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Why is LimeBike hiring a full-time operations manager in Portland?

Posted by on March 26th, 2018 at 11:07 am

Is Portland is about to get a dockless bike share system?

According to this job listing, LimeBike is hiring a full-time operations manager for Portland. The listing says the manager will oversee a team of employees “ranging from 4 to 20.”

There’s been no public announcement, and I don’t have a response from the City of Portland yet, but hiring a full-time manager sure seems like a precursor to doing business.

Either way, if LimeBike is coming to Portland it would not be a huge surprise.

As we shared back in January, Portland Bureau of Transportation staffers took a field trip up to Seattle to test dockless bikes — with LimeBike being one of them. There’s also a personal connection between Portland and LimeBike: the company’s Chief Program Officer is Scott Kubly. Kubly and PBOT Director Leah Treat are former colleagues who worked together in Chicago as deputies under Chicago DOT Director Gabe Klein. Kubly resigned from Seattle’s top transportation job in December and was hired by LimeBike earlier this month to handle business development and government relations.

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At the “Urbanism Next” conference held in Portland earlier this month, Oregon Business reported that LimeBike’s director of strategic development was singing his system’s praises. And Portland’s bike share program manager Steve Hoyt-McBeth was in the room. “Portland planners seem open to a dockless system, but not any time soon,” reported Oregon Business reporter Caleb Diehl. “Scheer told us PBOT politely declined his inquires about expanding into Portland, although Hoyt-Mcbeth said ‘there’s probably opportunity for both.'”

Portland could definitely use a truly dockless system. Biketown has been a great fit for us, but 1,000 bikes aren’t nearly enough. We need bicycles accessible to all Portlanders — from SE 164th to Goose Hollow and from St. Johns to John’s Landing.

Seattle has nearly 10,000 “free-floating” bikes in service — including several thousand LimeBikes.

Unlike Portland’s Biketown system, which has a limited service area and charges an extra fee if you don’t return the bike to a specific parking spot or “free hub zone,” LimeBikes can be ridden and parked anywhere. You could grab one downtown and ride all the way to the Cully neighborhood and just leave the bike out in front of your house.

LimeBike has bike fleets in dozens of cities and they’ve been able to secure hundreds of millions in start-up funding. In September of last year Forbes said they were valued at $200 million. Self-described as a “smart-mobility provider” they also offer a electric-assist bikes and battery-powered scooters in some markets. The company was founded in January 2017 and is based in San Mateo, California.

I’ll update this post when I hear back from PBOT or LimeBike.

UPDATE, 12:20 pm: A LimeBike spokesperson denies the company is about to launch here: “We’ve had collaborative discussions with local and community leaders, and hope to bring LimeBike to Portland in the future.”

UPDATE, 4:00 pm: PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera has responded: “We have heard from several dockless bikeshare providers about their interest in offering service in the City of Portland. We are developing a timeframe and process for the permits needed to provide private bike share service.”

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

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48 Comments
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    CaptainKarma March 26, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Cully is only NE 60th. Not what I think of as the hinterlands these days. Though proper infrastructure drops way off well before that, so yeah, there’s that.

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      Bjorn March 26, 2018 at 1:35 pm

      I live in the Cully neighborhood on NE 72nd. Still not east portland but Cully goes all the way out to 82nd. Join us for the Cully Pub Crawl during Pedalpalooza to learn more about the neighborhood!

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    Marshall James Habermann-Guthrie March 26, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Spin.pm is coming to Monmouth next month. I think we’ll be seeing more dockless bike programs in the future.

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    shirtsoff March 26, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    Limey Invasion! 🙂

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    Joseph W March 26, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Extremely exciting! I’d been thinking how Portland got its bike share at just the wrong time. We waited for years while other smaller cities got systems up and running and then when we finally committed to a docked system – dockless bikeshare came out and it looked like we were stuck with an inferior system while other cities were getting an influx of cheaper to use bikes and with no limits as to where you can take them. Hope the city has seen the writing on the wall and will move quickly this time.

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      Momo March 26, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Biketown is a dockless system…it just has docks for marketing purposes. The whole system could be free-floating with the flip of a switch, and already is in the Central Eastside and PSU areas. What it needs is more bikes and a larger service area, and an upgrade to e-bikes.

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      Phil Richman March 26, 2018 at 2:49 pm

      Portland did not commit to a docked system, they committed to a dockless-enabled system with docks. Right now BikeTown is dockless in the Central Eastside and by PSU. I think what Portland did was smart for the time and the fact they did not commit to a docked system was brilliant, all the while being also able to avert the shock that dockless seems to have on some communities.

