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Portland looks to bring bike share to town

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First, there were smart phones, then smart cars, now smart bikes.

Portland city leaders announced Wednesday that after many years of trying, City Council will consider a contract with two companies that would provide a bike share system with "smart bike" technology, which puts all communications and locking technology on the bike itself.

City commissioners Steve Novick, Nick Fish and Mayor Charlie Hales will bring a proposal to City Council on Wednesday, Sept. 16 that would put 600 smart bikes on the streets by next summer.

Users of the public bike rental program would pay a small fee and ride the bikes from Point A to Point B.

It would be available not just downtown but also Old Town, the Pearl District, South Waterfront, Goose Hollow, Northwest Portland, the South Waterfront, Central Eastside, the Rose Quarter, Lloyd District and inner North Portland.

Sixty U.S. cities and 500 cities worldwide have a bike share system in place.

Portland's system would be funded by $2 million in federal grants, allocated through Metro’s regional flexible funds process.

User revenues and anticipated sponsor support would pay for operating the system, and no city funds would be spent on the program other than staff time.

“With this next generation bike share system, Portland has once again shown why we’re the country’s best city for bicycling,” Hales said in a statement. “The proposed system will be one of the country’s most technologically sophisticated and environmentally sustainable. It’s a system that Portlanders can be proud of.”

Council will consider a contract between the Portland Bureau of Transportation and two companies known as pioneers in the industry.

The 600 bikes would be provided by Social Bicycles, a transportation technology company based in Brooklyn, New York.

They produce a bicycle with an integrated GPS-enabled locking system that users can book via mobile app, website, or RFID access card.

The company has deployed more than 2,500 bikes in 18 projects in the U.S., Canada, and Australia including Santa Monica, Orlando, Tampa, Phoenix, Boise, Topeka, Hamilton (Ontario), and Ottawa.

Portland's new system would be run by Motivate, billed as one of the smartest, large-scale bike share systems in the country. Their main office is also in Brooklyn, but they have offices in Portland as well as several other cities.

“Portland is one of the best bike cities in the country, and we’re tremendously excited to be a part of expanding bicycling in a community with such a robust bike culture," said Motivate chief executive officer Jay Walder. "We’ve designed a system that will transform Portland into an innovation laboratory for bike share.”

Motivate manages all of the largest bike share systems in the U.S. and many in the world, including Bay Area Bike Share (Calif.), Citi Bike (New York City), Divvy (Chicago), CoGo Bike Share (Columbus, Ohio), Capital Bike Share (Washington, D.C., Hubway (Boston metro), Pronto (Seattle), Bike Chattanooga (Tenn.), Bike Share Toronto, and Melbourne Bike Share in Australia. Their newest system is Citi Bike Jersey City, New Jersey.

A bike share system has had fits and starts in Portland; advocates have been hoping to see an initiative come to fruition.

PBOT Director Leah Treat says bringing bike share to Portland was one of her top priorities when taking the job two years ago.

“Bike share is a very effective way to raise the visibility of bicycling and to encourage new people, especially women, to try biking as a transportation option," she said in a statement.

The cost of the bike share program to users, as proposed, would be an average of $2.50 for 30 minutes of use. Most bike share trips are under 20 minutes.

The low-fare system is designed to encourage a broad array of users. Membership would also be available, for up to 90 minutes of bike share use per day.

Annual membership would be between $10 and $15 per month for an annual contract. The city and Motivate are also exploring a pay-per-minute pricing structure.

“This proposed contract is a great business decision for Portland,” said Commissioner Steve Novick. “We’re working with the leading bike share company in the country. As Motivate has proven in New York, Chicago, Boston and Washington DC, bike share systems provide a valuable transportation amenity for residents and tourists alike.”

Fish is the third needed vote on the council; it's unclear what Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman will bring up in discussion.

“I have been a proud supporter of bike share since 2011,” Fish said. “It will provide another healthy and sustainable transportation choice. Congratulations to Steve and Leah on reaching this important milestone for Portland bike share.”

For more: motivateco.com, socialbicycles.com.