After nearly a decade of talking and planning, city council finally approved a plan that will bring bike sharing to Portland streets by July of next year.
The contract (PDF) passed by a vote of 4-0 (Commissioner Dan Saltzman was absent). Three votes for the plan were all but guaranteed long before today’s meeting. Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioners Nick Fish and Steve Novick strongly backed the plan.
— Commissioner Novick (in the style of Yogi Berra)
At council today Fritz declared her support of bike share, but not without bringing up several things she’s still concerned about. “While the policy case has been made, I remain very concerned in general about the helmet situation… Putting bicycles on the street without helmets, especially with tourists, is counter to Vision Zero,” she said.
Fritz also said she’s worried that “inexperienced” riders will create a “dangerous situation” if/when they ride on downtown’s sidewalks, light rail and streetcar tracks. She shared an anecdote about seeing someone crash on MAX tracks just after the new Orange Line opened.
“Yes, I know cars do it too,” she added, “but they have a bit more protection than a cyclist or pedestrian.” Fritz said she plans to work with PBOT on an educating users about sidewalk laws, safe riding practices, and helmet use.
The other members of council kept their comments short. With the passage this morning of baseball great Yogi Berra, Novick invoked several of his famous quotes. “Anyone who rents a bike share bike will be instructed,” Novick said, “That if you see a fork in the road, take it.”
Commissioner Fish said he can’t wait to be “one of the early adopters.”
Speaking of which, PBOT Bike Share project manager Steve Hoyt-McBeth said he expects the system to be on the ground by July 2016. A public process to help decide the location of stations and other issues will happen between January and March of next year.
For now, Hoyt-McBeth and his partner on the bike share project at PBOT, Active Transportation Division Manager Margi Bradway, will turn their attention to finding a corporate sponsor. The price to sponsor the system could range between $2-8 million depending on the nature of the contract.
“Now we’ve proven we have the city behind us. It’s go time.”
— Margi Bradway, PBOT Active Transportation Division manager
Reached outside the Portland Building after today’s vote, Bradway said having the full support of city council will make finding a sponsor much easier. “Now we’ve proven we have the city behind us. It’s go time.” Bradway added that bought (with her own money) a big cake for division staff to celebrate bike share’s passage.
The plan approved today has changed significantly since it first came to council back in 2012.
The bike share system approved today is 20 percent smaller but about 55 percent cheaper than the one the city originally planned.
The contract calls for the city to spend about $2 million to 600 bikes and 60 stations. The system will be operated by New York City-based Motivate (formerly Alta Bicycle Share) with software, hardware, and bikes developed by Social Bicycles. The “next generation” system will be different than bike sharing systems in big cities like New York City and Washington D.C. that rely on large kiosks where bikes must be docked after use. With Social Bicycles, currently in use in Phoenix, Santa Monica, Tampa, Orlando, Boise, and others, the docking software is on-board each bike and they can be locked up anywhere.
For casual riders and tourists, a ride on Portland bike share will cost $2.50 for up to 30 minutes. More regular users will be able to purchase 12-month contracts at $10 to $15 per month to get 90 minutes free per day. Month-to-month memberships will be more expensive. The exact price is yet to be determined.
No matter what happens next, this is a momentous day for biking in Portland. After years of delays and debates, bike share if finally coming. For real. And if the system works (and that’s a real if), Portland will go from laughingstock to leader for the patience, research, and process it took to get here.
Hoyt-McBeth and Bradway were over-the-moon with happiness after today’s vote.
“We’re going to have one of the most innovative systems in the country,” Hoyt-McBeth said, “It will be worth the wait.”
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