Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Ride Biketown for free and park anywhere you want in May

Posted by on April 24th, 2018 at 9:48 am

Spring fever has hit Biketown too.
(Photo: J. Maus)

The City of Portland has launched a novel promotion to boost Biketown ridership next month: It’s completely free.

To celebrate National Bike Month, the bureau of transportation announced today that new and existing Biketown riders can use the bright orange bikes for up to 90 minutes without being charged. Annual members who’ve already paid will get a promo code worth $12 (the monthly price). Better yet, the free promotion extends to the system’s Adaptive Biketown program, and the Biketown for All program, which offers disounted memberships to people living on low-incomes.

But wait! There’s more! During the month of May, the entire Biketown service area will become a “super hub zone.” That is, you’ll be able to park the bikes anywhere without incurring a fee. This aspect of the promotion is also a way for the City of Portland to highlight the dockless capabilities of the system — at a moment when they’re feeling pressure from private firms who want to release dockless scooters and bikes in Portland.


To take advantage of the free rides, just sign up through the Biketown website, mobile app or at a station kiosk and select the “Single Ride” plan. Current annual members can log in to their account, choose “Memberships” and apply the “BIKEMONTH18” promo code to their existing account.

If you’re waiting for an adaptive bike, the 2018 season starts on May 1st.

This morning’s announcement comes after PBOT released a Biketown system data dashboard. We’re still crunching numbers, but so far they look positive. Since it launched in July 2016, people have taken over 520,000 trips. To put that into context, over the 632 days since launch, each bike has gotten 0.8 rides per day. That’s not a great number relative to other bike share systems. Seattle’s failed Pronto bikes maxed out at 0.6 trips per day and CitiBikes in New York City get around 3.6 trips per bike per day. The national average is about 2 trips per bike per day.

The good news about Biketown is the numbers are trending upward. Over the past 365 days, the trips per bike per day has grown by 4 percent to 0.91. And the year-to-date trip numbers are up 10 percent over last year.

It will be interesting to see how this promotion impacts Biketown usage. May is also the start of The Street Trust’s Bike Commute Challenge and the beginning of Better Naito season on the Waterfront. Bring on the bikes! Orange and all!

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

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  • mh April 24, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Don’t try until May 1.

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    • Marisol May 1, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      Hello, I am a Single Ride membership holder and I tried to apply the promo code and it said it was not valid, is it working for others?

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  • John Liu April 24, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Ride/bike/day looks seasonal but is growing year-over-year.

    Assuming 1,000 bikes:
    7/19/2016-9/30/2016 was 1.60 (launch excitement)
    9/31/2016-12/30/2016 was 0.49 (fall)
    12/31/2016-3/30/2017 was 0.32 (winter)
    3/31/2017-6/30/2017 was 1.07 (spring)
    6/31/2017-9/30/2017 was 1.49 (summer)
    9/31/2017-12/30/2017 was 0.56 (fall)
    12/31/2017-3/30/2018 was 0.55 (winter)

    Comparing 9/31/2017-12/30/2017 to the year-ago period 9/31/2016-12/30/2016, ride/bike/day was up +14% year-over-year.

    Comparing 12/31/2017-3/30/201 to the year-ago period 12/31/2016-3/30/2017, ride/bike/day was up +72% year-over-year.

    Hopefully ride/bike/day will continue growing year-over-year as we move into spring and summer, so that the trailing 12 month figure can keep moving up from the most recent 0.92.

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    • Kyle Banerjee April 24, 2018 at 11:03 am

      This still needs to go way up.

      The whole point of a share system should be to increase use of a resource that normally would just sit around. Any regular ‘ol bike user who just goes to work and runs a couple errands sometime during the week will put 2 rides per day on their bike.

      It will be interesting to see how the promo affects usage.

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      • John Liu April 24, 2018 at 12:35 pm

        Agreed, and as we move into spring and summer, let’s hope we can see something in the 2-3 ride/bike/day range.

        I see this May as a demonstration of Biketown’s ability to operate as a fully dockless system. Since Biketown bikes are locked to something (bike rack, sign pole, etc) rather than left randomly where-ever, they have the potential of providing “dockless without clutter”. On the other hand, if you’re used to going to your closest dock to get a bike, it may be irritating to have to open up the app and hunt for a bike.

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        • J.E. April 24, 2018 at 1:05 pm

          Biketown has done a pretty good job at keeping stations well-stocked, but those of us who acclimated to bike share in other places already pull our phones out to double-check that the station isn’t cleaned out. Same if you’re in the Central Eastside a lot: there are way more out-of-station bikes than there are stations at any given time; checking the app will likely save you a walk (or simply a need to cross the street).

