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Sources: Portland bike share talks break down, Uber now in line for major expansion contract

Posted by on May 5th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

A Jump bicycle in Seattle.
(Photo: Seattle Department of Transportation)

Sources say the Portland Bureau of Transportation has ended bike share contract negotiations with Lyft and is now jumping on board with Uber.

PBOT sought bidders for a major bike share system expansion last fall and opted to stay with Lyft, the company that owns Biketown operator Motivate Inc. Portland’s current contract with Lyft ended in April and PBOT had been negotiating an extension of that agreement since December. As The Oregonian reported in January, the plan was to stay with Lyft and complete a seamless transition to a larger service area and launch an all-electric bike share fleet this summer.

That plan appears to have shifted.

“The city has decided to go with Uber due to financial reasons in the contract negotiations,” our source said. Uber owns Jump, and is a major Lyft competitor. Our source was also told at a meeting this morning that all 16 Portland-based employees will be let go. The source added that employees have been told PBOT now plans to launch with Uber/Jump on July 1st.

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PBOT declined to mention either company when asked for a response to the news this morning. “The City is still engaged in the contractor selection process of the bike share RFP,” they said in a statement. “When [the contractor] is announced, it will be followed by a seven-day protest period. After that, it will take some time to negotiate the resulting contract.”

As for the July 1st launch date (that we’ve heard from two different sources close to Lyft/Motivate), PBOT said, “Given where we are in the process, and the state of affairs with the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be premature to talk about a specific launch date.”

It’s unclear what led to the breakdown in negotiations between PBOT and Lyft/Motivate, but it appears to have happened just a few days ago. Another bike share industry source we spoke to this morning confirmed that Lyft/Motivate was “pushing back on contract terms” and PBOT eventually walked away. Employee unionization and related costs could be the issue. Motivate employees are members of Transport Workers Union of America and Uber is very resistant to unionized labor and prefers to treat workers as “independent contractors” for financial and liability reasons. PBOT is also loathe to work with Uber, given their infamous political history in Portland.

In recent months Uber has said they want to “double-down on micromobility” and as recently as this week the company was in talks to spend $170 million to purchase bike and scooter share company Lime.

PBOT and Jump are very familiar with each other. The bikes used in our Biketown system were made by Social Bicycles, which was re-branded as Jump before it was bought by Uber. (But our system is run by Lyft/Motivate. Yes it’s confusing!). PBOT officials also got a real-life test of Jump bikes in June 2018 when the company deployed a few of them to help people commute during a closure of the Portland Aerial Tram.

When PBOT sought a vendor for our system expansion, Lyft and Jump were the only two respondents. This means PBOT can negotiate a contract with Jump without issuing another request for proposals (RFP).

According to PBOT’s RFP, Jump will have to, “dramatically expand the system and incorporate electric pedal-assist bicycles (“e-bikes”) as a major or sole bicycle type within the system fleet” and their system will have to be, “accessible to the majority of Portlanders and serve as a major vehicle of change to help Portland address climate disruption and transportation inequities.”

The negotiations are complicated and are very fluid. We hope to share more details as soon as possible.

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

On the first go-round, the city was adamant that the system would have to be self-funded. Is that still the case, or will the public be helping to pay for these bikes?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

How many months before Lyft goes under or gets “bought” by Uber?

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

In that case, the time will be ripe for my tandem-bike rideshare company: “Schlep”

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

Great coverage Jonathan! It might be a good time for folks to buy an annual plan…I can only assume prices will go up in the future come August.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Perhaps another city would find use in the fleet for a smaller system. But yeah, given the proprietary technology built-in, maybe not. I’d like one for my Portland Bike Culture Museum.Recommended 4

Everyone needs a heavy orange shaft-drive bike in his collection.

B. Carfree
Subscriber
B. Carfree

The last time I looked the murderous crown prince of Saudi Arabia was the fifth-largest owner of Uber, not counting the portion effectively controlled by him through his government and other royals. It breaks my heart that soon both Eugene and Portland will be involved in long-term bike business with such a firm. I feel dirty just thinking about it.

9watts
Subscriber

“None of the old bikes will be used in the new system because the tech is outdated and they won’t interface with the new system.”

Why are we doing any of this?
It is such a waste; discouraging, and now we are arguing over which of these nasty multinationals… just swing a leg over your own bike and be done with it.

https://bikeportland.org/2018/10/22/city-of-portland-releases-e-scooter-survey-results-291323#comment-6972339

Ruthie
Guest
Ruthie

PBOT sounds so cavalier about 16 specialized, experienced transportation workers going unemployed, adding to historic levels of unemployment. The city’s “financial reasons” add up to: our tax dollars paying a MBS private equity bubble corp, with no local staff, to blow in and “disrupt” this concept for another 15-60 months, leaving a giant trashpile of orange bikes in its wake.

