5:57 pm

          sobi uses a ton of different pricing models, I wonder if part of what they are doing is gathering data to try and figure out if there is one best way or if different models work in different places. There has to be some cap because otherwise people with annual memberships could just grab a bike and keep it forever, the whole idea is to encourage people to only have the bike checked out when they are actively riding it.

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          • lop April 11, 2017 at 11:48 pm

            Citibike in NYC gives you unlimited 45 minute trips, you have to dock them for a bit before taking out a second bike. A 60 minute trip there has overage fees, 60 minute trip here does not. 3 hours of biking can have no overage fee in NYC, but be expensive here.

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            • Matthew in Portsmouth April 12, 2017 at 10:38 am

              I was a member of Citibike until 2014. At that time you didn’t need to dock for a bit, you could dock one and immediately take another. This was great for my 60 minute evening commute from Midtown Manhattan to Prospect Heights in Brooklyn – I could ride to a station just below the Manhattan Bridge and switch bikes. Where Citibike was great for me was being able to commute one way by bike, as I could not take my bike into my office building and there were no showers there anyway.

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            • GlowBoy April 12, 2017 at 11:13 am

              Nice Ride Minnesota allows unlimited 30 minute rides with a 24 hour pass, or unlimited 60 minute rides for members (which I am). I’m also a Biketown member, but didn’t realize there was a 3 hour maximum.

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          • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
            Michael Andersen (Contributor) April 12, 2017 at 10:01 am

            The pricing is really up to the public agencies in each city and to their operators; SoBi just sells the equipment and software. But yes, hopefully we as a country are gathering data to figure out which pricing model works best in various settings.

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          • Otter April 12, 2017 at 12:20 pm

            sobi doesn’t determine pricing models; they’re the vendor here.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty April 11, 2017 at 4:34 pm

        I would question whether the “game the system” problem was real issue that had to be designed around, or a theoretical possibility that would have no impact on the system if a few people occasionally exploited it.

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      • SE Rider April 11, 2017 at 4:37 pm

        But isn’t the point of bike share to mainly be for short trips? Sure a few people will daisy chain a few 30 minute rides together, but the bulk of the ridership is supposedly oriented towards less than 30 minute rides.

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  • redhippie April 11, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    I think the big difference between D.C., Chicago and Ny is that Portland doesn’t really have a well developed mass transit system and it is a much more compact city. I got to use the D.C. Bike share last summer and it is excellent in the +3 mile roll when combined with a Metro Ride. There I would take a 6 mile Metro trip and a 2 mile bike share trip to get where I needed. PDX is just a lot more compact and the trains don’t run frequently enough. it is just faster and easier for me to bike the longer distance than try to connect the system.

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    • rick April 11, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      D.C. has a one-way train line to the Regan airport. Not a pleasant ride with the stops and starts.

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      • Sigma April 11, 2017 at 8:42 pm

        You are the undisputed king of irrelevant comments. It is truly impressive.

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    • stephanlindner April 11, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      That is exactly how I used the bikeshare in DC. I have no membership for Biketown yet and will likely not get one, simply because it makes no economic sense. For that to change, public transit would need to be much faster.

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  • redhippie April 11, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Adam H.
    This obsession to turn a profit will be bike shares downfall. No other public mode of transport is held to this standard. We don’t expect to make profits on road building or MAX operations, since they are seen as a vital public service. Bike share, on the other hand, is still treated as a toy for wealthy urbanites and tourists (regardless of the truth of this sentiment). Being forced to rely on full funding by corporate sponsorship and farebox recovery is a massive crutch.
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    Shhhhhh. Don’t let it be known that mass transit operate at a large deficit. People might get wise to it and not vote for the next bond imitative. Then the all the transit union and Metro staff might not have jobs. Lets keep it on the down-low.

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    • GlowBoy April 12, 2017 at 11:15 am

      Yes, and make sure not to let the public know that the road system operates at a gigantic deficit, consuming many billions of dollars of general-fund revenue a year.

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  • David April 11, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Reading this article, and the many others on bike share in this town, there are really two things that come to mind:
    1. Bike share can really integrate well with transit and yet this is not part of the system’s design.
    2. Infrastructure is going to be the biggest challenge, period. The current hodgepodge of bike infrastructure is a confusing web of band-aids that is tragically fragile, unmaintained, and incomplete. Until people can ride a bike without that feeling of impending doom it’s a tough sell to make the system attractive to a wider demographic set. This also includes setting and enforcing guidelines that don’t close or obstruct bike lanes on a whim while leaving auto lanes unaffected. Cycling has to be seen as safe and convenient (just like driving is now) if people are going to start seeing it as an option.

    The finances of this thing should be alright with the multiple sponsorships and decent sized membership base for the time being. For this to grow both in terms of density and geography (sq. mi.) PBOT needs to decide that bike infrastructure matters, demonstrate it in the budget, and come up with a coherent message that emphasizes why this is the right decision, rather than compromising at every step, delaying, and then saying we’re lucky to have what’s already been built out. I’d say Tri Met could help with some of this but expectations for them are a bit lower right now.

    Also did anyone else notice in those four pictures under Biketown’s biggest challenges how much room on each street was dedicated to parking? Looks like a lot of problems could be solved with a slight policy shift, or valuing road space a bit more highly.

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  • Dave April 11, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    I’d love to see them get crazy with their advertising. Costumes riding bikes. Partnerships with local shops where they drive through for coffee. Just pepper their Instagram with something new and zany every single day. Earthday is coming up. Maybe they can sponsor a pubcrawl on bikes.

    The bikeshare concept is so powerful. I want it to take off.

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    • rachel b April 11, 2017 at 3:56 pm

      I appreciate the thought but—costumes and zany? Please, no. I’m drowning in Portland zany, suffocating in whimsy, aghh.

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      • BB April 13, 2017 at 10:20 am

        Try Seattle! All zany and whimsy has been eliminated!

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        • rachel b April 14, 2017 at 1:46 am

          Ahhh! Like some happy dream… 🙂

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  • J_R April 11, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Last August you were praising Biketown as “an unmitigated success.”

    I was doubtful then, having written the following:

    “Your bar for declaring bikeshare an “unmitigated success” seems really low.

    “Even during great summer weather, the typical bike was used on fewer than two trips and sat unused for more than 23 hours of the day. Does anyone seriously believe the use is going to remain constant or increase during rainy, dark, cool months? Commute traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge falls dramatically during the winter.

