Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Biketown launches ‘Design Challenge’ to flood streets with art on wheels

Posted by on February 14th, 2018 at 7:30 am

They do it for shoes; why not do it for bike share bikes?

Portland’s Nike-sponsored Biketown bike share system has just launched a promotion that will result in a new collection of specially wrapped bikes. The Biketown Design Challenge invites everyone who lives in Oregon to go beyond the bright orange colorway and dream up a creative color scheme and design. Five winners will be selected for the designs that best represent each of Portland’s five quadrants — Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, Southwest, and North.

“The design challenge will highlight not only Portlander’s love for BIKETOWN,” reads an official statement about the contest, “but also its artistic, creative and innovative culture.” Each entry should reflect the individual’s personal spin on what makes their chosen quadrant unique.”

Mark Parker, Nike’s Chairman, President and CEO, says the contest is, “a celebration of Biketown and the community that’s embraced it.”


Submissions are due by March 7th and 50 finalists (10 from each quadrant) will be chosen by a panel that includes: Mark Parker; Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler; William Rihel of the Regional Arts and Culture Council; Joy Alise Davis, Design+Culture Lab LLC founder; Victoria Frey, Executive Director of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA); Don Tuski, President of Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA); and Elizabeth Leach of the Elizabeth Leach Gallery.

The finalists will then be voted on by the public beginning April 14th. The five winning designs will be announced in May and each of the them will end up being wrapped onto 10 bikes. The 50 Design Challenge bikes will debut in their respective quadrants starting in May. These new bikes will be added to the fleet of 1,000 Biketown bikes that already feature custom “sneaker bikes” and rainbow-infused “BeTrue” bikes that were launched last summer as part of Pride Week.

Sharpen your pencils and get over to the official Biketown Design Challenge website for all the details.

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

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  • 9watts February 14, 2018 at 8:07 am

    There’s art, and then there’s creativity sucked through the meat grinder of corporate advertising.

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  • Toadslick February 14, 2018 at 8:10 am

    I’m a fan of BIketown, but I loathe when ridiculously wealthy corporations use contests to squeeze free work out of artists. Especially when many artists can barely scrape by in this city.

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    • Nate February 14, 2018 at 9:33 am

      Agreed that this is unfortunate (to put it lightly), but setting aside that concern, I’ve been surprised that Biketown hasn’t done anything like this previously to generate publicity/excitement for the system. Every spring, Capital Bikeshare (in DC) runs its Bike in Bloom event, which puts a single bike into the system with artwork related to the Cherry Blossom Festival. It generates TONS of action in #bikedc, with people getting genuinely stoked to find the bike, get to ride it, post pictures to social media, etc. Seems to me there’s an easy analogue here with the Rose Festival. (Biketown, please contact me for payment of my consulting fee for this idea.)

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      • J.E. February 14, 2018 at 1:45 pm

        I feel like they did this with the rainbow bikes they made for Pride. But there were so many of them (and they ended up keeping them in circulation rather than making it a temporary design) that you’re right, it didn’t have the same flurry of attention as say when Divvy released a red bike into its all-blue fleet.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy February 14, 2018 at 11:24 am

      Is anyone forcing these artists to do this? I am sure they are a better judge of how to spend their time than I am.

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    • Toadslick February 14, 2018 at 12:36 pm

      I’d like to amend my comment, to suggest a positive alternative:

      Rather than hold a contest, Nike could have reached out to an organization such as FFTTNW, found artists whose styles they liked, and paid those artists to design a Biketown paint job.

      How cool would that have been? You would see Biketown bikes with the same art styles as many of the amazing murals in this town. It’d be a win for Nike and the artists. Nike would get cool bikes, the publicity they desire, and be seen as supporting the local artistic community instead of preying upon it. And the artists would be fairly compensated for their labor.

      You could further extend that campaign and have maps that show the murals, galleries, or businesses of the artist that designed the bike, and directions for how to get there via Biketown.

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  • Mike Quigley February 14, 2018 at 9:57 am

    No mention of cash prizes for winners? You’d think Nike could set aside a small amount of its obscenely huge tax cut to reward the artists’ time to do this.

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    • I wear many hats February 14, 2018 at 10:27 am

      hey now, don’t bring up the corporatacracy, the walls have ears

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      • Todd Boulanger February 14, 2018 at 10:57 am

        …and the streets have “eyes” too…

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    • CaptainKarma February 14, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      Did they even pay taxes before? You might be surprised.

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  • SilkySlim February 14, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    On a side note I’m pretty happy to get a few more in the fleet that aren’t orange. I know shouldn’t care about being judged but in my head I feel everyone staring (and saying “you tourist!” with a menacing tone).

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    • J.E. February 14, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      I intentionally go for the orange ones. Never have I felt safer and more respected (in a wary kind of way) by drivers than when I’m riding an orange Biketown! The transportation wonks at PSU should do a study measuring motor vehicle passing speeds and distances comparing orange Biketown, grey&white Biketown, non-Biketown upright bike, and “standard” non-upright bike. Pretty sure they’d find courtesy level from drivers decreases in that order.

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  • fred ihle February 14, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Design work for spec’… if I’m not mistaken, Nike’s CEO came up through design, i’m surprised this is signed off on.

    I have an idea: I need some plumbing work done for my business venture, my airbnb. But, I really don’t feel like paying for it. I think I’ll arrange a contest and have four different plumbers each do the work, then my family and I will vote on the job we think is done best, and instead of paying them for their work, i’ll let them put their sticker on my toilet so that my patrons see their name each time they use the john. All the hype surrounding this event will drive more attention and therefore business my way, but hey I was fair to the plumber, right?

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  • Scott Mizée February 15, 2018 at 11:14 am

    So I’m the only one who wants to whine about feeling disenfranchised that the 5th Quadrant was left out of that screenshot above? No love for North. 😛

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    • Scott Mizée February 15, 2018 at 11:17 am

      Oh wait! I stand corrected! I just couldn’t see it hidden behind the YouTube PLAY button! I’ll have to find something else to whine about now. 🙁

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