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    • Shoupian April 24, 2018 at 2:41 pm

      Let’s not overplay the weather factor. Copenhagen has a 30% bicycle commute mode share even in the winter months. We’d see less seasonal fluctuation if the City of Portland has more protected bike lanes, a more complete bicycle network that connect people to major retail and job destinations, treat bicycle routes as high priority for winter roadway maintenance.

      Less than 1 ride per bike isn’t good performance for the system. The system data shows that most trips end in downtown and NW Portland but the bicycle infrastructure is bare minimum in these two parts of the city. It’s very stressful to ride in NW Portland and downtown where you are sharing the road with drivers most the time. When I try to encourage the “interested-but-concerned” to bike with me using Biketown, I often find myself spend 10 or 20 minutes trying to find a low-stress route and a biketown station that’s convenient to get to. Sometimes, I simply can’t find a route that is comfortable and convenient enough to convince my friends or visitors to ride with me.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty April 24, 2018 at 2:53 pm

        Don’t underplay weather, either. Look how many more people are out and about now compared to just a week or two ago.

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        • soren April 25, 2018 at 8:15 am

          Monthly bridge count data suggests a drop over previous years:

          The Hawthorne bridge counter has, of course, been non-functional for years.

          America’s bicycle city!

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          • Dominic April 25, 2018 at 12:00 pm

            There’s something depressing about riding past the dead Hawthorne counter on my daily evening commute. It’s a trivial thing, but it’s a small sign that people just don’t care about keeping bike improvements going long-term. Sort of the “broken windows theory” of bike infrastructure.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty April 25, 2018 at 1:42 pm

              It does kind of reek of surrender.

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      • Kyle Banerjee April 24, 2018 at 4:11 pm

        “…We’d see less seasonal fluctuation if the City of Portland has more protected bike lanes…”

        If the issue is separation, adding or removing separated facilities would matter and seasons wouldn’t. But we see the opposite in practice. The existing separated infrastructure gets easier to ride in the winter because there are a lot fewer people to share it with — hardly a disincentive for riding.

        Most people don’t like riding in rain, cold, wind, heat, dark, or anything else that makes them uncomfortable and/or messes up clothes and hair. The numbers of people you’ll see cycling reflect that.

        “The system data shows that most trips end in downtown and NW Portland but the bicycle infrastructure is bare minimum in these two parts of the city”

        How would you compare the rideability of these places with the rest of the metro area? A reasonable argument can be made that this is already some of the easiest riding and that more attention needs to be focused on improving the rideability of other places before pouring more money into the core where traffic is already very slow.

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        • Shoupian April 24, 2018 at 5:28 pm

          You misread and misunderstood my comment. I said not to overplay the weather factor; I never said weather is irrelevant. Even in Copenhagen bike mode share drops in the winter but it is still 30% even when it’s below freezing temperature and snowing. Put this in perspective, Portland’s bike modeshare is about 6-7%; that’s 4-5 times lower. So evidence suggests that infrastructure is a more significant factor than weather.

          How downtown and NW Portland compare with the rest of the region is irrelevant in this discussion about biketown’s data because the service boundary only covers a small part of the city. It is pretty obvious if you look at the biketown start/end trip map to see that downtown and NW Portland see the overwhelming majority of bikeshare trips but most of the City’s greenway network and buffered/ protected bikelanes are not in those two neighborhoods.

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          • Kyle Banerjee April 24, 2018 at 10:27 pm

            “How downtown and NW Portland compare with the rest of the region is irrelevant in this discussion about biketown’s data because the service boundary only covers a small part of the city.”

            It’s relevant precisely because the service area covers only a small part of the city — namely the core which already has easy cycling and good transit options. Plus, walking is very viable.

            Most people are outside the Biketown service area, transit options blow, and the cycling situation is acceptable only to the dedicated. So they drive. If you want fewer people driving, options need to be provided to those other than those already best served with alternatives to driving. The massive flow of vehicles coming in on arterials won’t be reduced by more improvements to the core.

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            • soren April 25, 2018 at 8:22 am

              i’ve noticed that many of those who argue that we have “easy cycling and good transit options” are economically-privileged people who are neither transit-dependent or, even, bike-dependent.

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              • Kyle Banerjee April 25, 2018 at 2:51 pm

                That’s funny. I’d noticed those demographic characteristics are often associated with people who insist they need more facilities when they already have much shorter and easier distances to cover than everyone else.

