09 September 2015

This Bike Share Program Could Come Up Roses

Portland, Oregon is often called the most "bike-friendly" city in the US.  I have never been there, but from what I've read and heard, it probably deserves that designation.

Ironically, it doesn't have a bike share program.  That may soon change.  Today, Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioners Nick Fish (great name, huh?) and Steve Novick have announced a proposal that could make 600 bikes available for public use.

Sometimes "coming to the party" later can have its advantages.  Bike share programs in New York, Paris and other cities had a "learning curve" that Portland won't have:  They had to work out technical problems and find ways to combat problems such as the theft of the programs' bikes.  The folks in Portland will be able to draw upon what their peers in the Big Apple, the City of Light and other places have learned from their experiences with their bike share programs.

One of those problems is what deters folks like me from using Citibike, Velib or other similar programs:  What to do if there's no bike port in sight.  In Paris, I noticed, it probably wouldn't have been much of a problem, as the ports seemed to be everywhere in the city and in points beyond. (Still, I prefer to have a bike for which I don't have to think about such things.  I'd rent again from Paris Bike Tour or bring my own bike.)  However, here in New York, the ports were found, until recently, only in lower Manhattan and in the Brooklyn neighborhoods closest to Manhattan (e.g., Williamsburg).  So, if I were to ride, say, from one of those places to my apartment, or to work, I would almost certainly exceed the time limit.  Taking longer recreational rides would almost certainly be out of the question, let alone using a Citibike to go to museums, galleries and such.

In Portland, I imagine the problem I described would be even more acute, as it's more of a sprawling city than New York or Paris, or others--like Boston and Montreal--that have bike share programs.

Cyclists departing Boston's City Hall plaza to help launch Hubway--the city's bike share program in July 2011.

According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, there are 3000 bike racks in the City of Roses.  According to John Brady, the PBT's Director of Communications, the bikes in the program would include a locking technology that work on any of those racks--in effect turning them into docking stations. 

That, I think, could go a long way toward turning a bike share program in Portland--or in many other cities--into a truly viable part of the transportation system.  A city that doesn't have many bike racks could probably install them for a good deal less money than special bike ports.  Also, there probably would be less objection to regular bike racks than to the ports, which take up a lot more room.  Their smaller size and relative ease of installation would also make them easier to build in, or next to, train and bus stations or municipal parking lots.



  1. "Today, Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioners Nick Fish (great name, huh?)..."

    Hey! He's part of THAT Fish political family, you know, the one from Noo Yawk:

  2. Urban--I didn't think of that while I was writing the post. Of course, I'm familiar with the Fish family: If you're from New York, it's almost impossible not to be.

    I didn't mean to "dis' Nick Fish. I just thought his name has a cool "ring" to it. With a name like that, he could be in a noir thriller.