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Biketown celebrates one year of service this week

Posted by on July 14th, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Biketown bike share launch-17.jpg

It’s cool. I’m 1-year-old. No big whoop.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Can you believe Biketown is already one? This Wednesday is the official anniversary of the launch of of Portland’s bike share system.

To mark the occasion, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has a full week of festivities and promotions lined up (see below). We’ve also got the latest numbers to show that — while it’s not perfect and there have been bumps along the road — Biketown has been a success.

As of last week, 71,348 people have used Biketown. Motivate Inc., the company that operates our system, said that breaks down into 3,482 active annual members and 67,866 casual members (people who have purchased a day pass or single-ride ticket).

But ask any bike share expert and they’ll tell you the most important metric is how many times each bike is used per day. Over the past year Portland’s bikes have averaged .93 trips per bike per day. As we reported in April, that’s not great. Back then, a PBOT spokesman said the number was comparable to other cities our size. The bad news is Biketown needs to increase that number over time; the good news is that according to Motivate the average number of trips per bike per day has doubled since July 1st (thank you sunshine!) to a much more respectable 1.95.

A few other fun stats: People have ridden a total of 574,693 miles so far on about 300,000 trips for an average distance per trip of about 1.9 miles.

Numbers only tell part of the Biketown story. The system itself has been reliable and PBOT and Motivate get high marks for customer service, marketing and management. I say this mostly because I’ve used the system quite a bit myself and I haven’t heard a peep from anyone with a major complaint about how they were treated by Biketown staff (and believe me, I’d hear it). I’ve been impressed with Biketown’s marketing — an important aspect of the system given that transportation is a very competitive market.

Speaking of which, check out the slate of promotions during its big birthday week:

We’ve covered all the ups-and-downs of Biketown’s first year — from it’s station location controversies and major bout with vandalism, to its expansion and supplemental sponsorship deal with Kaiser Permanente.

And who could forget when those daredevils at The Lumberyard launched a Biketown bike into the air on a huge ramp or when we tested one during Snowmaggedon?

And of course there was that one time when someone raced one of the heavy and slow orange bikes in a MTB race out at Portland International Raceway…

We still don’t see as many Biketown riders on commuter routes during rush hour as we’d like. And PBOT needs to add a lot more bikes and stations to the system so that more Portlanders can have access to the dense network (and the conveniences that affords). But overall, the system seems to be healthy at its one-year mark.

Year two will present the system with even more challenges and expectations: When will Biketown integrate with TriMet’s bus and rail network? Where and how should it expand? How will Portland adapt to a possible influx of hot private start-up companies like Spin, Ofo, Limebike, and Mobike?

Stay tuned for more coverage later in the week.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

24 Comments
  • jake July 17, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    I have been really pleased with this service since day one.

    I’ve probably split my commutes between Bikeytown and the bus since it launched, and it’s been amazing for running errands and so forth. Even when I go outside the service area e.g. to get to a grocery store, the “hold” option has made that viable. For most trips, Bikeytown has completely replaced my personal bike.

    So while I would like the service area to expand, and for there to be slightly denser station placement in certain areas (inner NE), I’m overall really really happy with the service, and I recommend it to folks all the time.

    Here’s to many more years!

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  • Adam
    Adam July 17, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Congrats! I’ve generally been very pleased with the Biketown service. It’s really nice to have the option to pay an extra $2 to bike right to the front door of my destination. My only gripe is that the service area isn’t expanding fast enough. 🙂

    Question though, will Biketown have to pay the $15 bike tax when they eventually expand the system? 😛

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    • canuck July 18, 2017 at 8:43 am

      They won’t be buying from a retailer in Oregon so no. They will be purchasing them from the manufacturer in Brooklyn NY.

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  • Steve Scarich July 17, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Unless the goals are set before the service is initiated, judgments made now are pretty meaningless. This is always the way government works; it does not give a metric for success or failure, and therefore can always claim success at a later point. Jonathan is giving some vague judgments, but they are just one man’s subjective feelings. On a separate note, Bend started a service a couple of month’s ago; ever time that I have walked by the stands, all the slots are full and I have never seen one being ridden. Not to say that they aren’t, I just haven’t seen one.