    “Seventy three percent of the revenues came from annual passes. My guess is that there will be a significant drop off in annual passes during the coming months and a corresponding decrease in revenues in coming months.

    “Enthusiasm is great and I hope for success, but I’m certainly not willing to call it that yet.”

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    • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
      Michael Andersen (Contributor) April 11, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      You’ll have to take that disparity up with Jonathan, the “you” that you mention here. 🙂 He tends to operate more from the heart/gut than I do, and often reminds me (correctly) that it’s possible to let numbers and metrics blind you to the fundamentals.

      I think we all agree, though, that skepticism is good, even of BikePortland.

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      • q April 11, 2017 at 5:00 pm

        “I think we all agree, though, that skepticism is good, even of BikePortland.”?

        I’m not so sure about that.

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      • 9watts April 16, 2017 at 9:57 pm

        I so miss your presence here, Michael.

        thanks for a(nother) great piece.

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  • Matt F April 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    I said this before it opened and got shot down: Nearly everyone in this town already has a bike. So who is it serving other than visitors?

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    • soren April 11, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      I have 3 bikes (sold a couple) but I still use bike share when I don’t want to lock up a bike for an extended period of time, when I don’t want to ghost a bike somewhere, or when I don’t have a bike for whatever reason.

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      • Bjorn April 11, 2017 at 3:29 pm

        I have 5 bikes, but I have still been paying for the membership. I probably have barely used it enough to break even vs buying it one ride at a time but it has been very helpful a number of times like when I didn’t have my bike and I needed to get from where I was over to the bus line that goes to my house etc.

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    • Kyle Banerjee April 11, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      I would use it except practically all my trips start and end well outside the service area despite going through it.

      Being able to lock up is huge as is having a one way option.

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      • SE Rider April 11, 2017 at 4:46 pm

        Bingo, as pointed out in the article is it only serving a small fraction of the city. I was really pumped for bike share (having used it in other cities I’ve visited), but I have not used it once, because almost every trip starts and or finishes outside (usually WAY outside) the service area.
        As far as equity goes, I’ve been pretty disappointed with this system as it seems to really only cater to areas that already have far superior walkability, transit access, and proximity. For the majority of the city bike share just doesn’t move the needle more than a novelty.

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    • GlowBoy April 12, 2017 at 11:16 am

      Not nearly everyone in Portland has a bike. Also, many bike owners use the system.

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  • Ron Richings April 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Santa Monica’s Bikeshare has an interesting option that could work well in Portland. They provide a ‘casual’ use arrangement at about $ .12 per minute with no minimum and no membership fee. So if you can do your trip in say 8 minutes you pay less than a dollar, with no other commitments. Not sure exactly how the finances work out, but certainly encourages many fairly short trips, which is generally stated as the intent of the system. Also by its nature makes the system more accessible for low-income riders without requiring special passes or whatever.

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    • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
      Michael Andersen (Contributor) April 11, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      I really like this pricing model too, though I have yet to use it personally. It’s also available in Milwaukee, and would be possible on the Biketown hardware.

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    • Erik Griswold April 11, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Actually both Portland and Santa Monica are run by SoBi, and when I was in Portland I used my Santa Monica account to use Portland Biketown.

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  • dan April 11, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    As soon as they put in e-bikes, I’ll be all over it for my commute with trailer.

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  • Bjorn April 11, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Here is an idea that would help bikeshare, start funding trimet through a combination of a utility fee and increased fares for parking especially at park and ride lots that are currently 100% subsidized, allowing for a fareless transit system. When Corvallis did this their transit ridership went up significantly and bikeshare makes for a great way to travel the last mile when taking the bus, reducing the need for transfers.

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    • Kyle Banerjee April 11, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      No way that a fee imposed on drivers who can’t possibly use bikeshare will run into resistance 😉

      The whole problem for most people is that bike share is available only in a very limited area.

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      • bjorn April 11, 2017 at 5:57 pm

        that is the beauty of the plan, bikeshare remains totally unfunded, but transit becomes fareless and by doing that combined mode trips become less expensive instead of more expensive than driving.

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        • Kyle Banerjee April 11, 2017 at 10:22 pm

          People who have to drive to a park and ride lot because they can’t get public transit service where they live pay for transit and bike share in the expensive areas of town?Sounds like the poor who already have a horrible commute wind up paying for the well off to live more conveniently.

          Combining bike share with anything makes sense only for a very few people. Those few can get one of the memberships which are a bargain if you use them.

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          • Bjorn April 12, 2017 at 10:38 am

            Charging people who live in Washington and come to Portland allows them to help fund the transit system that is available for their use. I don’t like the idea of charging a utility fee to everyone who lives in Portland to replace transit fares and then using some of that money to subsidize driving from outside the city with free parking. Since utility fees can’t be charged to out of town users it makes sense to charge for parking.

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            • Kyle Banerjee April 12, 2017 at 11:06 am

              People trying to freeload from Washington represent only one group of users. If they’re not paying adequately for a service that they’re using, transit pass prices can be adjusted to reflect that. Though I believe there are collective benefits if they can be persuaded not to drive all the way in.

              The center is already very expensive and options abound. People who can afford to live there do not need further subsidy by those who can’t. Infrastructure is way better as are transit options. I might add that cycling is much less viable for people who live far enough out that park and ride is even possible. At some point, the amount of fitness and dedication to riding required is greater than I believe most people here can claim.

              Any plan based on soaking a small group of individuals is going to cause them to find ways to dodge that. Public transit is miserable enough in this town that we don’t need more disincentives for people to take it. If you want people clogging the roads and filtering through neighborhoods, shifting the costs to just one group — particularly one that is disproportionately less well off (hence the longer commutes) is a good way to accomplish that.

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              • maccoinnich April 12, 2017 at 12:46 pm

                “The center is already very expensive and options abound. People who can afford to live there do not need further subsidy by those who can’t. ”

                Most of the census tracts in the Biketown service area have a median household income that is below the citywide average.

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              • Kyle Banerjee April 12, 2017 at 2:22 pm

                The citywide average is very high and is driven up dramatically by high income areas in nearby hills that few cyclists could pedal such bikes in.

