Adding a bike share system is an excellent way for any major metro to cut down on traffic, add easy travel options for tourists and city dwellers alike, and boost local economy.
Cities nationwide are implementing public and private programs, each with a different way of payment and different share policies. The question for bike share planners: Is there a simple method for people to share bikes?
Huntco Site Furnishings and Go By Bike Make it Easy
The Portland program, set up at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) campus, is the latest site to try out the bike share model that was originally developed at Intel® and has been further explored by the Open Bike Initiative.
Go By Bike stand image courtesy: gobybikepdx.com
Even though a high tech company designed the system–there is not a lot of tech involved–making the system simple and easy to use. The Go By Bike share at OHSU uses distinctive blue bikes, blue metal bike racks by Huntco, and a combination U-lock for secure bike lockup.
Go By Bike U-Lock image courtesy: bikeportland.org
OHSU employees and students, who register with an OHSU email, can choose a bike from the rack and text a number to receive the bike’s specific U-lock combination. Users can access the system within a day of signup.
The open-source lock-based system lowers the barrier of capital startup costs, which for Docking systems can be out of reach for smaller budgets. Docking stations are around $50,000 each, require a power source, and the bikes must be locked to a slot in the dock. Kiel Johnson, the owner of Go By Bike, estimates that this 2-node, 13-bike system costs under $9,000 to set up. He also notes "Setting up the technical part of the system costs $900, the only other part are custom racks and bikes + maintenance…great for businesses and campuses."
Locks vs. Docks
Using locks facilitates a more conventional bike usage style. Cyclists can ride and run errands as they wish, without having to worry about finding a specific docking station while using the borrowed bike to avoid overtime fees.
Docking stations can be necessary where urban bike parking is sparse or inconsistent. These docking stations are a way to claim public space, and ensure a safe location out of high traffic areas. This is less of an issue when an area has plenty of space in the form of protected racks and lockup areas.
Image courtesy: Adam Fagen/cc/flickr
It is yet to be seen if docks or locks are the better long-term answer. The appropriateness of each structure will vary from city to city and will depend on the existing views regarding bikes, infrastructure, and political disposition.
Portland-wide Bike Share
Starting in the summer of 2016, Portland, Oregon will experiment with a hybrid of dock and lock methods. The large-scale 75-station/750-cycle system, run by Motivate (of CitiBike fame) will feature credit card payment machines at bike drop-off/pick-up locations. The custom bikes come with smart locks and can be parked at any rack for the duration of the cycle trip. Bikes will need to be returned to a Motivate station when the cyclist is finished with their excursion.
DIY Bike Share?
Smaller, DIY operators that are interested in providing low-maintenance/-infrastructure bike shares have the potential to crop up all over Portland. Neighborhood associations, facility managers, small businesses, campus associations, city councils, and hospitality ventures have a vested interest in promoting bike share systems.
The Ace Hotel, a Portland fixture, has started its own bike share program and offers house bikes to borrow for free, or hotel patrons can rent custom made cycles (by Jordan Hufnagel) for a reasonable price. Needless to say, having your brand roll around the city can’t be bad for business.
Photo Courtesy: ACE Hotel
Envisioning the Future
Whether bike shares come from large corporate ventures, or DIY small business; regardless of which method, docks or locks, are used; it is clear that with the rapid growth in Portland proper and the nation’s other cities, there is a need for accessible and affordable transportation.