As city preps for public bike share, it weighs rules for a private competitor

As city preps for public bike share, it weighs rules for a private competitor

spinlister parking

Will the bikes keep circulating?
PBOT thinks it’s important that they do.
(Image: Screen grab from Spinlister video)

Fourth in our four-post series about bike sharing in Portland.

Portland’s prospects for a public bike share system are looking as good as they ever have. Three of the city’s five council members said Wednesday that they’re excited to back a bike share deal, and a staffer for a fourth told us the proposal “looks great so far.”

Meanwhile, a different launch still seems to be in the works: a completely private bike-sharing system, a new product scheduled to be tested here in Portland by the peer-to-peer bike rental firm Spinlister.

Active Transportation Manager Margi Bradway alluded to the possibility that the city might use its legal authority over companies doing business in public space — in Spinlister’s case, making money from bikes parked at public bike staples.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Spinlister’s chief marketing officer told BikePortland that he had originally been planning to announce a proposed service area for Spinlister’s forthcoming smart bike service on Wednesday.

“Then I heard that the city was announcing something, and I didn’t want to rain on their parade,” Andrew Batey said. “I’m stoked that they’re finally getting their bike share together.”

Last March, Spinlister predicted a “summer” launch for the service, in which Spinlister would pay for new bicycles with Bluetooth electronics built into their bodies. Spinlister would mail the free bikes to selected Portlanders on request.

Then those Portlanders would release their bikes for any Spinlister member to pick up, use temporarily, and drop anywhere in the service area. Spinlister and the bike’s owner would split the revenue.

With just 12 days left in summer, Batey declined to predict the revised launch date.

“For me it’s not about the date that we roll out,” he said. “If I wanted to roll out tomorrow, I could.”

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Batey said Spinlister has a working prototype of its bikes but hasn’t yet hired all the local staff that might be required for such a service.

Meanwhile, Spinlister’s plans are leaving the city with some interesting questions. In an interview last week, Active Transportation Manager Margi Bradway alluded to the possibility that the city might use its legal authority over companies doing business in public space — in Spinlister’s case, making money from bikes parked at public bike staples — to ensure that the company has some sort of plan for ensuring that the bikes don’t just sit around collecting rust.

A Spinlister image of one of their branded shared bikes, built by Vanmoof and to be owned by individuals.

“If you’re going to operate a bike share system in the public realm, then we want to make sure those bikes are cared for,” city bike share project manager Steve Hoyt-McBeth said Wednesday. “We don’t want to be in a situation where we’re the de facto rebalancing instrument through our abandoned bike [telephone] line.”

Bradway said that if Spinlister plans to launch, some sort of official plan for keeping the bikes maintained is “a conversation that needs to happen.”

“We don’t have to know their whole business model,” Hoyt-McBeth said. “We just want to know how they’re going to make sure their bikes don’t get abandoned.”

Batey, for his part, said that if a fleet of abandoned bikes “becomes a problem, then we’re going to be the first ones to sit down and resolve it.”

“We’re going to run a pilot,” he said. “I’m not going to worry about it until it becomes an issue, I guess is my standpoint, because I don’t think there will be an issue.”

I asked Bradway if Portland sees Spinlister’s promised bike share system as a competitor or an asset to Portland’s public one.

Both, she said.

“We’ll play a complementary role to each other and there’ll be some overlap or market competition,” Bradway said. She also mentioned that Portland Transportation Director Leah Treat had weighed in. “Leah has said this all the time: More bikes in Portland is a good thing.”

[Disclaimer: Spinlister is a BikePortland advertising partner.]


The post As city preps for public bike share, it weighs rules for a private competitor appeared first on BikePortland.org.

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