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Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Portland Bike Share FAQ

Questions about bike share stations and station planning can be found on the Station Planning FAQ page of the interactive draft BIKETOWN station map

What is bike share?

When will Portland’s bike share system launch?

Why is the City building a bike share system?

Do other cities have bike share systems?

What will be different about Portland bike share compared to systems in other cities?

Where will Portland bike share operate?

Where can people check out and return bikes?

How much will it cost to use a bike share bike?

How is the City paying for bike share?

Who will operate Portland’s bike share system?

Who is Portland’s bike share equipment supplier?

How is Portland bike share system addressing the City’s equity goals?

What about helmets for bike share users?

What is the safety record bike share?

What about theft?

What is bike share?

Bike share is a public bike rental system for short trips. Public bicycles are available to ride from one point to another for a small fee. In cities across the globe, bike share systems have proven popular and successful by giving residents and visitors a convenient and fun transportation option.

The Portland bike share system is named BIKETOWN.

When will Portland’s bike share system launch?

BIKETOWN will open in July 2016.

Why is the City building a bike share system?

BIKETOWN will help Portland meet many of its livability, transportation, and climate change goals. It will provide a low cost transportation option to reduce congestion and carbon emissions. It will complement the existing MAX light rail, Portland Streetcar and bus systems by providing a flexible transportation option.

Do other cities have bike share systems?

Bike share systems operate in over 60 U.S. cities and more than 500 worldwide.

What will be different about Portland bike share compared to systems in other cities?

Portland will be an innovation laboratory for bike share as we work to develop the most accessible, flexible, and sustainable bike share system in the world.

BIKETOWN will feature:

  • Smart bike technology that makes finding, reserving and parking a bike, easier and more convenient. People can check out a bike through their smart phone, a computer, their member card, or typing in their reservation number.
  • Greater flexibility: in addition to dozens of bike share stations, Portland’s smart bikes will allow user to park and check out bikes from over 3,000 public bike racks in the service area for an additional fee.
  • A clear, intuitive pricing system that offers the most accessible price point to use a bike of any bike share system in the U.S.. Portland will have the lowest price point for a one-time use fare of any bike share system in North America.
  • The world’s most sustainable bike share system: Portland is utilizing Social Bicycle’s smart bike technology to empower customers to make the system operate efficiently. Bike share’s biggest operating cost is “system rebalancing” - moving bikes to and from high demand locations. Where most bike share systems require vans or trucks to move bikes around and keep the system operating efficiently, Portland will pilot the use of real-time GPS data and financial incentives to reduce reliance on motorized vehicles. As the trip data grows over time, Portland and Motivate plan to develop algorithms to further enhance the efficiency, predictability and sustainability of their rebalancing efforts.

Where will Portland bike share operate?

The initial service area will cover the entire central city, including downtown, Old Town/Chinatown, inner Northwest, Goose Hollow, South Waterfront, West End, Pearl District, Central Eastside, Rose Quarter, Lloyd District, and inner North Portland. With support from Nike, BIKETOWN is growing to 1,000 bicycles and will expand to more neighborhoods. The proposed expanded service area will be released on March 9th with the draft station map. 

Where can people check out and return bikes?

Like other bike share systems, riders will be encouraged to end trips at a station. Unlike most systems, BIKETOWN users will also be able to reserve, hold, and park a bike at thousands of publically accessible bike racks in the service area. Users who park a bike outside of a station will be charged an additional fee, and users who return such bikes to the stations will receive a credit. Every bike’s exact location can be viewed in real-time from the system’s website or smart phone app.

Users can check out a bike by entering their account number and PIN directly on the bike, by making a reservation online, through the free smartphone app, by tapping their membership card on the bike's user interface, or at one of the 20 kiosks throughout the service area.

How much will it cost to use a bike share bike?

The City and Motivate have agreed that the cost will be an average of $2.50 for 30 minutes of use. Most bike share trips are under 20 minutes. The $2.50 average cost for 30 minutes will be the most accessible fare pricing of any major U.S. system. This low-cost fare product is designed to encourage a wide range of Portlanders to bicycle.

BIKETOWN's annual membership will offer up to 90 minutes of bike share use per day. The annual membership price has yet to be finalized, but will cost between $10- $15 per month for a twelve-month contract.  In addition, the City and Motivate are also exploring a pay per minute to pay as you go pricing structure.

How is the City paying for bike share?

Nike's $10 million sponsorship is the main source of funding for acquiring, launching and operating BIKETOWN. In addition, PBOT secured a $2 million federal grant, approved by the Metro Council in 2011. The initial system will also include funding from the Oregon Department of Transportation for a bike share station at Union Station. The grant requires a 10.27% match requirement which is met through Nike's partnership. In addition to the federal grant, user revenues and sponsor support will pay for operating the bike share system. No City money will be used for bike share operations.

Who will operate Portland’s bike share system?

Portland’s operator is Motivate, the nation’s bike share industry leader. It operates over 60% of the bike share fleet in North America including the four largest systems in the U.S.:  New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Boston.  In 2014, Bikeshare Holdings LLC purchased Alta Bicycle Share and changed its name to Motivate.

Who is Portland’s bike share equipment supplier?

Portland and Motivate are partnering with Social Bicycles (SoBi), a leader in bike share innovation. SoBi revolutionized bike share by pioneering the “smart-bike” approach. Instead of relying on expensive docks and kiosks, SoBi places all the communications and locking technology on the bike itself. This reduces equipment costs while proving the user greater flexibility on where to find and return a bike.

How is Portland bike share system addressing the City’s equity goals?

When it launches, BIKETOWN will offer the lowest price point of any major bike share system in the U.S, allowing a broad cross-section of Portlanders to access the system for flexible trips. Portland’s project includes a comprehensive equity plan developed in partnership with the Coalition for Communities of Color and Verde in 2012. The equity plan – known as the “High Road Standards” in the contract - is founded in three principals: to offer affordable pricing; to train and hire Portlanders at a family wage from underserved populations for bike share operations; and to expand the service area to more low income areas in the city.  

Aside from providing the lowest cost one-time fare for bike share in North America, Motivate will provide 500 highly discounted memberships to community organizations serving low income populations. In addition, the City and Motivate are exploring a cash-only membership option for un-banked and under-banked Portlanders.

What about helmets for bike share users?

Portland has a culture of dedicated helmet use, as over 80% of cyclists wear helmets in the city -and the percentage continues to grow. Portland bike share plans to capitalize on that behavior by encouraging helmet use through free helmet promotions, discounts for annual members to purchase helmets, and low-cost helmets for low-income users through retail partnerships. The City is also exploring helmet vending options in conjunction with bike share station locations and other high-visibility areas.

What is the safety record bike share?

North American bike share systems have a strong safety record. The bike’s upright position, low speeds, and integrated front and rear lights have all contributed to public bike share systems having better safety performance than trips on privately owned bicycles.

What about theft?

Theft rates have been extremely low in other U.S. bike share systems to date.

There are a number of reasons for this. One, bike share bikes have a unique branding that makes them easily detectable. Second, they have specialized parts. This is important because it means they aren’t much value as a source of stripped parts. Third, the bikes have GPS technology on the bikes that allows them to be tracked.

If a BIKETOWN bike is taken and not returned, the user would be charged the replacement cost of the bike on the credit card used to check out the bike.