      I hope we reach a point where there is more demand for bikesharing in Portland than we’ve seen. In the meantime it’ll be interesting to watch how it plays out in places like Seattle, Phoenix.

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    J_R March 26, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    “Portland Bureau of Transportation staffers took a field trip….”

    What a surprise.

    Top of the list for Portland activities: Field trips. Task forces. Annual reports. Communications strategies.

    Bottom of the list: Actually doing stuff to make bicycling and walking more convenient and safer.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 26, 2018 at 1:38 pm

      I disagree with you on this J_R. I want my public employees to be smart and know things before they implement them. I think we do need a balance though… And I agree with your frustration that it feels as though Portland is too heavy on the planning and talking and too light on the doing.

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      paikiala March 28, 2018 at 8:40 am

      JR,
      Have you visited Seattle lately? Bikes all over the place, more like clutter (not in a good way). The dream and reality are quite different.

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    Matt March 26, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    When I visited a friend in Seattle, his neighborhood had its share of dockless bikes. They ended up just being around, like “parked” in somebody’s street strip (they self-lock by locking the back wheel; they don’t need to be locked to a post or anything). Kind of random, and like the neighborhood was “littered” with bikes. I definitely wouldn’t want them parked on my sidewalk or street strip. Though I appreciate the way I can leave a Car2Go anywhere, they end up parked in a spot where you expect cars to be parked.

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      maxadders March 26, 2018 at 2:20 pm

      Saw the same in the University District last year… it was a free-for-all, bikes abandonded in parks and in the middle of sidewalks, etc. I’ve seen a bit of that with the BIKEYTOWNEs too, but not en masse.

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      rainbike March 26, 2018 at 2:23 pm

      Coronado is not happy being “littered” with dockless bikes from San Diego.
      http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/south-county/sd-se-coronado-dockless-20180319-story.html

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      turnips March 26, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      that seems more like evidence of ubiquitous car parking than a shortcoming of bike share. if it’s really an issue, designate one or two parking spots on each affected block as the bike share zone. drivers will howl, but they’re howling anyway.

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        Middle of the Road Guy March 27, 2018 at 2:12 pm

        Who isn’t howling over a perceived slight?

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      Phil Richman March 26, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      I found the bikes in Seattle to be quite orderly for the most part in the sense they were apparent and available, but rarely “in the way.” That was my perception. It is also interesting we consider bikes to be litter, while cars just sitting in random places is generally socially acceptable.

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        maxadders March 27, 2018 at 10:26 am

        Cars aren’t generally parked in the middle of parks, sidewalks and yards, and when they are they get towed. But nice false equivalence you’ve created there!

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          Gary March 27, 2018 at 12:48 pm

          4 different people within 2 blocks of my house park their motor vehicle on the curb strip. That’s illegal–I’ve never seen a citation and certainly not a towing. Is that like a real equivalence?

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            paikiala March 28, 2018 at 8:41 am

            And you’ve requested enforcement?

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          Greg Spencer April 3, 2018 at 11:04 am

          Not at all a false equivalent. Parked cars take up far more space on our streets than they ought to; the fact that most of them do so legally makes it all the more galling. I’m all for making order on the sidewalks, however — as turnips also suggests — the proper solution is to create bike parking in space currently occupied by cars.

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    maxadders March 26, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    The city is almost two years into a 5-year partnership for BIKEYTOWN sponsorship and Nike just posted its first quarterly loss in 20 years… then suffered a huge shake-up at the executive level. Will they renew? And if not, what other large corporate sponsor will take their place? Inking that first deal only took what, like a decade?

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      SilkySlim March 26, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      The money they spent sponsoring Biketown is a slice of a fraction of a rounding error for a sub-section of their marketing budget.

      I mean yeah, they could back out in three more years (and I’d beg the city this time to cough up the money to totally own the system, branding and all), but it won’t be in any way affected by their business at large.

      Or at least let another local company take the baton for a bit. One vote for a fleet of Timber / Blazer / Thorn / Winterhawk bikes!

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        maxadders March 27, 2018 at 10:23 am

        When coporations are buying names on stadiums and patches on jerseys? Not likely.

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    canuck March 26, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    And the whole bike share business in Chicago under Klein was a real mess. Remember Alta gto the $20M contract, but Klein had worked previously for Alta and his intern who drafted the RFP worked for Alta both before and after his time with the city of Chicago.

    I wouldn’t tout Kubly’s and Treat’s time under Klein in Chicago as a high point in their careers.

    http://www.bicycleretailer.com/north-america/2012/05/01/report-chicago-inspector-probes-bike-deal#.Wrljyn9rxEY

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    Alex March 26, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    From what I’ve heard Forest Grove will be adding Lime Bikes in their town.