                It takes serious spin to present low income Portlanders as the primary beneficiaries of Biketown. Anyone who thinks bike infrastructure is so lacking near the core and that people shouldn’t be driving needs to ride out a few miles. Every form of alternative transit is so much easier as you get closer to downtown it’s not even funny.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 12, 2017 at 2:28 pm

                I don’t think that was what he was saying; I read that as pointing out that Biketown is not a toy of the monied elite, as is sometimes portrayed.

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              • Kyle Banerjee April 12, 2017 at 3:18 pm

                That I would agree with.

                But I do not think costs for transit or Biketown should be shifted to people who will disproportionately be underserved.

                I actually like their price model and hope they can make it work. If they expand their area enough that I can use it, I will join. Would be cool if it were cheaper than bus on per ride basis, but fun/speed factor favors it anyway.

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              • Bjorn April 12, 2017 at 4:39 pm

                Kyle I don’t think you read my entire suggestion, which was that people living in the trimet service area would pay a utility fee, we would charge a market rate for parking especially transit adjacent parking used by people coming from outside the trimet service area, and we would eliminate fares for all users. Another way to handle this would be to charge the utility fee and then provide anyone living within the utility fee area with a pass while continuing to charge other users, but that doesn’t do nearly as much to speed boarding as simply having a fareless system would.

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              • Kyle Banerjee April 12, 2017 at 5:16 pm

                I would go for broad fees essentially levied on everyone. I personally would have no trouble justifying it because I believe that transit benefits everyone — including the people who never use it as roads/parking more available. It would also address a number of issues with fares now. I would hope the park and ride fees would be low enough for it to make sense to take transit rather than drive in though.

                However, I don’t think such a plan would have much chance of passing though it doesn’t seem totally outside the realm of possibility.

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  • Phil Richman April 11, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    Today was the first I’ve seen of TriMet acknowledging BikeTown’s existence.

    https://trimet.org/alerts/morrisonyamhill/index.htm#options

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    • Austin April 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      I’ve noticed that Trimet often mentions BikeTown in their social media posts, I’ve always thought that was pretty good.

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  • rachel b April 11, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    “We’d probably like a hardware store, a post office and a cute independent cafe there, too. But just as most of Portland simply isn’t dense enough to support those amenities within walking distance.”

    Uh…I don’t think post offices have been closing because of lack of patronage. More because USPS has been slashed to the bone. I hate going to the P.O. because every single one of them has a line a mile long. Ditto “cute independent cafes.” We drive from our cute walkable dense neighborhood because we’re not willing to wait an hour for breakfast only to squeeze ourselves into a loud sweaty overstuffed misery room. We have to drive to a pharmacy, there are so few choices–and like P.O. and restaurants–lines, lines, lines. I know you’re pro dense dense density, Michael, but we’re plenty dense for this.

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    • rachel b April 11, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      p.s.. or, more accurately for ordinarily-carless us, walk or ride. We have my sis-in-law’s car so have driven recently.

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    • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
      Michael Andersen (Contributor) April 11, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Sounds to me as if a lot of people enjoy spending time in cute walkable dense neighborhoods. If only there were more of them maybe they wouldn’t have to crowd into yours. 🙂

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty April 11, 2017 at 4:21 pm

        Absolutely. Let’s build more and be more protective of the ones we have.

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      • rachel b April 11, 2017 at 10:22 pm

        Agreed! Cute little neighborhoods in the hinterlands, too. But let’s agree on how dense is too dense. Given the landscape and limitations. And considering preservation of the most-prized characteristics of the place (i.e., the things that caused people to move there from other, too-dense, i.e. crowded, places). Or is there no limit?

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      • Beth H April 14, 2017 at 9:47 am

        WHO is walking those cute, dense little neighborhoods? No one who has to work two to four part-time jobs simply in order to survive, because they don’t have time.

        Between the demographics (tourists? Really? Tourism-dependent economies are NOT sustainable), the topography and weather, and the poor bicycle infrastraucture I don’t see a lot of incentives for people to rent a bike here.
        And by the way, the bikes kind of suck. I hosted a friend two weeks ago who rented a Biketown bike. Between the sluggishness of the shifting and the fact that the handlebar angle was uncomfortable and permanently set, she did not have a positive experience with the bike. (Next time, she will rent a used bike from Everybody’s Bike Rentals. If they’re still around.)

        Bike rentals cost so much not only because of profits, but because we’re a litigious nation filled with folks who will sue at the drop of a hat. Liability is the biggest reason so many bike shops got out of rentals ten years ago. I don’t see that changing much either.

        It will not break my heart to see Biketown fail.

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    • wsbob April 14, 2017 at 10:32 am

      “We’d probably like a hardware store, a post office and a cute independent cafe there, too. But just as most of Portland simply isn’t dense enough to support those amenities within walking distance.”

      There’s no name attached…who wrote that?

      Portland is dense enough for the amenities…in fact, neighborhoods throughout Portland used to have them I’m told, somewhat like NYC does. Stores and restaurants with lower prices, sucked the life out of the mom and pop stores and corner diners. Even up in the comparatively high income, west hills, long time grocer, wine shop Stroheckers finally bit the dust last year, because people are willing to drive to be able to pay less.

      May be gone now, but word was, the post office and liquor store were staying open for awhile after Stroh’s closed. The store was a great little oasis in a big residential neighborhood, far in terms of walking and biking distance, from Downtown or any other close grocery store.

      It’s nice to get out of the neighborhood from time to time, but if you care about your neighborhood, and want it to be a place that you don’t have to drive out of for everything, it may be worth paying a little more to have amenities in the neighborhood that can be walked and biked to and from. In some respects, Portland has had a bit of a renaissance in terms of bringing amenities back to its neighborhoods, but in the form of gentrification, which isn’t so good for people of modest income.

      I don’t think bike share can work well long term, without there being strong point to point travel needs to build the system on. It could work well for a small community at which many people in the community work day shift and swing shift at centrally located employment: day shift takes the bikes to work, and brings them home in time for swing shift to ride them back. We’re not robots though, yet, so who would want to be confined to such a system? Might want to stop for a beer after work, and that could mess up the whole timing of things.

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  • briandavispdx April 11, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks for this interesting if sober analysis, Michael. I can’t say this is terribly surprising, and I hope nobody at the City is too surprised by this, for a reason you highlight front-and-center: Infrastructure.

