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


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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