The City of Portland hasn’t even chosen a vendor for their Bike Share system yet; but the local media is already showing its skepticism about the project. Two recent stories — one in The Oregonian, the other in the Willamette Week — have given the Bureau of Transportation a clear indication that the PR stakes are high with this project.
Last month, the Willamette Week looked into what they see as a “Bike-Share Snare” due to the fact that PBOT has yet to choose a vendor:
But with seven months left until the projected start date, the city hasn’t decided how many bicycles it will rent out, for what lengths of time it will rent them out, or how much it will charge. That’s because it doesn’t have an operator for the program.
PBOT says they’re still on track to launch the system in sping of next year and they’re still interviewing the two final candidates on their short list: Alta Bicycle Share and B-Cycle. It’s hard to know how much time either vendor would need between accepting the job and deploying the system, but seven months seems like a pretty short window. That being said, PBOT staff have likely already put in a lot of work planning station locations and thinking through other issues, so the chosen vendor won’t start from scratch.
The Willamette Week article did point out one inconvenient truth for Alta: “In recent months,” wrote reporter Sam Stites, “Alta’s struggles have caused those cities to push back start dates for their bike-share programs from this past July to next March. That’s also when Portland’s bike-share program would start.” However, despite delays in other cities, Alta says, if chosen, they don’t foresee any delays to the Portland timeline.
As you can read by my comments in that article, I will not be surprised if PBOT announces a delay. They’ve waited this long, and they have every reason to take their time and get it right.
Today, The Oregonian published a story with the headline, Portland bike-share plan worries bicycle rental shops (which interestingly reports the launch day as “by April” so maybe PBOT is already pushing it back). The story features an old photo of an upset-looking Todd Roll, owner of what might be Portland’s largest and most successful bike rental and tour business, Pedal Bike Tours. Below is an excerpt:
“Some of the city’s bike rental shops have been fretting for months about how they’ll weather the deluge of bike share rentals about to wash over the city… “We’re definitely going to lose some money, and I’m not happy about that,” said Todd Roll, owner of Pedal Bike Tours.”
Another owner of a major bike rental business, Waterfront Bicycles, told the paper, “In the short run, I think it really will hurt our business.”
The Oregonian also introduced the fear that bike share might “siphon” people away from transit, and thus put TriMet in an even more precarious budget situation than they already are. Thankfully, a TriMet spokesperson dispelled that notion, telling the paper they’re, “in favor of anything that increases bike access” and that, “People who walk or bike more end up riding transit more.”
While not blatant, in my opinion both of these articles make a slight attempt to stir up controversy and/or raise doubts about the success of bike share in Portland. This is to be expected. Bike share is seen by some as nothing more than a crazy pet project of Mayor Sam Adams; and to the local media, it’s a tempting — and somewhat easy — target. Stay tuned. We’re due for more bike share news. And with that of course, will come more headlines.