    We’ve talked ad nauseam on these pages about our great stagnation, and we’re all in the “acceptance” stage of grief on the demise of the 2030 bike plan, but look around and it’s easy to see the fruits that a decade of sowing nothing has borne. The Stark/Oak green lanes have hardly any green left in most places. The new 2nd Ave PBL fell flat, largely because it connects from nothing to nothing. Naito is still worse even though festival season is well underway. The Naito gap is plugged (great!) but without Better Naito you still need to take a terrifying bike lane to get there. And still, in 2017, every connection to any west-side destination from any bridge, *even the new super bikey bridge*, leaves a lot to be desired.

    Pretty much every study on this stuff that has ever been written has found infrastructure predicts ridership. When there are attractive bike facilities, people ride. When there aren’t, they don’t. When Portland more-or-less stopped building bike infrastructure a decade ago, it basically limited its share of bike commuters to the 7% or so of Portlanders who are comfortable riding in minimalist, painted infrastructure. It follows that we’re also limiting potential Biketown riders to those who are similarly comfortable playing in traffic.

    Payment, transit integration, etc. should be streamlined to maximize ridership, but my guess is that the success of Biketown will be determined solely by the progress of bike infrastructure in the service area. If anyone is surprised that a city which has thought of every excuse not to build bike infrastructure would then struggle to support a bike share system, I’ve got a bridge to sell you (full disclosure: it lacks bike connectivity).

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    • maccoinnich April 11, 2017 at 6:40 pm

      Sometimes it feels like the Central City Multimodal Project is just around the corner, and always will be.

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    • Kyle Banerjee April 12, 2017 at 5:48 am

      Infrastructure is relevant, but I don’t buy that it predicts ridership for bikes except when distances are short and weather is decent.

      So yes. If the best infrastructure in the area is further improved, I’m sure a few more people who live in the tiny bikeshare service area will ride more often when the weather is decent.

      If infrastructure is improved further out, a few more people will get on their bikes. Yesterday, I had to ride way out on Sandy which is comparable to Powell or Cesar Chavez for cycling pleasure. Weather was excellent, but I saw zero other cyclists. I’m pretty sure I would have seen a few more if that road had decent cycling infrastructure.

      As you point out, not that many people ride. But bring in any one of rain, strong winds, cold, darkness, hills, or longer distances, and that small number plummets. We can do better and should, but the total number will never be that high.

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      • SE Rider April 12, 2017 at 8:03 am

        Funny because I saw probably 300% more (compared to most days lately) cyclists yesterday on my ride home. They were all out on the 50s bikeway (“further out”), riding in bike lanes.

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        • Kyle Banerjee April 12, 2017 at 9:15 am

          On the good days, there have been dramatically more lately.

          But that is part of my point. The day needs to be good, and 50’s is still reasonably close if you only need to get to downtown.

          If you listen to colleagues who drive, it will be obvious that they consider it a hardship to walk a couple minutes to the parking lot in light rain or a bit of chill. You’ll notice they take the elevator to go only a floor or two even though it is slower.

          This is what most people do and convincing them to ride even 15 minutes at very low speeds under near optimal conditions is the best that I think could be hoped for.

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          • SE Rider April 12, 2017 at 9:34 pm

            Oh I agree. I just couldn’t figure out why yesterday (a random Tuesday in April, when the weather really wasn’t very good) seemed like a high ridership day. It was weird. I actually think more people use the 50s to go N/S versus as part of a trip downtown.

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    • soren April 13, 2017 at 3:55 pm

      “we’re all in the “acceptance” stage of grief on the demise of the 2030 bike plan”

      i’m still in the anger stage.

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    • X April 14, 2017 at 11:41 am

      The Second Avenue bike lane fell flat because it has awful pavement, many left-hook opportunities, pedestrian-bike rider conflicts, and parallel vehicle lanes where traffic moves at 12.5 mph.

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  • Tony Rebensdorf April 11, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Here’s another vote to move toward transit integration, and an interesting link as well on the subject….http://bitibi.eu/dox/BiTiBi_Booklet_WEB_Feb2017.pdf

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  • Kittens April 11, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    I appreciate this sobering assessment of Biketown.

    I think it is going to turn out to be a failure. Not because it cant work here. But because it can’t work right now with our shockingly hostile-to-novices infrastructure and inability of PBoT to make any real commitment to push biking to the next level.

    And as noted, the expectation of profitability is absurd.

    Right now you have a lot of fair-weather tourists tooling around the Waterfront, Pearl, South Waterfront, Division, Williams and NW areas.
    Fine.
    Not earth-shattering.
    Good optics for the city and tourism.
    Marginally successfully disseminates bikes to a wider audience.

    Everyone I know has their own bikes. Bikes are just too personal a tool to be truly interchangeable.

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    • lop April 12, 2017 at 12:09 am

      >Bikes are just too personal a tool to be truly interchangeable.

      How far do you ride?

      Probably half the time I grab a biketown it has a little annoying quirk, one of the gears will skip, the brakes are adjusted too loose or too tight, the brake lever is too low or high etc…but I don’t really care. I’m just on it for a couple miles anyway. I don’t have to lock up my own bike, I don’t have to go back to where I locked my bike, I don’t have to get around to maintaining my bike in the winter when I don’t use it as much etc…after hundreds of miles on biketown I vastly prefer them to taking my own bikes on short trips. Those little quirks would bother me a lot more on a longer ride. Got pretty annoying on the one time I took one for a loop down to Sellwood, would never want to deal with minor annoying things like that for a longer loop to Oregon city. But for running errands nearby? Just doesn’t really matter.

      I think short trips will always have to be the bread and butter of the system, makes it much easier to tolerate the inevitable imperfections on the bikes. So when people think about biketown expanding out to 205, st johns etc…are they imagining taking one downtown? Or to run errands in their own neighborhood? There have to be enough trips of the latter for biketown to make sense.

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      • GlowBoy April 12, 2017 at 11:18 am

        I agree. For long rides I prefer my own fit-dialed bike, but I’m no snob when it comes to short rides of a mile or two. Bikeshare is also great for one-way trips: let’s say you went somewhere on the bus, but then the sun came out and you feel like biking home.

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        • SE Rider April 12, 2017 at 9:36 pm

          For the vast majority of the city this scenario just isn’t possible as the service area doesn’t reach their home. That’s where all the talk above out a combination transit/bike share pass is important, to reach all those people they’re going to have to combine with transit.

