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Portland will launch Biketown-inspired adaptive bike rental program next week

Posted by on July 12th, 2017 at 1:36 pm

More rentals options for these bikes are coming soon!
(Photo: PBOT)

One year ago Portland was readying for the big debut of its Nike-sponsored bike share system when a thorny issue popped up: The 1,000 Biketown bikes were useless to those with disabilities and who otherwise are unable to ride a standard bicycle.

Instead of ignore the problem, PBOT put their heads down and got to work. They launched a survey to garner feedback from people with disabilities (192 people responded) and convened a task force to figure out how the program could work. The result is a new bike rental system that will be separate from — but complementary to — the Biketown system. It’s set to launch next Friday July 21st.

The new program isn’t fully fleshed out yet; but based on the survey and interviews with adaptive bike users, PBOT has figured out enough to launch a pilot.

The city will work with two existing shops: Kerr Bikes, a rental company; and Different Spokes, an adaptive bike specialist. Each of them have agreed to provide a selection of handcycles, trikes, and tandems to registered users for short-term rentals. Kerr has locations on the Esplanade (near OMSI) and at Salmon Street Fountain in Waterfront Park. Different Spokes is located at SE 4th and Ivon, just steps away from the entrance of the Springwater Corridor.


The location of these shops is important. 52 percent of survey respondents said they wanted to use the bikes for recreation, versus just seven percent for transportation. And 82 percent of people who took the survey said they’d prefer to use them on multi-use paths.

As part of the program the City of Portland will provide a staffed rental process and storage for the user’s mobility device. PBOT and the bike shops will not be responsible for transferring people from their mobility devices to the adaptive bikes and they will not provide any emergency pick-up services. The cost of the rentals is still up-in-the-air but is expected to be around $5 to $10 an hour. While it will be operated separated from Biketown, there will be some cross-promotion and marketing.

Transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman will be on hand July 21st to launch the pilot project. It will start at Kerr Bikes’ OMSI location (1945 SE Water Ave) and will include a short ride to Different Spokes (423 SE Ivon). Everyone is welcome. For more information on Portland’s Adaptive Bicycle Rental Pilot Project see the city’s website and check out our calendar listing for details on the launch event.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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    bikeninja July 12, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    I think this will add to Portlands growing allure as a tourist destination ( yes, this has both good and bad elements I admit). As non-driving Millenials from the U.S. and other countries travel they come to realize that many tourism destinations in the U.S. ( including much of Hawaii) are downright inhospitable to visitors who want to move around without renting a car or being stuck on a tour bus. This adaptive bike share ads another group who will find it attractive to visit and be able to move around under their own power.

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    MaxD July 12, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    This is so cool! I am very proud of PBOT to have come up with a practical and inclusive response. It make a few tweaks, but their response to this is admirable. I hope they can address the issue of people under the age of 18 being excluded soon.

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    Brian W. July 12, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Very Nice! It would be cool if the bikes were some how marked as rentals, maybe just painted the Bike Town Orange, so they could serve as advertisements for themselves. I don’t think a lot of people will be aware that they exist. Seeing them out and about would be powerful for folks who could use them.

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    Robert Ping July 12, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    I have a broken foot and can’t ride a regular bike for awhile longer. This will be a great way for me to be able to have some fun with a handcycle; I would probably do the river loop with my boys. Can’t wait!

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  • John Liu
    John Liu July 13, 2017 at 7:41 am

    I went back to the original 2016 thread on this. Many commenters supported making Biketown accessible to disabled riders, while many other commenters warned that it is impractical to accommodate disabled riders in a bikeshare system.

    This program now confirms the latter comments. The fleet of adaptive rental bikes are not part of Biketown. It is a completely separate program, with a different business model, focused on recreational riding on a few MUPs. Basically it is a standard bike rental model, with adaptive bikes, partly subsidized and operated by the city.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 13, 2017 at 10:58 am

      yes you are right John.

      PBOT went to the USDOT-approved definition of bike share which calls it something that can be “self-service” and used w/o an attendant 24/7. That’s why they weren’t under legal obligation to make bike share ADA compliant.

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