SERider
Guest
SERider

This great article about SpeedX a high end frame company in China and at one time a fairly major player in bikeshare is worth your time to read:

https://cyclingtips.com/2019/06/what-happened-to-speedx/

Really puts the boom/bust of the global bikeshare market in perspective. If you don’t have time to read it, just go and look at the pictures of the bikeshare graveyards in China.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Pictures of the “bike share graveyard”? I think those are actually photos of bike chop shops in Portland.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Kyle Banerjee
Whether you look at mileage, uses per day, or whatever statistic you like — even uses per year by subscribers, the sad reality is that use is very low. The whole point of a shared system is that utilization should be high.One major problem is that people simply aren’t willing to pay anywhere near what a well-utilized bicycle service needs to operate. Biketown is too cheap.I spend way more than the Biketown annual fee in tires alone for my workhorse commuter, roughly the annual fee in chains and brake pads, and again roughly the annual fee in wheels (I get about 18 months out of a set before the rims are too worn down to be safe). Cassettes, rings, cables, housings, bar tape, seats, bottom brackets, headsets, and shifters also need occasional replacement. If I had to take a stab at it, I’d guess it’s about a nickel a mile in parts alone you get basic serviceable stuff through cheap sources — much less than a car, but still a significant expense if you actually ride. Numbers are much higher if someone else does the work and/or you don’t bargain hunt for parts.A normal bike needs zero maintenance beyond tire inflation chain lubrication in 1750 miles. But Biketown bikes get abused like crazy, so they require a lot of work despite low mileage, plus rebalancing and maintaining the infrastructure require a huge amount of labor making the costs easily an order of magnitude higher than a regular bike — and it all needs to be paid for by people wanting to ride just a mile and change.Bottom line is it only works if people don’t actually use it for transportation.Recommended 0

Best thing ever seen on BP re practical commuting.

First off, road bikes were designed for stage racing, 100 miles a day between maintenance by expert mechanics: no long-term problems with chains, pads, rims; also, cogs on a cassette are thin, wear quickly, and expensive to replace. Road bikes are not optimal for economical commuting.

The real safety problem, as you state, is wear on rims by brake pads. DT Swiss makes rims with embedded markers to gauge wear. Spendy, of course, and requiring rims to double as friction surfaces for braking is problematic anyway. Brakes belong on hubs, but it took a long while to get good disc brakes on hubs. I never have ridden discs, so cannot comment on maintenance, wear, replacement costs. The other option is drums–more on them later.

The most expensive part of wheels are hubs, which can last forever, as can spokes. It is possible to replace a rim with an identical new one, or one with the same ERD–effective rim diameter–and relace it in the original pattern with the original spokes. Not so hard, and a truing stand so employed would pay for itself quickly.

I never have had to be a hard-core daily commuter, but still like my bike to be ready to go when I need to: air the tires and lube the chain about once a week. After taking the track course at Alpenrose I adapted my first fixie for street riding. Ultimately I settled on a drum brake for the front: smooth; progressive; immune to water; lining lasts forever. When that bike was stolen several years ago it had the better part of 20 k miles on it, and the only replacements were tires. (I like 26 inch 32 – 35 mm slicks for street riding.) Track-grade drive-trains are expensive, but enduring: the 1/8 inch chain is stiff laterally, and teeth are much wider and wear much longer.

Caveat: drum brakes are not very powerful, but street fixies need not, and cannot, descend mountain passes at 50 + miles per hour. Only on the front wheel, of course; back force on the cranks keeps the rear wheel on the pavement.

A well set-up street fixie can be cheap, reliable, and a ton of fun!

SERider
Guest
SERider

It’s pretty rare for a rider to blow through a rim in 18 months. That’s definitely an outlier. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever worn through the rim on a road wheelset yet. On the other hand, while disc brakes have great stopping power and modulation, I have been surprised how quickly I’ve gone through brake pads. It’s not unheard of to only get 1,000 miles out of a decent set of disc pads. I do think it’s worth it for the quality of braking you get though.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest
Kyle Banerjee

I’ve done it consistently for the past 2 decades.

I had a 40+mile RT commute for 10 years. During that time, I was consistently logging over 10K miles per year with rec riding added in. I ride in everything, and wet grime works like grinding paste — definitely enough to trash rims in 18 mos. My current commute is shorter and I probably putin only 6-7K per year now, but I descend Marquam Hill every day and enjoy riding the local hills, often in slop.