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      • Kittens April 12, 2017 at 11:24 pm

        Good points

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  • Jonathan R April 12, 2017 at 4:49 am

    I still believe that a system that averages less than three-quarters of a trip per bike per day is not adequately demonstrating that bike share is a “success” on any scale.

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  • JJJ April 12, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Velib, which established bikeshare as a big deal, launched at 1 euro for a 24 hour service, and just 29€ for an annual membership. The daily rate is now 1.70, with 8 buying you a week.

    They quickly established 8 rides per bike per day as the gold standard.

    You want people to use bikeshare like transit? Then it needs to be priced as such.

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    • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
      Michael Andersen (Contributor) April 12, 2017 at 10:02 am

      I agree, but being in the most tourist-rich city in the world is what lets Velib’ do it without direct subsidy.

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      • JJJ April 12, 2017 at 11:40 am

        Velib is absolutely subsidized. The European model is that one company gets rights to all outdoor public advertising. In return, they must provide certain services. That includes bus shelters, restrooms, trashcans…and bikeshare. Hence all the mainland European systems being run by advertising companies. JCDecaux, Clear Channel, or others.

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        • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
          Michael Andersen (Contributor) April 12, 2017 at 1:29 pm

          Thanks – I didn’t realize they were emptying the trash too.

          By the same measure, though, I’d argue that Biketown is (indirectly) subsidized too, because Nike is basically paying for all the stations and bikes to be billboards. We’re subsidizing the system to the tune of $2 million a year by selling visual presence in public space.

          I’m willing to accept that subsidy myself but I understand why someone else, such as the anarchist vandals mentioned last week, wouldn’t.

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          • soren April 13, 2017 at 3:56 pm

            how do you know the vandals were anarchists?

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            • wsbob April 14, 2017 at 9:39 am

              I expect that anarchists are suspect, because of the name they chose to put on the posters they wheat-pasted to the bike share stations, being related to the name that’s used in Portland by an anti-fascist group, as explained last week in a comment by the owner-writer of the bike weblog you’re reading,.

              …ok, so maybe anti-facist is different than anarchist, but how commonly known might that be, especially without details given? People do commonly know the name ‘anarchist’, though not necessarily much about the range of what people associating themselves with that name believe or do. Main thing I think is commonly associated with anarchists and anarchism today: a bunch of loud, destructive people that like to dress up all in black, with their faces covered to hide their identity.

              That association with anarchism is a whole lot different than what I think I’ve read was the social philosophy’s early efforts to have community members avoid being subject to any higher authority than themselves as individuals working together for consensus on issues and concerns of common interest to all, and the community as a whole: no self absorbed, big shot politicians or overpaid, immune to the law corporate entities dominating and exploiting the community and the people living in it.

              If there is a better way to assemble a good bike share system, than Portland managed to do it, I’d like to kniow what that way is. That the vandals haven’t offered, and probably don’t even have a better idea for putting a good bike share system together, may be the biggest problem with the destructive action they chose. Destruction should only be resorted to as the last available option…and maybe not even then. All the vandals really proved, is that they can destroy stuff, and that they don’t really think things through before they decide to do it.

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              • soren April 18, 2017 at 1:07 pm

                “being related to the name that’s used in Portland by an anti-fascist group”

                rose city is a common nickname for portland. by this logic anyone who uses “stumptown” is vegan.

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  • wsbob April 12, 2017 at 11:11 am

    “…As of Monday, the city says, Biketown has 2,837.

    Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, by contrast, had almost 16,000 annual members by the end of its first year, in 2010. …” andersen

    DC has more than five times the annual membership in bike share, than Portland does. Is there an obvious reason for this given, that I’ve missed?

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    • Otter April 12, 2017 at 12:09 pm

      Worth noting—DC Metro is 6 mill people. CaBi is 100% owned and funded by the city.

      Pricing structures and membership configs vary so these membership comparisons aren’t apples to apples, and in that, not entirely fair. BIKETOWN would do well to reconfigure their convoluted pricing options but that’s no secret. There are plenty of metrics pointing to the program’s success to date.

      Pot-stirry journalism. I’m excited for and optimistic about the system’s first full summer season.

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      • wsbob April 12, 2017 at 9:55 pm

        thanks…quick web search says Portland’s metro area has 2.3 million as of ’13-‘!4. Would have to compare more carefully, the two cities bike share service areas, and other metrics as you noted, to get a better sense of why DC has so many more memberships. For now though, Portland’s system seems set up to be serving not the metro area( correct?), but just Downtown and close-in neighborhoods…much smaller area than the metro area.

        I have to say, I don’t know much about DC. I’ve heard that the city has a high population of black people. To make up that 16,000 memberships, who is riding DC’s bike share bikes? This, Portland needs to know, and figure out whether there are parallels that exist or could be developed in Portland.

        Actually, I know just one person from DC, takes yearly vacations to visit relatives here, so we talked a bit about that city’s bike share last year. He’s retired, good income, basically good physical condition, said he’s used bike share a lot. He’s black.

        Portland needs to know what can have its system become very useful for a lot more people within its service area.

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        • lop April 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

          The point about metro area size might have been that people who don’t live in DC could still be members if they took transit into the city for work and used bike share as a leg on that commute or to go out to lunch or something.

          Here is a DC bike share member survey if you’re interested.

          https://d21xlh2maitm24.cloudfront.net/wdc/CABI-2016MemberSurveyReport-FINAL.pdf?mtime=20170302144201

          18% of respondents said they used bike share to access public transit 6 or more times a month.

          77% of respondents said they have a station within 5 blocks of their home. 86% within 5 blocks of their place of work.

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          • wsbob April 17, 2017 at 12:26 pm

            lop…thanks for the link. I started sorting through the survey this weekend. It has a huge amount of data that is a lot to take in at one time, or easily draw any definite conclusions about. Seems to have been a well conducted survey and study though, so it may have some helpful info towards figuring out how have Portland’s system perform better.

            I haven’t yet got the area size or the total area population number down, but one major difference between the DC system and Portland’s system, is as I think you’re alluding to, that the DC system covers a huge area compared to Portland’s system just covering downtown and close in neighborhoods. That DC’s system serves multiple counties, likely explains that systems high membership compared to Portland’s.

            The demographics indicating the people overwhelmingly using DC’s system, weren’t encouraging either: mostly white guys younger than 35 with good incomes. That’s not enough of a range of the people representing the population, for the system to stand a good chance at long term success. More people older than that, and more people of color need to be using they system too.

