Bike Sharing

Portland has been studying the prospect of a bike-sharing system for several years. We’ve covered it every step of the way. Browse our previous coverage below and click a headline to read the full story.

Beyond vandalism, Biketown faces ridership test ahead of summer season

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on April 11th, 2017 at 10:58 am

Biketown bike share -14.jpg

Biketown is popular with tourists, but the system needs more annual members if it wants to flourish.
(All photos by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s bike sharing system could have a bumpy road ahead even if political vandals decide to leave it be.

Annual members

A comparison of three bike share systems.

  • Biketown Portland: 2,837 (after nine months)
  • Pronto Seattle*: 2,878 (after nine months)
  • Capital Bikeshare Washington D.C.: 16,000 (after 12 months)

*Pronto has ceased operation.

Biketown launched nine months ago next week with 1000 bikes and 100 stations. Thanks to title sponsorship from Nike, it was one of the country’s largest bike-share launches — double the station and bike count of Seattle’s Pronto system when it launched in 2014.

Pronto, which like Biketown was operated by New York-based Motivate Inc., turned into the country’s highest-profile bike-share failure to date. Plagued by low ridership and a series of financial missteps and miscommunications, it shut down at the end of last month.

And though Portland’s Biketown is a very different system with a different price structure, its annual membership numbers for year one are on a very similar trajectory to Pronto’s.

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How many people signed up for Biketown on Day 1? Here’s a rough idea

Avatar by on June 15th, 2016 at 8:11 am

I started collecting member numbers for people that signed up for the bikesharing. I was curious about how the numbers clustered and who was fastest at registering when it opened at 6:30am. I thought I’d collect a few to use the German tank problem to approximate the number of signups. Later someone found a way to see a list of all registrants, so I was able to fill in some data, especially to get the most-recent signups.

I’d estimate that Biketown got 500 to 600 signups in the first 12 hours. Keep in mind this is an inference based on blackboxed data, and I could be completely wrong. Read on for more, including how early public figures signed up.

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Portland’s bike share plan gives major leeway to private operator

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on March 23rd, 2016 at 10:06 am

Day on a bike in DC-41

A victim of success: A major challenge bike-sharing systems face is refilling stations when they run out of bikes. Portland will leave it up to its contractor to decide how often this happens.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Chalk up another way Portland is thinking outside the box on bike sharing, for better or worse: it’s giving an unusual amount of independence to its system’s operator.
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Could Pronto’s problems come to Portland? Here’s what experts say

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on February 1st, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Pronto bikeshare @king st station

Not ridden enough, but why?
(Photo: Diane Yee)

As we mentioned in this week’s news roundup, Seattle’s 16-month-old bike sharing system is in a very tight spot.

With the Pronto system taking in only 68 percent of the money required to meet its operating costs last year and the city considering taking it over in order to bail it out, many Portlanders are rightly wondering whether the upcoming Biketown system (which will be operated by the same company, Motivate) could face similar problems.

We talked to some of the country’s leading independent bike-share experts today to get their take. Here’s what we heard.

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Bike-share membership with a food-stamp card? Portland hasn’t shut the door

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on December 2nd, 2015 at 11:44 am

trail card

An Oregon Trail card might work as an ID for a
bike share system, even if no charge were made.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Update 1:25 pm: This article was based on a Nov. 2 interview, but we didn’t check with the city again before publishing; we should have. Since Nov. 2, the city has done new research and is also speaking about the issues differently. We’ve changed the headline to reflect that. See the bottom of the post for more information.

Making bike-share systems useful to poorer people has been one of the thorniest problems in North American bike sharing.

One reason is probably that you need a credit or debit card to access most bike-share systems, and almost 20 percent of American households that earn less than $30,000 a year don’t have bank accounts. Another reason, presumably, is that bike share memberships cost upwards of $100 a year or (in Portland’s case) $2.50 per nonmember ride.

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Bikesharing deal could be high-tech key to a low-car city

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on November 25th, 2015 at 11:46 am

mobile girls

Open bike-share data and integrated payment systems can add up to something very big.
(Photo: M.Andersen)

The “single, supple mesh of mobility” that the government of Helsinki is hoping to use to “make car ownership pointless” by 2025 may be arising spontaneously and gradually in Portland.

For people reading between the lines, an announcement Tuesday from the North American Bike Share Association could lead to Portland becoming the first U.S. city where a single mobile app will be able to let you plan a trip and buy a ride from a bike share service, transit agency, carsharing company or ride-hailing service.

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Take a sneak peek at OHSU’s new ‘Go By Bike Share’

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on October 13th, 2015 at 4:00 pm

iwo jima

OHSU Transportation Options Coordinator John Landolfe and Go By Bike owner Kiel Johnson hoist the second bike-share rack into place in the South Waterfront.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Pushing to grow its workforce without pouring precious cash into garage construction, Portland’s largest employer continues to roll out bike-transportation improvements.

Next week, Oregon Health and Science University plans to became the latest major company (following Nike and Intel) to introduce a private bike-sharing system for moving quickly around its campus.

“Basically we just copied what Nike does and made it blue,” said Kiel Johnson, owner of the Go By Bike shop and valet, of the 13-bike, two-station system. His team will operate it.

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Oregonian video offers closer look at bike share hardware

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on September 24th, 2015 at 11:12 am

The Oregonian has a useful review today of the “fourth-generation” bikes lined up for the bike sharing system that’s set to launch in Portland by next July.

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As city council weighs bike share agreement, three of five votes look certain

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on September 16th, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Portland City Council

Portland’s city council: Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, Charlie Hales, Dan Saltzman, Nick Fish.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

A half-hour city council hearing Wednesday on Portland’s proposed bike sharing system raised some questions but, seemingly, few serious concerns.

With a formal vote lined up next week, Commissioners Steve Novick and Nick Fish, along with Mayor Charlie Hales, all spoke warmly about the proposal.

Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman didn’t seem to be raising major objections, though both asked pointed questions: Fritz about safety and Saltzman about money. Saltzman in particular seemed upbeat about the plan. Neither offered a closing comment Wednesday, leaving themselves plenty of room to back away from the deal if they decide to.

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Spinlister asks Portlanders where its bike share should go and what they’d pay

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on September 15th, 2015 at 10:29 am

spinlister zone

A possible initial service area for Spinlister, included in
its new web survey. The company added that it expects
the zone to grow.

The company planning to bring a private, free-floating bike sharing service to Portland is asking for input.

In a short web survey launched this month, Spinlister asks Portland residents how often they’d expect to rent bikes using the proposed Smart Bikes service, what they’d pay, how far they’d walk to reach the closest bike and what service area they’d like to see.

“We’re not doing this for fun or verification of a system already created to make them feel good,” Spinlister chief marketing officer Andrew Batey said in an email about the survey. “We’re building the platform to allow for variable business rules – which allows us to make fast and systemwide changes to various inputs (price, geo-fence, payment structures, support, etc.).”

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