Ask BikePortland: Why can’t I take my Biketown bike on TriMet bus/MAX?

Bike to transit = good. Bike on transit = bad.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Today’s questions comes from reader Chris C.

Chris was surprised when a TriMet operator told him he couldn’t put his Biketown bike on the bus rack. Here’s his question:

“I learned from first-hand experience today that a TriMet bus will not allow a Biketown rental bike to be transported, because it is a Biketown bike. (I don’t believe there’s a similar restriction on the MAX trains, but I may be wrong.) Do you happen to know the public policy reason for that rule?”

I first reached out to TriMet and they pointed me to Biketown’s terms of service which state bikes, “cannot be taken on a car, ferry, bus, streetcar, MAX or train…”


I then put the question to Lyft, the company that owns Biketown operator Motivate Inc. Lyft Communications Manager Fatima Reyes clarified that this policy was hashed out with TriMet when the system launched in 2016. Reyes shared four key reasons for the policy:

1) It’s a priority to reserve space for people’s personal bikes on transit.

2) While not perfect in all cases, we want people to bike to transit, ride, and then hop off and find a bike on the other side (this also keeps costs lower for the user).

3) Bringing bikes onto TriMet increases the potential for people to leave the service area with BIKETOWN bikes – this increases the risk that the user will end up paying out-of-service fees. Also, it can and has resulted in bikes ending up miles away from our operation, which is expensive and time-consuming to resolve (think pulling an operations employee away from their main job to drive halfway the coast to get a bike that ended up on the MAX to Hillsboro).

4) Our bikes can be heavy and someone could hurt themself lifting it onto transit (or risk damaging the bike racks); if they abandon the bike then the TriMet operator is stuck removing the bike.

These seem like reasonable concerns. This question also reminds me of a debate we’ve had for years in Portland about taking bikes on MAX. Many people want TriMet to expand bike capacity but the agency has made it clear they want limited space to be used for bodies, not bikes.

Do you have a burning bike question? Share it with us and we’ll either find an official answer or crowdsource one from our esteemed and knowledgable readers.

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