            I didn’t check to see how much it’s costing the public to run DC’s system out of the government budget. In Portland, that would become a major factor, if this city’s sponsors, Nike and Kaiser, came to feel the return on their contribution wasn’t continuing to be worthy.

            Beaverton could be in some ways, a better test site for bike share, than is Portland. I say that because unlike Portland, Beaverton has a smaller Downtown, but it’s…I call it three, maybe four key centers…are distanced a short ways from each other. …bike share could work well as a point to point means of travel between those centers by the people from the close-in neighborhoods to those points: Beav Town Sq, Cedar Hills Crossing, Old Town, and The Round/City Hall. People might walk up to a third or half mile from their neighborhood to one of those points, and then bike share to a different point and back, within hours…and then walk back home from the original point…maybe.

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    • SilkySlim April 12, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      Also: DC is infamous for terrible traffic during commute hours. The steps they’ve taken to mitigate over the years is pretty amazing. For example, I grew up right on the DC line with Maryland at Georgia Avenue, a major (7-8 lane?) thoroughfare. They actually have lane indicators to signal which are open to only northbound or southbound traffic during commute hours! Makes Powell seem pretty tame, right?

      And also: DC in the midst of massive Metro overhaul as the system reaches middle age, including full line shutdowns at times. I don’t think this overhaul was in the works as they introduced their bikeshare, but it absolutely has driven adoption.

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    • Bjorn April 12, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      I think it is a pretty simple case of the cost of driving in terms of time and parking expense pushing people to other alternatives. Portland charges less than the market would bear for parking and by doing so they subsidize driving making it more difficult for other modes to compete.

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  • Andy K April 12, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    I think many people do not realize the work and money that goes into these bikes and stations…and what a great system it is, overall. No it’s not free and the bike network is not any where near complete, but it’s well funded so we can have tons of reliable bikes, and much better than having no bikeshare at all.

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  • Erleichda April 12, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    I think the easiest of all fixes would be a coordinated effort to get much better signage for preferred routes. Not just tourists, many users have no idea what the best streets and routes might be to get somewhere. It’s truly terrible, quite the putoff. Maps on an app or phone don’t do it justice either. Take Flanders and Everett in NW…Why on earth are they both bikeways? Which is better and why? Our infrastructure still stinks, but what we have can’t be easily identified.

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  • Scott Kocher April 12, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    I find the pricing options confusing, restrictive, and punitive if you “mess up” and go over your minutes or whatever. Hopefully they can tinker with them to offer more options and relax the limitations a bit.

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  • soren April 14, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Biketown: 1000 bikes.
    Pronto: 500 bikes

    So the fact that biketown is doing about as well as pronto (at least as measured by members) is nothing to celebrate.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty April 14, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      And if you look at the raw tonnage of our bikes, we look even worse.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu April 15, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Since Biketown’s membership is $144, 1.7X higher than Pronto’s membership, Biketown’s 2837 memberships after nine months is equivalent in revenue terms to 4800 Pronto memberships.

    That looks a fair bit better, doesn’t it?

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  • Eric Leifsdad April 16, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Imagine if everyone could ride the bus or bike for free, and we paid for it with driving + parking fees. Or if we even just subsidized the efficient modes of transport as much (per passenger mile) as we do cars.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty April 16, 2017 at 10:35 am

      That’s easy, because it’s not so different than today. We’re getting greatly discounted fares because Trimet is being funded by a general business tax (on the theory, I suppose, that employers derive the most benefit from our transit system?). If we increased that existing tax by about 30% (or raised the revenue from other sources, as you suggest), it would cover the current operation costs.

      From an energy standpoint (energy per passenger mile), Trimet is about as efficient as a large sedan carrying only the driver. So more efficient than a typical SUV, but less efficient than a Yaris or a Fit, or most electric vehicles out there. If you want to subsidize “efficiency”, we’d prioritize small cars, carpools, bikes, and walking over Trimet.

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      • lop April 16, 2017 at 10:21 pm

        What’s trimet’s per passenger mile energy usage look like if you get rid of coverage routes, low ridership offpeak runs, and low ridership ends of more heavily used lines? And does the presence of the transit system where it’s more efficient than average to any extent encourage people to take shorter trips – even if per passenger mile energy usage is the same wouldn’t a three mile bus ride still be better than a ten mile trip in a typical sedan? Or to live in smaller units closer in – how does the life cycle energy cost of modest 500-1000 square foot studio/one bedroom/family apartments in a midsize building that is built on a site of what was a few 100 year old houses compare to housing the same number of people mostly in a greenfield suburb, two individuals or families in mcmansions rebuilt on the site of those old homes and one of the old houses gets renovated for the last individual/family?

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 16, 2017 at 11:10 pm

          All good questions. One thing I wish I had added to my post is that even if you drive a super efficient car, it will always be more energy efficient for you to take the bus (or hop in a car already going where you are going) than to drive, even if, from a system operation standpoint, the opposite is true.

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          • 9watts April 16, 2017 at 11:16 pm

            And… just to complicate (or simplify) matters. With the urgent need to leave all remaining fossil fuels in the ground neither of those options are good ones, or usefully compared since it is not the *relative* rate at which we burn the fossil fuels remaining that is relevant but the *absolute* quantity left unburned.

            The future will be human powered.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 16, 2017 at 11:41 pm

          And one more thing; in regards to the energy costs of various buildings, the answer is almost entirely in how that particular building or unit is operated. A LEED platinum building can use more energy if the occupants crank the heat or leave all their lights on.

          Probably the most efficient option you mentioned was maintaining the old building and having the occupant wear a thick sweater in winter.

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  • Jim Lee April 17, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Are we certain that the anarchists were Vandals? Perhaps they were Visigoths, Ostrogoths, or Gepids. Maybe even Huns!

    Why do Vandals always get bad press?

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    • 9watts April 17, 2017 at 8:42 am

      +1 for historical acuity!

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    • q April 17, 2017 at 9:40 am

      They might get better press if they had their own typeface, like the Gothic groups do.

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      • q April 17, 2017 at 9:55 am

        Sounds silly, but then again you don’t see the Helveticans or Comics ever blamed for anything.

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    • wsbob April 17, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      “…Why do Vandals always get bad press?” j lee

      Well, that’s a good question. Could it possibly be because they destroy people’s things, apparently just for the heck of it? Because they’re bored or whatever similarly dumb reason to fool around with aerosol paint cans?

