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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Here we go again with the Barcelona bit

Portland's determined to have a bike-sharing program, even though the first one tried here promptly crashed and burned, and even though Paris is starting to prove that it's not feasible to maintain one over the long haul. There's going to be a "demonstration" of the idea at this weekend's Sunday Parkways in southeast Portland, and I'm sure that on a one-day basis, with staffers from four different bike rental firms hanging around all over the event, it will be wonderful.

A permanent program, however -- now that's a different kettle of tofu. Here's the come-on:

Bike sharing systems are automated, self-service bicycle rental systems that allow people to rent bikes, usually for a short period of time. Bike sharing bikes are placed at various locations in the city for use and drop-off. Paris and Barcelona instituted large-scale bike sharing systems that have proven very popular and dramatically increased bicycle ridership....

Although over 100 bike sharing systems are in use internationally, Washington DC and Montreal, Quebec are the only North American cities that have installed the latest iteration of bike sharing systems. Bikes are usually checked out by a credit card or Smart Card at an un-staffed kiosk adjacent to the parked bicycles.

Now, Barcelona is one of the few cities I've ever visited outside the United States, and I loved the place. But when Portland City Hall starts playing the Barcelona card, you know something dumb and expensive is about to happen. Remember when Goldschmidt was pushing extending the Park Blocks from the back of Nordstrom's all the way north to Burnside, enriching his cronies on either side? That was a Barcelona sell all the way. "It will be like the Ramblas!" Uh huh.

Anyway, bike sharing is the next free municipal wi-fi, folks. Play while it lasts, because it probably won't last long. Portlanders are always ready to believe that human nature doesn't apply here, but it most certainly does.

As for Sunday Parkways, if the northeast version is any indicator, you kind of need a bike to defend yourself, and rental wheels should work fine for the purpose.

Comments (25)

This seems to be apples and oranges. "Dramatically increased bicycle ridership" seems to be talking about bike commuting and things like that, but from what I understand these are short-term rentals, suitable for a ride across town or something like that. I can see tourists in downtown for the day (but not any day when it's, you know, raining) renting one of these to go riding along the Greenway or Esplanade, but don't know how well it'll work on a city-wide basis. Portland is so pro-bike that the people who want to ride across town already have a bike.

Well, car sharing works, so I'm pretty sure it can also work for bikes. However, I don't think you can open it up to the public, it has to be a membership based bike-sharing program. For which, there may not be enough of a market in Portland.

And in a similar vein, can we finally admit that last summer's gas-scare, was just that, a "scare". Gas prices will likely outpace inflation over the next couple of decades, but we're not going to get to the point where a significant number of people want to bike over drive. More likely our cars will just become really gas efficient.

Portland: like Barcelona except the pickpockets are government-run.

This seems like another "we're so cool" thing for inner Portland. I really can't see it working out here in the wilds east of 82nd. For one thing, the bike lanes aren't so well maintained here, so they'd have to include a flat-repair kit for when you ride over broken glass in the lane.

I'm getting sick of all these feel-good projects for the trendies, when out here we have major streets that run for a mile without any safe places for pedestrians or bikes to cross. Glisan from 102-122, for instance, has ONE marked crosswalk that is usually ignored by cars, and the Halsey-Weidler couplet has just 1 stop light in that same mile.

But we might get a streetcar. That will solve all our problems!

I guess I'm just grumpy today.

not grumpy Michelle...just realistic!

I wonder what city Barcelona is trying to be like?

Good grief. poor Portland, a city without an identity. If I didn't know better (and I'm not sure I do), I'd say Portland is supposed to have an identity crisis.

But then again, maybe it's just certain people that have an identity crisis.

Oh, yes, and I want to see what happens when someone gets really bored around those unstaffed kiosks. Y'know, there's a reason why rental car places always have at least one live person on staff, even at night, just to make sure someone drunk and/or vindictive decides to "have some fun" with brand-new vehicles and a hammer.

