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'America's Bike Capital' Doesn't Have Bike Share

OPB | March 4, 2014 10:54 a.m. | Updated: March 31, 2014 8:04 a.m.

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New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. has ‘em, so what’s holding Portland back from getting a bike share program? The Oregonian reports that Portland Bureau of Transportation has pushed development back to 2015, six years after the initial proposal for a bike-sharing system in the city.

Washington D.C. bikeshare bikes.

Washington D.C. bikeshare bikes.

Michael Clapp / OPB

PBOT has already tapped Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share, Inc. to put 750 bikes and 75 stations in place. When the company’s supplier went bankrupt in January, Alta forged a new relationship with 8D Technologies to install its bike share systems. PBOT has the money and the sponsors for the $4 million program, but wants to observe in other cities before deciding if it’s a good fit for the city.

For being America’s Bike Capital, Portland hasn’t had a rosy history with bike share programs, at least not in the 90s. The United Community Action Network started the Yellow Bike Project in 1995 by placing 1,000 painted yellow bikes around the city, similar to community bicycles in Amsterdam. Volunteers were expected to pick up bikes that required repairs, but quickly the demand for maintenance was too high. Bikes were abandoned all over the city.

“They’re not the kind of bikes you steal. They’re rescued from a junk pile,” former cyclist group leader Rex Burkholder said in a news article in 1997. “The idea was to get them out and give them a few more months of life before they head to the dumpster.”

The Community Cycling Center took over the project in 1997 because it didn’t work. The center instead adopted the bikes into Create a Commuter program for low-income adults in 2000, which still exists today.

Hopefully next year the wait for Portland’s bike share will finally be over and the bikeless and the tourists can get in the bike lanes.

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