      Actually, according to them, the people that messed up the bike share system, said they were ‘saboteurs’ rather than vandals. Some people early on, picked up on that hoped for distinction, noting that the people that did this, by way of the implied message on their posters, was that their destructive goofing around was of some higher calling than plain old vandalism. They seemed to think they were doing what they did for some kind of common good: “…our city is not a…”. Or at least maybe they were counting on someone thinking this.

      That was kind of a funny diversion with the font type references though. Font type character used, is a kind of funny thing about this group too. If it weren’t for the dumb stunt they used them for, those hand made posters could’ve stood alone as a form of art. They could have just spray painted that they were ‘saboteurs’, but they didn’t…instead, they went to the trouble to make prints, or maybe just stencils, which if so, is still way above the quality of the crummy paint bombing so many people seem to feel they’ve got to hit the city with to ‘express themselves’.

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      • 9watts April 17, 2017 at 12:07 pm

        You seem to have missed the capital V.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandals

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 17, 2017 at 12:26 pm

          That’s the wrong page. You’re thinking of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vandals

          I’ll take the Anarchy Burger! Hold the Government!

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          • 9watts April 17, 2017 at 12:27 pm

            Well that may be who *you* were thinking of…. 😉

            Are the Visigoths also a punk band?

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            • q April 17, 2017 at 12:31 pm

              I believe they are a Goth band.

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              • 9watts April 17, 2017 at 12:33 pm
              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm

                Every proto-European group needs their own font and their own band. Otherwise, they’re just lame.

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              • q April 17, 2017 at 2:30 pm

                HK–I gave you a “recommend” for working Europe into your comment.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 17, 2017 at 2:39 pm

                Right back atchya!

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          • q April 17, 2017 at 12:30 pm

            Is Martha still their lead singer?

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        • q April 17, 2017 at 1:01 pm

          Speaking of history, few people are aware that our current “Gimme a High Five” began in ancient Rome as “Render unto me a Capital V”.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty April 17, 2017 at 1:01 pm

            I miss that old timey rhimey.

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          • 9watts April 17, 2017 at 1:02 pm

            which meant…?

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty April 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

              Don’t leave me hanging!

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            • q April 17, 2017 at 1:12 pm

              They didn’t have 5s back then, so they had to use Vs.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 17, 2017 at 1:24 pm

                And “don’t leave me hanging” is kind of a bro thing.

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      • q April 17, 2017 at 12:25 pm

        wsbob–I like your observation about the posters. Where else but here does a group wait to vandalize until they’ve created an appropriate logo and poster? Before they bashed the bikes apart, did they have a graphics committee meet to discuss the size of the rose relative to the other elements in the logo? Did they talk about font? Recycled content of the paper? Did they check whether LazerQuick or Pronto Print had the best deal on printing 20? Did they measure the BikeTown kiosks first to get the posters to fit so exactly? Do they make decisions by vote, or consensus, or…? Did they get sign permits?

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        • wsbob April 17, 2017 at 1:36 pm

          hey q…just wild speculation of course, but I wonder if it has occurred to anyone, that the people that created the poster, and possibly supported the work of the spray can people, are artists? I mean, actual artists that take their instincts and skills seriously, maybe even studied for it at a school they worked to pay the tuition for?

          Artists have a long participation, often worthy and rightfully respected, in all kinds of change, social, political and civil. Worthy if there’s at least some rhyme or reason behind the participation. In this world we live in that seems to become inhabited by many people becoming increasingly crazier every day, maybe neither rhyme or reason has a place in having people decide what they do is right or wrong. …people blowing themselves and other people up…driving into crowds of innocent people, hurting and killing them?

          I don’t really want to see artists doing good work, get in trouble for hangin’ with some nuts that think they’ve got to bust up stuff to have a thrill. It’s just fine for people to say ‘Nike sucks, it’s an evil corporation!’, and picket the store downtown, or the world hq out in the beav…if that’s how they feel. In fact, definitely ‘just do it’, if the protest is on that level.

          Seeing good art skills and talent, mixed into a crummy stunt like the bike share assault, was depressing.

          On a brighter note: yes ‘martha’….as in Martha and The Vandellas…’Heat Wave’…c’mon Oregon weather…a little of that, please?

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        • El Biciclero April 19, 2017 at 4:56 pm

          Kerning—don’t forget kerning.

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          • q April 19, 2017 at 5:14 pm

            Everyone knows Al Capone got put away by the IRS for tax evasion after the cops couldn’t pin any other crimes on him, but few know that the IRS itself couldn’t go after him until it could positively link several “smoking gun” documents to him, and that was done by their Kerning Analysis Unit. I’d guess that’s what will bring down the Saboteurs.

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        • Pete April 24, 2017 at 1:27 pm

          Don’t forget soy-based ink!!

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  • Adams Carroll April 19, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Trips per bike per day is the bike share industry’s best metric for comparing infrastructure utilization between cities, but it is obsolete in the era of smart bikes and pay as you go pricing.

    Most new systems are launching with smart bikes that allow users to park bikes away from stations while they go about their business. This greatly expands the utility of bikeshare as a transportation option. However most bikeshare systems report trips as beginning and ending at an official station. In a smart dock system a user who needs to take a round trip or multi-stop trip might rent a bike, ride to the station closest to their appointment, return the bike, walk several blocks to do their business, walk back to the station, re-rent the bike, and finally return to their ultimate destination. The smart dock system would report this as two trips. In a smart bike system with onboard locks, there is no need to detour to the closest station for a round trip errand like this. Most people are happy to continue to pay rental fees in exchange for the convenience of parking right outside their destination and the confidence of knowing their bike will be available to complete their trip when they are ready to head back to their final destination. The smart bike system would report this as just one trip.

    In addition to the technological revolution that has occurred with bikeshare hardware, new and established systems alike are moving towards pay-as-you-go pricing models and abolishing the confusing multi-day-pass-with-registration-and-usage-fee options that early US bikeshare systems forced casual users to select. These passes include a registration fee that deters almost everybody besides tourists, as well as penalties for keeping a bike out beyond allotted ride times. This pricing model encourages riders to be anxious about their rental time and frequently dock an re-rent bicycles in order to avoid overcharges. In NYC, my wife and I docked and unlocked our bikes three times on one trip from brooklyn to central park to avoid being hit with usage fees. We did the same on our return trip. In our minds we each took two trips – one there and one back – but the smart dock system would have reported it as six trips each. Pay-as-you-go is a better experience for most customers since you know you will only be charged for what you use and you don’t need to worry about extracting all of the value out of your registration fee or watching the clock to avoid penalties. It is also better for operators, because it ensures that revenues match actual bike utilization.

