It’s bike share day in Portland. Here are a few things to expect

It’s bike share day in Portland. Here are a few things to expect

Passersby check out the Biketown bikes in the station at SW 5th and Oak.(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Passersby check out the Biketown bikes in the station at SW 5th and Oak.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The day has finally come for bike share to spring forth on the streets of Portland. We have waited nearly 10 years for this (our first post about Portland’s plans for bike share was in February 2007) and now it’s time to take the plunge.

Come on Portland. We can do this!

We’ll be at the launch party this morning and will be tracking any developments and updates as needed. But before the crazy starts, here are few things you can expect to happen today:


Even though the Portland Bureau of Transportation has done their homework and our system (run by Motivate Inc. with bikes by Social Bicycles) is relatively simple, we might see some technical glitches here or there. Keep in mind that we are launching the largest “smart-bike” system in North America (that’s a reference to the fact that the operating software is on each bike instead of at a central server/kiosk). The bikes themselves are pretty bombproof (they even have a shaft-drive which is much more reliable than a chain), but you just never know what might come up.

Will the on-board software work smoothly? How about that new app? The good news is that Biketown is a top priority for PBOT and for Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick so we’re confident they will throw everything they can at making sure the system works — and/or fixing an unforeseen glitches — from the get-go.

Pranks and vandals

People will surely vandalize the bikes and the stations. We’ve already seen some grafitti (someone wrote “Nike = Hitler!” on a station marker) and what looks like a bike-tipping incident on Twitter. The bikes are novel and high-profile so they’ll attract the wrong kind of attention for as long as they’re on the street. There will probably be more pranks tried in this first month or so but it will subside in the months to come. Then it’ll be no different than the damage mean people do to bus or MAX stops from time to time.

Some people — even “cyclists” — will absolutely hate it

This is a tradition when Portland launches a big bike thing. Someone will be on TV saying how bike share is dumb and will fail. And that person will likely be wearing a helmet or will be labeled by the media as a “cyclist” to give their opinion more weight. This happened in a big way back in 2008 when Portland debuted our bike boxes. The TV news swarmed the one guy at the City Hall launch event who was absolutely enraged by them and made it seem like they were a big controversy when in fact they weren’t.

Orange bikes and their riders doing strange things

If Biketown works we’ll have a lot of people who don’t often ride downtown suddenly on two wheels. Even — gasp — tourists! This means there will be people riding in ways and in places we’re not used to. And yes, some people will do things that are illegal or generally not appreciated by other road users. I know this will happen. My only hope is that courtesy and kindness prevails. Let’s be patient and extra nice to Biketown users. The last thing our world needs now is more anger.

“Chaos!” “Controversy!”

There’s a strong possibility that the local news media will eagerly report on everything I mentioned above in alarming and breathless tones. Despite their good intentions the media might find themselves making a mountain of controversy over a molehill of an issue. This happens so often with high-profile bike-related stuff that it’s become a tradition. Remember the “Bike path to nowhere” story when the Holgate buffered bike lanes opened or the “Sewer money for bike lanes” hysteria when the Bike Master Plan passed?

If/when things get ugly out there, you might want to keep Copenhagenize’s Bike Share Whine-o-meter handy. Then wait about 48 hours and all the insanity will have stopped.

Can’t believe this day has finally come. Fingers-crossed for a successful launch!

Stay tuned.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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