                I’m interested in what you propose. Transit is well over an hour each way even for modest distances and that gets way worse if you move out further. There is absolutely no comparison between riding in the core and further out before we even consider that the distances that need to be covered are typically much greater.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty April 24, 2018 at 11:07 pm

            The area of Copenhagen is 23% that of Portland. It is flatter, people are less culturally attached to their cars, and the population is much more health-conscious and environmentally aware. They have better transit, infrastructure, and, being a much older city, have landuse patterns that happen to be more conducive to cycling. They have better governmental and policy support, driving is much more expensive, the streets are more difficult to drive on, and those who do drive are more skilled and trained, and less likely to kill a cyclist because they are drunk.

            I don’t overplay the weather in understanding why cycling rates here fall far short of those in Copenhagen, and probably always will.

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            • soren April 25, 2018 at 8:46 am

              Copenhagen was once a car-dependent city with steadily decreasing active transportation mode share. A massive environmental protest movement and the ensuing election of young left-wing people to municipal positions led to a sharp reversal of car-centric planning:



              The ongoing depopulation of transit- and active-transportation-dependent young people from inner Portland is a massive demographic headwind. If this city continues to become wealthier and older (median age has increased sharply in the past decade), active transportation will likely enter a period of long-term decline.

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              • soren April 25, 2018 at 9:01 am

                The lesson of Copenhagen’s transformation is one of the many reasons I strongly support Jo Ann Hardesty ( and Julia DeGraw ( for city council.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 25, 2018 at 9:03 am

                The median age of the US population as a whole is steadily rising.

                If we could muster massive protests in support of active transportation, I’m sure we could shift things here as well. It’s easy to blame old people, but it’s not Portland’s median age that’s keeping people off the streets.

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              • John Liu April 25, 2018 at 1:07 pm

                Maybe this will drive large increases in active transportation and infrastructure (and transit too) in east Portland.

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              • soren April 25, 2018 at 2:55 pm

                I’m simply pointing out that younger people (who are more likely to use active transportation for their trips) are being economically displaced from inner PDX.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 25, 2018 at 2:57 pm

                Many of the new residents in the studio apartments are younger, no?

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              • Kyle Banerjee April 25, 2018 at 4:47 pm

                Unless the goal is only to improve modeshare for the core, I’m not sure why it would be advantageous to have the residents of that area be especially young.

                Having older people living further out where they get to contend with inherently greater distances and separation from services they need as well as more difficult traffic doesn’t sound like a recipe for success.

                Having said that, we could make this Copenhagen model work. If we redefine the boundaries of Portland to just be the core, it would bring the terrain and distances closer to what Copenhagen has. Then we don’t need to worry about all those pesky people living anywhere else 🙂

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              • soren April 26, 2018 at 1:10 am

                Hello, kitty has, thus far, incorrectly suggested that:

                1) Portland’s increase in median age is similar to that of the USA as a whole
                2) my demographic argument relied only on age
                3) studios are an abundant apartment type in inner Portland

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 26, 2018 at 4:35 am

                I looked for data to support or refute your claim, and found that yes, indeed, the median age in Portland is increasing, but age brackets are so wide it’s really hard to tell what’s happening.

                I have asserted that the median age of the US is increasing, so I would expect that trend to be occurring here as well. I have not stated that our trend mirrors that of the US, or that our increase is only because of the overall trend towards getting older. Nor did I state or suggest this is only an issue of us “getting older” (though many of us do get older over time, until we don’t).

                Nor did I suggest studios are an abundant housing type in Portland, though they do seem to be the predominant new housing type, which suggests that many people moving into the neighborhood are of a demographic that would be willing to live in studios. Without evidence, I imagine these people to be younger than average.

                I do not doubt that as rents rise, some people move to where rent is cheaper (one reason people are induced to move here by our still relatively low west-coast rents), and I accept your general observation that older people tend to have more money (for completely non-nefarious reasons).

                I did not assert any of the three points you claim I did, nor do I accept, without evidence, your claim that people moving into the close-in neighborhoods are more likely to drive than those moving out. But even if true, putting more-likely-to-ride people in areas that require more motivation to ride, and a “softer” group of potential riders where it easier may be beneficial for cycling rates overall (though it may be bad for other reasons).

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              • soren April 26, 2018 at 8:44 am

                “though they do seem to be the predominant new housing type”

                your antipathy towards people parking in “owner’s spaces” is showing. for the most part, developers are building higher-end 1+ BR units. one of the major reasons for this is that it’s difficult to develop higher-density apartment buildings due exclusionary and discriminatory zoning:



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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 26, 2018 at 9:45 am

                >>> your antipathy towards people parking in “owner’s spaces” is showing. <<<

                Where in the world did you get that???