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    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 26, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    UPDATE, 12:20 pm: A LimeBike spokesperson denies the company is about to launch here: “We’ve had collaborative discussions with local and community leaders, and hope to bring LimeBike to Portland in the future.”

    UPDATE, 4:00 pm: PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera has responded: “We have heard from several dockless bikeshare providers about their interest in offering service in the City of Portland. We are developing a timeframe and process for the permits needed to provide private bike share service.”

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    KentonCycles March 26, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    I was in Seattle recently and saw the limey dockless bikes around town. Tons were in use. I was definitely curious who job(s) it is to service these bikes, and switch out the batteries on the ebikes, and how often they needed work. They had an air of whismy AND usefulness that I haven’t felt (yet?) in Portland’s fleet. The total absense of docks somehow made the bikes look more like small groupings of pidgeons just shooting the breeze around town. -Ash

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      John Liu March 28, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      I too would like to know how the ebikes get recharged.

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        John Liu March 28, 2018 at 3:06 pm

        Okay, answering my own question. Per Limebike, the battery is good for 62 miles, takes 4 hours to recharge or can be swapped for a fresh battery, the bike self-locks and notifies Limebike operations if battery level is below 15%.

        Implies a fresh battery might last for 17 rides or so before charge hits 15%.

        Limebike is trying to pay people to charge the bikes; unclear to me how this works, do you bring the bike into your home or office and charge it, how much do you get paid, etc. Or Limebike sends someone to locate the bike and swap the battery, which sounds expensive.

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    David Hampsten March 26, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    We’re impressed with LimeBike here in Greensboro NC, operating since June 2017. Apparently more people regularly use LimeBike (7% of our population) than use our awful public transit (5%), including folks living in predominantly black neighborhoods. It’s far easier now convincing our very car-oriented city council to build new buffered bike lanes.

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    SaferStreetsPlease March 26, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    I welcome their arrival if PBOT continues to fail to find funding to expand toward East Portland. BIKETOWN is due for a rather substantial expansion, but we haven’t seen anything announced. Competition will breed results for better access to bikeshare.

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      maxadders March 27, 2018 at 10:18 am

      PBOT doesn’t seem interested in building sidewalks in my neighborhood, let’s start there.

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        paikiala March 28, 2018 at 8:44 am

        You say PBOT, but that funding is from you and your neighbors, via taxes. PBOT has not built sidewalks on local roads for years, except as part of school safety projects.

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          maxadders March 28, 2018 at 1:33 pm

          Maybe it’s about time that changed.

          Or a few more people could get killed every year, and we could blow another x-hundred-thousand bucks on sloganeering non-solutions like “Vision Zero”.

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          David Hampsten March 29, 2018 at 7:32 pm

          Super helpful as usual paikiala.

          Most of the inner Portland neighborhood sidewalks were built during a period when cars were still relatively rare and most people used the trolley and walked. While the city has a pretty good history of requiring developers to build sidewalks within city boundaries, most newer parts of Portland were built while still part of the county and later annexed into the city. If they have sidewalks, it’s because developers wanted to attract richer customers to buy their houses, such as in Argay and Cherry Park.

          In general, with some significant exceptions, the City of Portland doesn’t build public sidewalks using their own funding if they can avoid it, unlike many other US cities.

          There are three main methods to get new sidewalks in your Portland neighborhood:

          1. LID: Form an LID (Local Improvement District) with your neighbors. Y’all basically agree to tax yourselves a bit extra for the next 20-30 years to have PBOT lay in a new set of sidewalks. This is the quickest, surest method, but expensive and politically difficult to get your neighbor to agree to it, and impossible if you are a renter.

          2. Wait for it: Wait for developers to rebuild your area, like in the Pearl. If you are a homeowner, you yourself may be one of those developers getting rich on redevelopment, as long as the bubble lasts. If you are a renter or a homeowner who happens to like where you live, you may be waiting for a few years, or even a couple lifetimes, for new sidewalks.

          3. Squeaky Wheel: PBOT does sometimes build sidewalks at taxpayer expense. They even published a report about it in 2000. In 2010-12, East Portland and Southwest Portland formed an alliance (eventually all the other coalitions joined) to get sidewalks built along various busy streets, but also a few local streets (e.g. 160th). Mayor Sam Adams eventually committed $8 million for each of East and Southwest Portland, for about 4-10 miles of sidewalks in each district, using a bond payment delay on the Sellwood Bridge to pay for it. This is the hardest method but cheapest for the property owner.

