Portland Could Finally Have A 'Bike Share' Program

By Amanda Peacher (OPB)
Sept. 9, 2015 10:41 p.m.

Portland has ranked as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S. for the past decade. But while cities like Seattle, Washington, D.C., and New York have brought in popular public bike rental programs, Portland has lagged behind.

That could soon change. Commissioners Nick Fish and Steve Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales announced a proposal Wednesday that would put 600 bikes in the city for public use.


"We are trying to gently encourage people to walk more and bike more, and use transit more," said Novick. "We do have to do our part to reduce our carbon emissions."

The bikes would include locking technology that works on any existing bike rack. There are 3,000 bike racks across the city of Portland, according to the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Similar programs in other cities require riders to dock bikes at special stations.

"So if you're a user, you don't have to worry, 'Is there going to be a station where I'm going?' It makes it much easier for the user, and easier for the system," said John Brady, director of communications for Portland's Bureau of Transportation.

Novick said a bike would cost about $2.50 for a half hour of use. Costs for day-long rentals are not yet decided, but Novick expects annual memberships to range from $150-$180 per year.


Portland's efforts to bring a bike share program to the city date back to 1994, when United Community Action Network started the Yellow Bike Project in 1994 by placing 1,000 painted yellow bikes around the city, similar to community bicycles in Amsterdam.

The Community Cycling Center later took over the project, and adopted the bikes into Create a Commuter program for low-income adults in 2000, which still exists today.

The City and Metro approved a plan in 2012 for a bike rental program that would cost $4 million. But before the program could get going, Alta Bicycle Share, Inc.'s supplier went bankrupt in 2014.

Alta was rebranded as Motivate, LLC, earlier this year.

Novick said the delays have actually been a good thing.

"Since we waited, the costs have come down," he said. "A couple of years ago we were talking about spending $4 million in order to have a 750 bike system."

He says the $2 million cost for the 600 bicycles would be funded by federal grants. Operations costs would be covered by revenue from bike rentals and potential sponsors, according to the proposal. Novick said that several companies have already expressed interest in being sponsors, although he would not disclose which companies.

The Portland City Council is scheduled to consider the proposal next week.

Editor's note: The article has been updated to clarify the start of Portland's first bike share program and that Alta's suppler, Bixi, went bankrupt in January 2014.