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 26, 2018 at 10:46 am

                Also, I have no idea what your links are intended to show.

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  • Jack April 24, 2018 at 10:54 am

    This is amazing

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  • Jack April 24, 2018 at 10:55 am

    I hope they make the all-encompassing SuperHub permanent, because if not, I’m switching to LimeBike as soon as it rolls out

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty April 24, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      Why wait? I use my LimeBike every day (for free!). Just pick one up next time you’re in Seattle.

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      • John Liu April 24, 2018 at 12:53 pm

        I’m waiting for the LimeBike e-bikes . . .

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      • B. Carfree April 24, 2018 at 1:43 pm

        Thanks for that. I’m not quite roflmao, but close enough.

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      • Chris I April 24, 2018 at 2:01 pm

        I hear Amtrak will let you take them with you for $5 on the ride back.

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      • GlowBoy April 24, 2018 at 9:02 pm

        Pro tip: Definitely better to take home a LimeBike than a Spin or an Ofo.

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  • Phil Richman April 24, 2018 at 11:23 am

    I admitted to myself a while ago riding a BikeTown is more enjoyable and far easier than riding my own bikes and I LOVE my own bikes. Making the system dockless will be a game changer, but will certainly keep the rebalancers busy. Only problem now may be finding a BikeTown to ride in May!

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  • m April 24, 2018 at 11:37 am

    As a annual member, I would say that I like but don’t love the program. I used it this week for the first time since last fall. The bikes are super clunky and they need to have more stations. I probably won’t renew when my year is up this summer but TBD. I think they would have more success with a seasonal membership. I bet they would get more people overall willing to pay $20 per month for a May-Sept membership to make up the difference. Also, the $12 discount should be automatic (i.e., not require an opt-in) but that’s a minor point. I welcome some competition to the market.

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    • J.E. April 24, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      I subscribed to Biketown initially to support the program (huge fan of bike share), but I wasn’t planning on renewing because there are so few stations in the Central Eastside/Inner SE where I mostly travel. Central Eastside super hub starts up, and suddenly I’m using Biketown as much as my own bike. I think users will start finding Biketown a lot more useful once it’s fully dockless, especially for trips one mile or less.

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  • David Hampsten April 24, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    According to our local Limebike rep, we’re getting about 1.5 rides per bike per day, on average, on our Limebikes, and we aren’t even a very bike-friendly community (Bronze 3 times in a row – Greensboro NC), with about 7% of our residents using LimeBikes at least once per week.

    It seems to me that in spite of the hype, PBOT is admitting that their Biketown is not doing as well as expected, that they expect LimeBike to really hit them hard, hence their Limebike-like free-bike program for May.

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    • John Liu April 24, 2018 at 2:09 pm

      If Portland allows LimeBike, Ofo, Spin to put many thousands of their bikes on the streets then no question they will hit our publicly-owned non-profit Biketown hard – I’d expect BikeTown to go under, as well as all but one of the other companies, until Portland is left with a single for-profit bikeshare that will then need to figure out how to become very profitable by raising prices, obtaining city subsidies, selling customer data, etc. Or maybe there will be no bikeshare left in Portland, if the last company’s model can’t achieve the high profit levels that investors demand.

      We’ve discussed this before. BikeTown doesn’t have hundreds of millions of venture funding to engage in scorched earth competition and drive out competition. The survivor may well not be LimeBike, as it is one of the less-well-funded competitors. Ofo has >$1 billion of Chinese investor funding and has already (per LimeBike) been providing bikeshare in Seattle for no fees. Mobike also has about $1 billion of Chinese investor funding.

      I see this as an experiment best tried by cities that have no existing bikeshare system and thus little to lose. For Portland, which already has the Biketown bikeshare system, I think we should watch what happens in Seattle and other cities before inviting the for-profits in.

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      • David Hampsten April 24, 2018 at 3:33 pm

        But meanwhile continue to not serve your poorest neighborhoods, such as Cully, BD, & East portland? That’s where we are getting our greatest Limebike bikeshare growth, in areas with high theft, lower income, and “minorities” (blacks are actually a plurality here: 43% versus 40% white.)

        I also am a bit suspicious of the financing for Biketown, as I understand Nike is the primary corporate sponsor – doesn’t sound very “nonprofit” to me, it sounds more like a mobile corporate advertising vehicle, but tax-free.