I think we should change the name of Broadway to Barcelona Boulevard. that should do it.

And am I the only one who hears this plan and can hear Prunella Scales sighing "He's from Barcelona"?

City Hall should go for the gusto and do this with skateboards. Now that would be something useful.

"Crazy cyclers, always getting under your wheels!" (Betrayed, '54)

Triffid, and am I the only one who has cycled for over half a century and still finds both humor and wisdom in Victor Mature's exclamation to Lana Turner as they drive a truck in Nazi-occupied Holland?

It would seem sane that prior to encouraging additional slaughter on the streets, our alleged mayor, et al, might tend to such traditional concerns as having those streets cleaned occasionally and repaired regularly.

Perhaps our alleged mayor could ask his $50K/annum erstwhile PMercury reporter to oversee such matters?

And perhaps our alleged mayor might task his inexperienced $80k/annum replacement for Wade Nkrumah with issuing a condemnation of any attempts at interference with volunteer petitioners gathering signatures for our alleged mayor's recall?

Sigh. The Parisian bikes looked so nice when I was there recently....

Perhaps we can develop a rent-a-mayor program instead and encourage theft.

Barcelona? Paris? I thought we were trying to be Amsterdam. Hey, that new bridge we're building for all the bikes will be a great place to toss your bike into the river. Just like all the bikes that get tossed into the canals in Amsterdam. The bridge will be a great place to lock your bike up and leave it forever, too. Just like all the derelict bikes at the train station in Amsterdam.

Love the picture of the trashed bike-share bikes in Paris. Boy, that will never happen in Portland. Er, it won't happen again, I mean.

I agree with the person who thinks skateboarding-sharing is just the ticket. Skateboard-sharing sites could be conveniently set up outside tattoo-and-piercing parlors all over the city.

...Yet another 'brilliant' business idea that the city goes rushing into head first. If it were a feasible business model, wouldn't the free market already have something in existence?

Why don't we mandate the State of Oregon motor pool to be at least 30% bikes?
Lately I'm seeing a ton of new Jeep Cherokees, Toyota Priuses, Chevrolet Impalas and Ford Tauruses on I-5 with state-plates on them. Gee, I thought the budget was strethed to capacity? Why all the pricey new rigs, can't we just get a few good mechanics to keep the old ones running?

New, rehabbed bike sharing program is a GREAT idea. We don't have to be like Barcelona, but if a half dozen European cities can do it, by gum, we can too. Of course, we have to respect human nature, which the last program did not, and make stealing the darn things very very difficult. Which French and other cities have done, by requiring bikers be registered via their IDs and credit cards. Of course, there will always be fraud, but as you know Jack, there's fraud in the tax system as well. Paris gets 120,000 rides a day (near half what TriMet gets) and its financially self supporting. As a downtown employee (and there are tens of thousands of us) this would provide an incredible amount of mobility and take thousands of car trips on the road. Brilliant.


Comparing the Paris-style bike sharing program with the ill-advised "yellow bikes" of the mid-90s doesn't wash. The yellow bike thing (which, by the way, was NOT a city program, but run by a non-profit) just let you take a bike without a fee or ID. As a result, it took only a few months before all the yellow bikes were gone, except for a few pedaled around by the homeless.

If you require a credit card and don't return the bike, then the cost of the bike would be charged to your account. Frankly, though, I think the idea of unstaffed kiosks is stupid. Without anyone to check in a bike after it's used, the last rider could claim it was in perfect condition when returned. And without someone around, vandals will have easy prey. Since we have a lot of people looking for work, I'd think it would be better to ditch the techy stuff and just have a human being rent the bikes--probably more cost effective in the long run, too.

Since I own two bikes, I doubted that I would ever rent one until, on July 4th, my front tire hit a crater on NW Everett. The pothole was so deep my bike almost flipped. Fortunately that didn't happen, but I had serious flat tire, no patch kit and no bike shop open. So I locked up my bike, walked five miles home and returned with my truck to pick it up. A rental bike would have been handy then. But mainly these rentals will go to tourists and should be located at places tourists go to.