    Rental time per bike per day is a better metric of infrastructure utilization than trips per bike per day. Depending on pricing and technology, a trip will mean different things in different bikeshare systems. Time remains constant.

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    • wsbob April 20, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      smart bike, smart dock….the distinction between those two types of bike share components is an important one I’m still getting clear in my mind as to how they might effect functionality of the system. Thanks for the info.

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  • Eric Leifsdad April 23, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    BSNYC on the first year of citi bike share: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/24/opinion/bike-shares-rough-ride.html

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    • 9watts April 23, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      An excellent piece. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Eva May 2, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    I’ve been looking for up-to-date statistics on this service. I once did some design research on bikesharing for Portland and the upshot was that it’s a poor fit for this city because bikesharing thrives on being a transit link within a serious pedestrian culture, which we don’t really have. Boston, New York, London, Paris…these are places where it can mean you no longer have to walk that last mile after exiting mass transit. Plus, most people who want to bike in Portland do have bikes already (except tourists, and they were formerly well-served by local bike rentals and tour companies), and there is a tipping point in the willingness to commute by bike that is all about infrastructure: those who feel safe biking without bike lanes that are safely separate from traffic are already doing so, and I believe I read our biking stats have been flat for the last few years, aren’t they (despite increasing population)? About 7% for a few years now? Bikesharing seems like a solution without a problem. The real challenge is an unwillingness among many to use bikes seriously for commuting without lanes that look/feel safer than just a painted line, it’s about getting children biking early and building up a good feeling about using bikes everywhere, it’s about restricting cars more seriously in the city core to free up the roads for mass transit and biking, and it could also be about supporting local companies in getting “recycled” commuter bikes to people or creating more storage/maintenance services that democratize or simplify bike ownership for urban dwellers. I don’t think having a bikesharing fleet harms anything, and I’m sure tourists like grabbing a bike. I used one in Taiwan, for example. But I would like to see evidence of deep, daily benefit to our citizens and environment that outweighs the marketing opportunity for Nike.

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    • 9watts May 2, 2017 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks for posting this. These are some of the questions I’ve asked here for years now.

      “But I would like to see evidence of deep, daily benefit to our citizens and environment that outweighs the marketing opportunity for Nike.”

      Anyone care to take a stab at that one?

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      • Alan 1.0 May 18, 2017 at 12:09 pm

        Cutting off your nose to spite your face?

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        • 9watts May 18, 2017 at 12:24 pm

          Hm. I like that phrase but am struggling in this instance to figure out who/what you are referring to.

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          • Alan 1.0 May 18, 2017 at 12:41 pm

            To the quote you took from Eva:

            “But I would like to see evidence of deep, daily benefit to our citizens and environment that outweighs the marketing opportunity for Nike.”

            I cannot for the life of me grasp how it makes sense for Portland to make a decision on what’s good for it based on what’s good for Nike. Well, I can see how a city benefits in general from having businesses, but just because a particular business finds a sweet spot for its interests which happens to coincide with where the city (and its interests) agrees to a deal, that doesn’t mean that business shouldn’t consider the deal massively to its benefit. I make a deal based on the cost/benefit to me. I assume the party I’m dealing with acts similarly. I don’t actually care if they think they are – or even if they really are – making an absolute killing on the deal, as long as my c/b benefits me, it’s a good deal.

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  • Alex Reedin May 18, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Perhaps my personal experience is atypical, but personally although I like the bikes, everything electronic/virtual/phone about the system is a pain, not a pleasure. The buttons on the bike keypads have to be pressed anywhere from 1 to infinity times to work. A sizeable percentage of bicycles are searching in vain for the network at any given time. If you change credit cards, you can’t do it via the app. You can’t do it over the phone (I called, they told me “No.”) You can’t do it on a mobile device through the web because the website is not at all mobile optimized, so much so as to make it impossible (need to zoom the page to click a link, can’t zoom the page because the page is mostly a map, and the zoom gesture affects the map not the page). I think this, combined with the pricing, is a significant barrier to people joining.

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    • Alan 1.0 May 18, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      100% agree. I like bikeshares in general and have used several. I’ve looked at BikeTown bikes several times. Every time, I’ve decided to postpone that particular learning hurdle to the next time.

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  • Peter Pappas July 6, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    I’m already car-free in downtown PDX and Biketown seemed easier than owning a bike (with added flexibility of one way rentals.) So last week I joined as an annual member. Only problem is it seems to be impossible to rent a bike.

    Since joining a few days ago, I tried over 50+ bikes at 4 different hubs. I was only able to successfully rent a bike 4 times out of 50+ attempts. I called Biketown support and they confirm my accounts is active and I’m attempting the correct steps.

    Here are some of the issues:
    1. Bike screen will not wake up to communicate or is too illegible to even know what’s going on
    2. Screen does not react the RFD card
    3. Screen will not allow my to enter my full membership number – quits after a few digits
    4. If I get as far as entering PIN, screen will not allow me enter my full pin
    5. Boots me out at some point during the process and I have to start over

    I did try reserving a bike using smartphone app and then logging in when I get there. That was one of the successful logins. Other times, my reserved bike won’t accept my pin and kicks me out.

    Anyone else have trouble getting logged into Biketown?

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  • Phil Richman July 7, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    1) Legibility is a problem in the bright sun for sure.
    2) I suggest NOT using the RFD card.
    3, 4 & 5 happy to help. There are some quirks, but I’ve gotten used to them. I sent you a message.

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  • Peter Pappas July 7, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    I connected with Phil and he gave me some useful tips. First off, don’t try to use the RFD card. It doesn’t work well. I think in my case I always tried the RFD first. While the system tried to respond to the RFD, I moved on and tried to punch in my member #. I suspect the system was now frozen between 2 inputs. Phil also demonstrated punching in number with a strong and fast motion. Bottom line – it all worked. Message to BikeTown – either improve the reliability of RFD cards or stop telling people to use them. And many thanks to Phil!

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