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    David March 27, 2018 at 7:24 am

    I travel the US for a living and use various bike shares in many cities. Two points…

    1) Dockless bike shares are ten times more useful than systems like biketown or citibike where you have to return the bike to a designated stand. Dockless bikes get used and you see them everywhere in cities with those services. I only see tourists on Biketown bikes.

    2) LimeBike has the best dockless bikes. Their bikes are still heavy like all dockless bikes, but they ride like a real bike. They have height adjustable seats and gearing to match the local terrain. I’ve taken LimeBikes for fifteen mile rides, they’re fairly comfortable. Up in Seattle the LimeBikes have eight speeds, I was able to pedal mine up Seattle’s big hills.

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    Su Wonda March 27, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Tourists aren’t the only people that use Biketown. I commute daily with them combined with a MAX ride to Beaverton and have logged 687 trips as of this post. No carting a bike onto the max, no renting a bike locker, no changing flats or maintenance, no worry of someone with bolt cutters lurking while I run into a grocery store. Though the service area is a definite downside of SOBI, the docking stations means there is always a bike for me at 5:15 in the morning. A dockless system would mean nervously searching an app every morning for a bike that can get me to Rose Quarter before my MAX leaves. Of course, I am fortunate to live within the small service area. All that being said, I would sign up for and use Lime bike et al for trips beyond the limited BikeTown service area. Of course, there is an advantage to being tagged as tourist during your commute. Everyone gives you a wide berth and assumes you’re going to do something unpredictable.

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    John Liu March 27, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Limebike and similar VC-funded for-profit bikeshare services are throwing investor money at market share, using unsustainably large bike fleets and unsustainably low pricing. They will cut the legs out from under Biketown, the non-profit bikeshare service that Portland has worked hard to plan, set up, and grow.

    After Biketown is gone, these services will fail one by one – averaging 1-2 ride/day per bike with high bike loss rate isn’t sustainable.

    We may end up with one for-profit bikeshare company who will then be in a monopoly position and raise rates – their investors will demand it – or with no bikeshare at all.

    I understand why a city (Seattle, Greensboro) that has no current bikeshare might be happy to invite for-profit bikeshare companies to throw bikes on the streets – those cities have nothing to lose. Portland has Biketown, it works well and is expanding. Portland should see what happens in other cities before putting our Biketown system at risk.

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      maxadders March 27, 2018 at 2:37 pm

      We rolled over for Uber, Lyft and AirBnb… I expect no less for the next “sharing economy” scheme that shows up with an app and promises to “disrupt.”

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        John Liu March 27, 2018 at 3:30 pm

        Here the for-profit private schemes are going to disrupt i.e. kill a non-profit public bikeshare that Portland planned and built over the past few years and that is working well and expanding.

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          Greg Spencer April 3, 2018 at 11:18 am

          It’s working well for some people. And for Nike. But there’s a lot of unmet demand out there. Why does my neighborhood have Car2go, Lyft, Uber and Turo, but no bike share at all? Protecting a Biketown monopoly is not in the traveling public’s interest, not if it doesn’t up its game quickly.

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            John Liu April 3, 2018 at 12:36 pm

            Biketown has only been in operation for 1.5 years, and has already expanded its operating zone plus made large areas dockless.

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        David Hampsten March 27, 2018 at 8:31 pm

        LimeBike is fighting a similar battle in Raleigh NC (pop 450,000) as in Portland. Raleigh also bought an expensive docking system, but it’s concentrated downtown around the capital buildings and various civic areas, but not at NC State which is about 3 miles away. So the university invited LimeBike to provide service. Now the city is pissed.

        Even if Portland doesn’t allow LimeBike, I dare say Gresham, Vancouver, or Oregon City will.

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    maxD March 27, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    I like Biketown pretty well, and I agree that Limebike is likely following Uber’s model of undercutting to take over that market than raise rates. IMO, Biketown could fight back by becoming more flexible: expand the dockless area, let people under 18 ride with an adult, expand the service area. Maybe try some e-bikes.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu March 27, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      I think Biketown is planning to expand service area and other things, in a thoughtful way. I live outside of the current area myself. I understand that people are impatient to see the expansion be faster. But that doesn’t mean we should have for-profit investor-funded bikeshare programs quickly dump several thousand bikes all over Portland, kill Biketown, and then themselves go out of business, leaving Portland with nothing but a memory of the Biketown we used to have.

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      David Hampsten March 29, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      They also make money collecting credit card transaction data of customers. You use a credit card number through the LimeBike App to unlock the bike. You also may have used it to buy coffee at Starbucks, Fred Meyers, Heavenly Donuts, and WINCO. LimeBike can also track your movements using the GPS on the bike. All this data can be sold, quite legally, through the use agreement you signed off on by using their app.

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