Last week the Portland Bureau of Transportation made the latest expansion of Biketown official: The system is now 25% larger and boasts a service area that reaches a few blocks north of the St. Johns Bridge and east to 135th Avenue.
PBOT held a press conference at Knott Park in the Parkrose neighborhood to announce the news and they were joined by PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, PBOT Director Chris Warner, Nike Senior Director Julia Brim-Edwards, General Manager of Biketown for Lyft Patrick Quintana, and St. Johns Boosters Business Association President Liz Smith.
This expansion entails nine square miles and means folks who attend or work at University of Portland and hundreds of other destinations will have access to bike share. It also means people can rent the orange bikes on both sides of the 82nd Avenue corridor between NE Lombard and SE Powell. This latest expansion comes 15 months after PBOT launched Biketown 2.0 with 50% more bikes and an all-electric fleet.
Speaking at the launch event, Commissioner Hardesty said the expansion shows PBOT’s prioritization on east Portland. “For too long, our East Portland and North Portland neighborhoods have been lacking the city services and convenient transportation access that the rest of Portland takes for granted,” she said.
As we’ve reported in the past, there are concerns among some transportation advocates that PBOT risks lower system quality if they continue to expand the service area without adding new bikes. Asked about that concern by BikePortland last week, PBOT spokesperson Dylan Rivera confirmed no new bikes are being added. He referenced the 2020 fleet expansion and said PBOT has chosen to invest in increased access, rather than more bikes. “In the last year, we made it clear that a high priority would be to provide service in areas of the city with higher BIPOC populations and areas that are underserved by transportation.” Rivera added that PBOT staff will monitor how the system is used in the coming months before they make a decision about whether or not more bikes should be added.
Biketown currently has about 1,500 bikes in the system. In September 2020 PBOT said we can expect 3,000 bikes in the system by 2024.
The pandemic had a dramatic impact on Biketown ridership. According to PBOT’s public data portal, in the third quarter of 2020 the system had just 77 trips per day on average and 7,000 total trips. One year later, folks were hopping back on the bikes and the system supported 1,505 trips per day and 137,000 total trips.
“We have a lot to learn about how people will travel as we hopefully emerge from the pandemic this year,” Rivera said in an email to BikePortland. “As Portlanders continue to make Biketown part of their everyday lives, we certainly envision growing the fleet as well as the service area.”