The bright orange, Nike-themed bikes that have become a fixture of Portland streets are coming to Bend.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation says it plans to donate 100 bikes from the original BIKETOWN fleet that took the streets in 2016 to Bend to help relaunch a bike-sharing program in Central Oregon’s largest city.
Bend’s previous bike-sharing program ended in 2020 when the operator, Zagster, sold off some of its software and intellectual property and declared bankruptcy.
Since then, there’s been an effort to fill the void left by Zagster in Bend. City parking services division manager Tobias Marx says the bike donation from Portland will help get that started.
“We hope that these bikes will enable us and give us a chance to revamp that program as a great alternative option to get around town for people,” Marx said.
Oregon State University-Cascades started the bike share program with Zagster in 2017. Sponsorships from businesses like 10 Barrel Brewing helped expand the program from 30 bikes to 55 at seven stations on the west side of town.
OSU-Cascades and the city of Bend will use the hand-me-down bikes initially to restore bike sharing at those seven locations — which cover high-traffic areas such as the Old Mill District and Galveston Avenue corridor — but they hope to eventually station bikes on the east side as well.
“We’ve been thinking the whole time about how to make this a citywide program,” said Casey Bergh, transportation program manager at OSU-Cascades.
Public transit options like buses and trains often follow fixed routes and schedules, and options are typically more limited the smaller the city. Bike-sharing programs, as well as things like scooters, can be used to fill gaps in urban transit systems.
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Marx said bike-sharing is part of a broader plan to improve urban mobility in Bend.
Portland has sought destinations for its used-but-still-usable BIKETOWN bikes since replacing the original fleet with e-bikes last September. Those first-generation bikes supported nearly 1.3 million trips of about 25 minutes apiece, on average, in that time.
PBOT plans to donate 625 of the original BIKETOWN bikes to Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada, in addition to the 100 destined for Bend.
Marx said Bend hopes to have the bikes within a month, at which point they’ll begin restoring them. They’ll still be orange, but the BIKETOWN branding will be replaced.
“That was one actually really important factor for us to consider if this can be a feasible option or not,” Marx said. “If we would have had to completely strip the bikes down, completely sand-blast them and redo them, that would have been much more costly to do.”
The bikes need hardware upgrades, which have been delayed by the international computer chip shortage, Marx said.
Bend has been in conversation with the nonprofit Cascadia Mobility about operating the new bike share program, but nothing is final yet. Cascadia Mobility also runs the PeaceHealth Rides bike share in Eugene.
Cascadia Mobility CEO Brodie Hylton said the hope is that the bike-sharing programs in Eugene and Bend will be interoperable.
“If you’re a customer or user of PeaceHealth Rides in Eugene … you could also travel to Bend and use the old BIKETOWN bikes,” Hylton said.
Bergh with OSU-Cascades says the previous bike-sharing program in Bend cost about $2,000 per year, per bike to maintain, but that the cost of the new program is yet to be determined.
The city hopes to launch the new bike share by this fall when OSU-Cascades students return to campus.