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Portland wants Biketown to have e-bikes, starting next year

Subscriber Post by Michael Andersen on August 22nd, 2018 at 10:49 am

Willamette Week’s Rachel Monahan seems to have broken some news in the 25th paragraph of her story today about how scooters could fit into Portland’s multimodal future:

“The city plans to introduce e-bikes as part of the next bike share contract in August 2019.”

During last winter’s snow, when I was combining MAX and Biketown for my own commute to the Central Eastside, I ran into a couple who seemed to be shoestring-budget tourists at the Rose Quarter Biketown station. They were extremely excited about the bikes.

“You can just rent them and get around the city?” the guy asked me. “How do they get charged?”

My face probably fell a little bit when I realized that he assumed, probably because they’re big and weird-looking, that they must be e-bikes. When I told him they weren’t, the couple lost interest.

I recently rode a shared e-bike up a hill in Seattle. It was freaking fabulous. A few other cities, including Copenhagen, Providence and Birmingham, have introduced e-bikes to their municipal bike share fleets.

E-bikes would be a big improvement for Biketown, and also a substantial investment in both capital and operations. It’s not clear from Willamette Week’s reporting whether the city has funding lined up yet.

(Thanks to Monahan for highlighting this scoop on Twitter.)

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Johnny Bye Carter9wattsEric LeifsdadTyler Howarth Recent comment authors
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Johnny Bye Carter
Johnny Bye Carter

Yes, please!

BikeTown is $.08 per minute.
JumpBike in Denver is $1 for 5 minutes ($.20/minute) and $.15/minute after.
JumpBike in Sacramento $ Santa Cruz are $1 for 15 minutes (approximately $.07/minute) and $.07/minute after.
JumpBike everywhere else is $2 for 30 minutes (approximately $.07/minute) and $.07/minute after.

With those prices in mind it seems ebikes will rule over the BikeTown bikes due to price.


If I am not mistaken, these orange bikes we just got were, what, $3,300 a piece, and this site and most of the commenters were falling over themselves gushing about how incredible this all was, how future-oriented, how game changing.
And here we are two(!) years on, and all we seem able to note is how clunky, and hard to operate and obsolete the fleet is. Whose money are we gleefully not amortizing here? Why is product life never a consideration? Whose going to be processing the e-waste from tomorrow’s obsolete fleet in three years? Are we learning anything from this?

The Grinch.

Tyler Howarth
Tyler Howarth

Why wait until 2019? They should be piloting ebikes with biketown alongside the escooters.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad

What’s with the dozen months of stalling? If PBOT can’t figure out how to get e-bikes on the ground sooner, we better close all of the streets to cars until we know what’s wrong.


“When I told him they weren’t, the couple lost interest.”

What is wrong with people?!
Do we really want to cater to this attitude?
It would be useful to attemtpt to tally what is gained and what is lost by following this course.

And please skip the glib ‘but it is better than a car’ trope.
One of these days we won’t have the car comparison ready at hand, and then what are we going to say to make ourselves feel virtuous?

Johnny Bye Carter
Johnny Bye Carter

“It’s better than staying inside”?