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  • AMA July 17, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Biketown has been great. I commuted to work for several months and use it for errands 1-2 times per week now. My one complaint is that the buttons are a little squirrely. Sometimes they double enter, sometimes you have to mash them to get them to work. Mostly though, it’s a rad service that is well worth 12 bucks a month.

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  • Justin M July 17, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    I just can’t handle looking at the six-foot tall nikebikers riding around tho with the saddles all the way down. it causes me serious mental anguish. Seriously it’s like seeing someone wearing a helmet that’s tipped back leaving their entire forehead uncovered. Thank goodness the nikebikers aren’t wearing helmets. If I saw both the helmet thing and saddle thing at once my brain might literally explode.

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    • Adam
      Adam July 17, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      Hah. The most cringeworthy thing I’ve seen is when one person put the U-lock in the front basket rather than the holster.

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      • Mossby Pomegranate July 17, 2017 at 8:37 pm

        Worse than all that is that guy leaning on the seat knowing this bike could have been used in the naked bike ride.

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        • Justin M July 18, 2017 at 4:01 pm

          I dunno. I think all the hands that touch the saddles on a daily basis are probably less clean than a single butt three weeks ago.

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    • Alex Reedin July 18, 2017 at 10:44 am

      I think I’m sometimes one of the people with the helmet tipped all the way back. Well, maybe not all the way back (that sounds uncomfortable), but most of the way back. I generally wear a helmet when biking on non-greenway, non-MUP, non-downtown streets in order to avoid lectures from acquaintances/friends/coworkers who see me while they’re driving, and potentially to get more respect from strangers driving. (For appearing as a “properly equipped, safety conscious cyclist” rather than one of those “reckless, scofflaw” ones. Not sure whether this is a thing but I haven’t gotten any negative comments from people driving in a long time so I’m happy.) I just don’t care enough to adjust it properly and keep it adjusted, and so far, no one has lectured me for an improperly adjusted helmet so my objective has been achieved. In my experience, a properly adjusted helmet is usually uncomfortably tight, and falls out of adjustment within a week or two.

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      • Adam
        Adam July 18, 2017 at 10:53 am

        I’ve actually noticed that drivers have treated me better since I stopped wearing a helmet. My guess is that they are less worried about hitting or passing too closely to someone when they look more “protected”.

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        • Kyle Banerjee July 18, 2017 at 11:07 am

          There is research showing that drivers cut a little more space for helmetless riders. Cyclists perceived to be women also get a bit more space. Whether that’s because they believe the rider is vulnerable, less capable, or both is unclear.

          It is a mistake for people to believe that a helmet makes someone “safe” but it is also a mistake to think that slightly more clearance from cars and other cyclists mitigates any benefit a helmet might offer. The reality is that a properly worn helmet provides substantial protection against impacts to the head. It does nothing to keep you from getting pulped.

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          • Matthew in Portsmouth July 18, 2017 at 11:12 am

            My personal opinion is that an improperly worn helmet is a hat.

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            • Kyle Banerjee July 18, 2017 at 3:07 pm

              Agreed. Unfortunately, many people wear helmets improperly which can render them nearly or totally useless.

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        • Alex Reedin July 18, 2017 at 12:48 pm

          I find that to be true on greenways and low-traffic streets, but I wonder whether it’s true on e.g. Division or Foster. I worry that the small percentage of drivers who are likely to be annoyed at someone biking “in the way” could be more likely to want to “teach me a lesson” by buzzing me close or yelling at me if I don’t look like I’ve made a reasoned, considered decision to ride on the road I’m riding on. I do think wearing a helmet makes someone look more conformist and more prepared – and thus more likely to have considered, and discarded for good reason, the option of riding on the “bike streets” that a motorist or two has suggested that I use.

          Also, when I’m biking on Foster or Division, I’m going fast on my e-bike. I have a theory that two types of people riding get treated slightly better by people driving:
          *”Casual”/”Tourist”/”Just Like Me” looking people – attributes may include upright posture, riding slowly and a little wobbly, BikeTown bike, no helmet, street/casual clothes, kids in tow, riding on low-stress streets, etc.
          *”Commuter” / “Practical” / “Prepared” / “Responsible” looking people – attributes may include commuter type jackets, business casual pants, copious lights, riding medium to fast, signalling turns, riding at rush hour, etc.