Many people think this is a lot of riding, but it’s modest from a transportation point of view. People who don’t ride slop will get a lot more mileage out of a lot of components — my hot rod which rarely gets ridden in wet has the same wheels it did a decade ago. But if you actually use your bike for transportation, it’s hard on the bike — this is why Biketown bikes have issues despite low mileage.

This is a long post and a distraction from my point that a bike used for real transport costs a significant money and fiddling to maintain — I see this as a major impediment to cycling.

The only way to really knock those costs down significantly is to not really need the bike that much for transport (i.e. low mileage and/or not riding slop) or be one of those beasts who can ride FG or SS long distances against wind and up inclines.

Carl
Guest
Carl

As noted, BIKETOWN is weird because, since the buyouts, it’s essentially Uber hardware operated by Lyft. A BIKETOWN bike is essentially a proto-JUMP bike (because they were made by SoBi, pre-Uber buyout), they’ve got more in common with JUMP bikes than anything Lyft/Motivate would’ve supplied. Given that, I suspect the product and user experience could remain more similar as a result of this change. Plus: no matter what you think of Uber, it’s hard to deny that JUMP makes the best dockless e-assist out there.

Jamaica K Lambie
Guest
Jamaica K Lambie

Jump is now dissolved by Uber, and remaining hardware given to Lime. Jump is no more. So Portland shouldnt scrap their Biketown fleet just yet. And #deleteuber, the should be ashamed for killing a great bikeshare.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

If you think Biketown bikes are junk, you haven’t ridden the Ofo or Spin bikes they had last year in Seattle. A big step down from either Biketown or Lime bikes. The Biketown bikes might be heavy, and the keypads were always troublesome, but the bikes themselves are solid and well-made.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Not sure why Biketown’s usage is down so much after the outbreak. Here in Minneapolis I still see tons of people out on our Nice Ride sharebikes. I think maybe the usage pattern is different? With NR they made a big push to get them into low-income neighborhoods so they weren’t just for well-off people.

Bjorn
Subscriber
Bjorn

Might be due in part to the limited coverage area for Biketown, combined with the fact that due to the pandemic many users have no reason to travel to major parts of the covered area. Why would most folks go downtown right now for example unless you live there.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

The first part – limited coverage area – makes sense. The second part – reduced travel demand due to the pandemic – doesn’t really hold water because that’s true everywhere. Plenty of people riding NR bikes in and around downtown Minneapolis, even though the office buildings are mostly empty, and the streets are mostly populated by people who actually live downtown.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Reply function isn’t working right so I’ll post at the bottom: I blew through a brand new rim in ONE Portland winter. Admittedly that was on a 20″-wheeled folding bike (smaller wheels wear out faster due to the smaller braking surface), and admittedly I was riding daily over the West Hills all winter. Coming down the slope in Portland, on dark rainy nights at speeds that are safe for those little wheels, involves a whole lot of braking.

Outlier? Maybe. Unheard-of, or even rare? Not necessarily. By the way, that bike has Sturmey-Archer drum brakes on it. Much better than rim brakes (also better than the lousy Shimano drum brakes on a lot of share bikes).

David Lewis
Subscriber
David Lewis

I’m very sad about this. My experience with BIKETOWN has actually been quite good. I joined at launch just to support them, figuring that with my own bikes I wouldn’t actually use it. But the fact is that I use it a fair amount. Generally I use it for one-way trips: I find myself out someplace and want to get home, or I miss a bus or streetcar at night, or I’m going to a festival where I know I’ll consume alcohol and don’t want to ride back, or I’m leaving my bike at a bike shop for service.

My experience of JUMP, however, has been terrible. The e-bikes feel cheap compared to the BIKETOWN ones. The pedal assist is so extreme that I get no exercise and it feels dangerous. They are quite expensive; where I used it there was no plan other than $1 per unlock plus $0.06/minute. And the customer service was what Uber has become justifiably infamous for. I went out of their service area and came back in, leaving the bike at one of their docks, a fact that showed in the trip map in their app. They charged me a $25 out-of-area fee, and it took me six weeks before they finally gave up and told me they would reverse it “as a one-time courtesy.” If they are the only option, I hope the city drives a harder bargain. And the loss of local skilled employment and the use of contractors is an awful business practice.

Steve Piercy
Guest
Steve Piercy

Social Bikes/JUMP/Uber just pulled out from Eugene.
https://www.eugene-or.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=4377