One other issue concerning a staffed vs unstaffed kiosk is the need for a bike helmet. Anyone biking in unfamiliar territory definitely should be wearing a helmet, but I doubt the unstaffed kiosks would carry them, unless they had some kind of expensive vending machine.

Gil, I agree with you about the problems with returning completely trashed bikes. I get strange flashbacks to the first Jackass movie, where I picture someone returning a bike with two tacoed wheels, handlebars only good for scrap, and "I (Heart) COP KILLERS" scratched into the frame, claiming "I think I hit a dog."

I can't wait for the city to declare that auto's no longer have to abide by the rules of the road, just like they have for bicyclists.

Actually, the program in Montreal looks pretty good. I know several people who used it during a convention when I was up there--five bucks per day, bikes were noticably styled differently from standard bikes, and you could lock them up at any Bixi stand.

Of course, Montreal also charges for bike parking as well.

(Less grumpy today.)

My daughter just got home last night from France. She was in Paris over the weekend so I quizzed her on her impressions of the rent-a-bike system. She said the bikes were in very nice shape. The kiosks are unmanned. You use your credit card to check out the bikes. The first half hour is free, so if you're taking a quick jaunt you don't have to pay. She didn't know how much it was after that. There were many Parisians using the system, not just tourists. Her group thought about renting them for that free half hour, but by the time they'd completed the check-in process for all 4 of them, they wouldn't have had much of the free time left (kids on a budget, you know). She didn't know if the program was run/funded by the city or by an independent business. I'm not promoting it, just trying to give an unbiased report of her impressions of their program.

I still think it's a we're-so-cool program for the trendies, though, and I still think the money ought to be spent on things we actually NEED, like safe streets for bikes and pedestrians in the less-popular parts of town.

I loved the bike kiosks in Paris and used them to travel all over the City. It was heavily used by locals and tourists alike.

I also travel to Washington DC all the time and something important needs to be pointed out--the DC program is a subscription program only (unlike Paris). The DC program is targeted squarely at commuters, not visitors / tourists.

Now here's why I think this will be a boondoggle for Portland.

First, we are not Paris. Let me say that again: we are not comparable to a millenia old city with density that FAR exceeds our own, a road network that is absolutely abysmal for cars, and a tradition of shopping daily for produce, food, bread, etc.

The whole infrastructure of Paris is designed around walking, and has only adapted to the automobile in the last 100 years. This makes it nearly ideal for a bike sharing program.

We may WISH we lived in Paris. We may wish we WERE Paris. But we are not Paris.

Now DC. The bike program in DC, as I already pointed out, is quite different from Paris. It is a full year subscription model targeted at commuters.

The level of commuting in DC far, far, FAR exceeds Portland, and the traffic problems in DC are far worse than Portland.

DC has a Metro system that is far more extensive than Portland--thus bringing commuters into the city who need to get from their Metro stop to their place of employment.

This system won't work in Portland because:

1) It is simply far too easy to get around this city in a car. I think this is a GOOD thing by the way, but we do not have the Paris or DC problem with traffic.

2) We do not have that many tourist destinations.

3) Shopping areas have located for the car, not for the bike. Most Americans still shop a few times a week, not a few times a day. Most work in places separate from where they shop and where they live.

3) Hills and distances. Our city is hilly. The very heavy bikes in Paris that save on repairs just won't work here.

4) Personal space. Most Americans have far more personal / storage space than in Europe. Most of us, if we want to bike, buy a bike. That is not the case in Paris where people live in tiny apartments with little storage.

A bike rental program for tourists is a great idea--private entrepeneurs already have this downtown. Trying to emulate the Paris program is a fool's errand.

Paul G.: You forgot reason No. 6 why such a program won't work in Portland - rain. six-seven months of the year. Who will rent when it's 40 degrees outside and has been raining the past three days?

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