          I have no direct evidence to support this theory, but these seem like the two types of riders that Joe Car Commuter finds it hardest to “other.” They’re just doing their thing, just like Joe Car Commuter but a little different – not like all those weirdos in their stretchy clothing, or like those hipsters making a statement with their style, or like those people who look like they might be homeless.

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          • Kyle Banerjee July 18, 2017 at 3:15 pm

            I’ve heard drivers say things that support your theory. I see some degree of sympathy for “normal” people and a certain amount of respect for people who look like they know what they’re doing.

            But seem to play a bit harder with people who appear to fit bike-connected stereotypes such as hipsters and racer boys.

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            • John Liu
              John Liu July 20, 2017 at 12:33 pm

              I’ve being about 2/3 of my Portland urban riding in civvies and about 1/3 in bike kit, haven’t noticed any difference in the frequency of aggressive driver behavior, those incidents are so few that it’d be hard to discern a difference.

              I have noticed one big factor in how drivers treat cyclists. This applies where the cyclists is bottlenecking a short stretch of road: the road is narrow, the driver doesn’t have room to pass, so he is stuck behind the cyclist for a block or two. In that situation, a cyclist who “looks” like he is working hard and trying to pedal as fast as he can tends to provoke less overt driver hostility. While a rider who “looks” like he is just casually pootling along and making little effort tends to get drivers overtly upset.

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        • Justin M July 18, 2017 at 4:04 pm

          Lots of opinions about helmets on both sides. Personally, I figure there’s a lot more non-car risk on my ride since I’m lucky enough to be separated from motor vehicles on most of my ride. Therefore I wear it on rainy days or lately since my front wheel needs a new rim and I don’t have the time to rebuild it for another three weeks.

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  • maccoinnich July 17, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    When Biketown launched I bought an annual membership, mostly because I wanted to support the system. I’ve found myself using the system far more than I thought I would. It’s incredibly useful for short to medium length trips when I don’t already have my own bike with me.

    It’s a shame the bikes aren’t getting more riders per day. I can’t help but think this is in part due to the fact that the bike infrastructure sucks in the areas of town where Biketown has the most potential riders. I don’t particularly like cycling down SW 4th Ave in mixed traffic, but I’m not afraid to do it either. For more casual riders I imagine it must be terrifying. If we had even a skeleton network of protected bike lanes through the central city I bet Biketown ridership would see dramatic increases.

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    • Phil Richman July 17, 2017 at 7:51 pm

      Exactly. Put up more protected 2 way cycle tracks ala Better Naito, remove on street parking or travel lanes. Watch the city transform like NYC is…

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    • Kyle Banerjee July 18, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Speaking for myself, it’s service area rather than bike infrastructure.

      I would get a membership just out of the principle of the matter except virtually all my rides start outside the service area, go through it, and end somewhere else outside. On rare occasions, I’ll have a ride that has one point in the service area. I’ve been sitting on free credit for a year which I still haven’t used.

      For people who live within the service area, one barrier to membership is that many trips are a walkable distance.

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    • Joe Adamski July 18, 2017 at 4:05 pm

      I think you have a valid point about perceived safety. A number of Biketown users are visitors, unfamiliar with Portland and possibly not expecting the lack of facilities. I see many ‘sidewalk riders’ on Biketown bikes. Which is where they feel safe, not on the streets.

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  • Clark in Vancouver July 18, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Adam
    Hah. The most cringeworthy thing I’ve seen is when one person put the U-lock in the front basket rather than the holster.
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    In Vancouver, BC, the Mobi system (that uses Smoove bikes) has a cable that retracts into the handlebars (used for the helmet and for temporary locking up). All the time I see people biking around with the cable hanging out.

    https://goo.gl/images/M5cq4o

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    • Justin M July 18, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      ouch. reminds me of when i used to do medical copywriting. There are procedures to fix these kinds of conditions!

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