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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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CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

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.

Marshall James Habermann-Guthrie
Guest

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

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

Limey Invasion! 🙂

Joseph W
Guest
Joseph W

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.

J_R
Guest
J_R

“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.

Matt
Guest
Matt

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.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

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?

canuck
Guest
canuck

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

Alex
Guest
Alex

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

KentonCycles
Member

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

David Hampsten
Guest

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.

SaferStreetsPlease
Guest
SaferStreetsPlease

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.

David
Guest
David

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.

Su Wonda
Guest
Su Wonda

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.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

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.

maxD
Guest
maxD

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.