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        • John Liu
          John Liu April 24, 2018 at 5:23 pm

          Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is bike infrastructure.

          Biketown is only about 1 1/2 years old. It has expanded once, and will keep expanding.

          And there is a difference between a bikeshare that is publicly owned, not for profit, and gets some of its revenue from advertising – and a bikeshare that is for profit and backed by venture capital investors who aren’t content with earning just a little profit. Someday, Ofo or LimeBike will need to show that they will be very, very profitable, else the investors’ pockets will close. So think about how a bikeshare that has driven out competitors and now needs to be very, very profitable is going to do that.

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  • joan April 24, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    You know what would be really fantastic for National Bike Month? Better Naito! The days are warming and Waterfront Park is crowded. It’s time!

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    • David Hampsten April 24, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      You know what I’d love to see? PBOT contract out to PDX Transformation to create temporary protected bike lanes all over the city, as a “tactical urbanism” pilot project, marking the lanes with orange traffic cones and green duct tape. Think outer Stark, think all of Burnside from Washington Park to 90th. Division? 122nd?

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  • SilkySlim April 24, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    A little off topic, but I’m curious how the service area tends to contract or expand for dockless systems. I can see factors that would send it both ways… Like maybe it needs to stay more compact so bikes don’t end up sparsely spread to the distant edges. Or maybe it gets bigger, since saving money on docks leads to a slightly bigger fleet of bikes.

    This is coming from somebody about 1 mile outside the Biketown border currently! I use it pretty rarely now, but if it got me just a little closer to home, if not all the way, I’d be back in the game in a second.

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    • David Hampsten April 24, 2018 at 9:24 pm

      Initially dockless expands very quickly outwards, often with the riders themselves “redistributing” the bikes all over the place. The people who retrieve them then start to consider new distribution points, which are a bit like docking stations, except they tend to be at other businesses that have given the dockless bike share company permission to park bikes there. The “clutter on the sidewalk” is complaint-driven, which one would expect to be higher in Seattle and Portland and much lower here in the Deep South. Since all the bikes have GPS units, the dockless company knows where all their bikes are at all times. Ongoing issues include a certain amount of theft (rare here in Greensboro but common in larger cities), vandalism, hacking, use by under 16s without a helmet, and illegal parking in garages and at bike racks.

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  • GlowBoy April 24, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Perfect timing for me, already a Single Ride plan member, since I’ll be in Portland for much of May.

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  • Steve G April 25, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    I was recently in San Franciso for a weekend and was astounded by how many people were riding JUMP and LimeBike e-bikes — and Bird, Spin and LimeBike e-scooters. I was also struck by the sheer numbers of Ford GoBikes — which are pretty similar to our Biketown bikes — and by the fact that the GoBikes were mostly idle.

    If we want to get people out of their cars, we need to offer a full range of options. Not just clunky, docked, and arguably obsolete bicycles that only the hardiest of Portlanders are going to ride regularly.

    We need all the options.

    Do a new search for “scooters,” and you’ll see dozens of articles about “people in business suits” riding e-scooters in Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington DC and San Francisco. Yes, they’re chaotic. Yes, they’re messy. But our nimbler neighbors to the North and South are responding with regulatory changes. And more on-street bike parking corrals. And more protected bikeways, to segregate all of these new users from cars — and to get them off the sidewalks!

    Meanwhile, here in Portland, we’re still waiting. And talking about how hard it is to increase our bicycling mode split.

    I think that the City of Portland should welcome a full array of bikeshare, e-bikeshare and e-scooter companies with open arms, and as soon as possible. Yes, Biketown might see a dip in usage, but overall, we’d see a surge in users. There would suddenly be a much larger number of low-impact (human- or battery-powered) vehicles on our streets, and more people in more neighborhoods would start clamoring for safer biking/ e-scootering / e-skateboarding infrastructure. And as we all know, those infrastructure improvements will then, in turn, lead to more adoption. A positive feedback loop.

    Will the bikeshare boom go bust? Who knows? But the tidal wave of venture capital sloshing around is a rare opportunity, because even if every bikeshare and scooter-share startup fails, we can use the boom to our advantage. Think about it: even if LimeBike, Ofo, Mobike, Spin, Bird and Biketown ALL go down in flames in five years, we’ll have built more non-car infrastructure in the right-of-way, and more Portlanders — including those who won’t ride a bike, but WILL ride an e-bike or an e-scooter, will have experienced the joy of not driving.

    This is a numbers game. We need more options that appeal to more people, and we need them NOW. Every week of summer that goes by without opening the floodgates to dockless bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters is wasting precious time.

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