Bike Rental Program a Winner

Portland’s city Bureau of Transportation is about to award a contract to one of several companies for the operation of a city-wide fleet of rental bikes. This excellent idea will save the city money, help promote clean air, assist people in staying healthy, reduce traffic congestion, and increase “eyes on the street” to help law enforcement. Here’s why:

1. Riders. Bike sharing is an innovative individual system of public transportation. Every mile ridden on a bike is one less mile traveled for a gas powered vehicle. Cuba jumped on the bike bandwagon in the 90’s and met some resistance. Cuba has now targeted well-to-do people to ride bikes on commutes of less than 5K. The reason for the earlier failed attempts to get people to ride bikes were complaints about heat, arriving exhausted, rain, lack of bikes, and pollution problems when riding near gasoline or diesel powered vehicles. Since none of these issues has yet to be solved, biking in Cuba is still in its infancy. Portland hopes to overcome these obstacles through education programs. The city that works can get enough riders for this program to succeed.

2. Theft. Everyone dismisses these programs due to the high incidence of theft. Portland can solve this problem by designing the bikes so that no one would want them. Ideas that have proven successful are solid rubber tires, only 1 gear, coaster brake only, and an ugly paint job. Some communities have placed electronic chips on the bikes so they can be tracked and recovered if stolen. Also, if the bike rental program is introduced with some sense of community and ownership, theft is likely to be reduced to a sustainable level.

3. Maintenance. As one could surmise, bikes ridden each and every day by a variety of people will need constant maintenance. Some towns have placed ads on the bikes and used that money for repairs and maintenance. None have succeeded thus far. However, don’t sell Portland short. We have many businesses in the heart of town that would be willing to pay a lot to have their message emblazoned on a rental bike. Other thoughts are to hire out-of-work teens to do the maintenance. Towns that have tried this have also failed, as most teens are ill-equipped to fix much of anything, and training costs ballooned. The teens were often late or absent from work, too, so the bike repairs were not done on time. However, don’t sell Portland’s teens short. They have risen to the challenge many times before and when called on can do so again.

4. Liability. What if someone on a rental bike gets hit or hits someone else? Who is responsible? What if the bike is not maintained properly and someone gets injured because of that? Who will pay? Sadly, most towns have not figured this one out yet. One way is to make sure the entity renting the bikes doesn’t own anything that could be taken in a law suit. Portland hasn’t’ solved this problem, but no one else has either, so it is no reason not to move ahead with the program.

5. Costs. Not one bike share program has ever made any money. But money is not the issue. Saving the environment is and no price is too steep to pay for that. Portland has plenty of money in its budget to cover this program.

6. Eyes. The more people ride bikes the more they see. The more they see the more they can report. All should be encouraged to help our city police department by calling in when they see suspicious activity. This is simply an added benefit, but one that should not be discounted.

This program will work. Portland is not like other cities. Things really are different here and we must all work together to hope and pray that this program succeeds, as I believe it will.

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Posted by at 07:58 | Posted in Measure 37 | 17 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Scott Jorgensen

    I, for one, can’t imagine riding a bike every day in a city where it rains nine months out of the year. I’m very surprised that none of the geniuses working for the city of Portland identified that as an issue.

  • lars

    are you kidding me?

  • Terry Parker

    Every mile ridden on a bike is one less taxpayer helping to pay for transportation infrastructure. Sustainability starts with financial self-sustainability – including NOT subsidizing a project from other resources or a source of revenue outside of what the project itself generates.

    If the project is 100 percent self funding, then OK. But if taxpayers are expected to pick up any part of the tab for a bicycle sharing program – including funding infrastructure or even providing space for the rental locations without charging market rate rents – then the program needs to be scrapped. Additionally, deadbeat freeloading bicyclists need to start paying road a road tax instead of having the funding for bicycle infrastructure poached from motorist paid roadway dollars.

    Money IS the issue and therefore any bicycle sharing program MUST pay its own way. Any thinking otherwise is that of social engineering and a socialist control mindset.

  • anonymous

    “I, for one, can’t imagine riding a bike every day in a city where it rains nine months out of the year.”

    It doesn’t rain 9 months out of the year. Portland gets around 40 inches of rain a year, of which about 2/3 falls from November 1-February 28. And given that it rarely drops below freezing, that means that for 8 months one can ride a bike on most days quite comfortably.

  • Scott Jorgensen

    Having lived in Portland, I completely disagree. I can’t think of very many times when I looked outside, saw it raining sideways and thought, “Gee, I sure wish I had a bike.”
    More power to anybody willing to ride a bike in that. I’m just saying I wouldn’t.

    • Jesse O

      Scott, once you start riding you realize how infrequently it is raining heavily or during commute times. It’s usually a light rain, and not often during commute times.

  • David Appell

    It’s just amazing how some people are so snide and cynical that they can’t just ignore a program they might not like, but have to go out of their way to trash it in every ridiculous (and not very clever) way they can think of. I don’t see any proposals here to make anyone ride a bike against their will. It’s just another option. Live your own life, minimize the harm you do, and get on with it.

    • Max

      Few people ever stick up for Jerry and his articles. It is good to see you do so. I think the plan has a chance and I applaud him for shedding light on some of the hurdles.
      If we all work together we can make this happen. I think the bikes should be pink, though, not yellow, as pink would further discourage theft. Hot neon pink.

    • Anonymous

      Are you the same David Appell who is leading the new “secular naturalist” wing of the Progressive Party I read about somewhere? Kewl. Where do I sign up?

    • Rupert in Springfield

      OK, so now voicing an opinion about how something that in all likelihood will wind up using tax payer funds is something you don’t like.

      I love it.

      Is there anything else we can do for you?

      • David Appell

        Oh please, this article isn’t about an abuse of taxpayer funds. This program will cost how much? And isn’t the city going to contract it out anyhow? If you’re so concerned about taxpayer money let’s talk about all the money spent on roads and tax breaks for Hummers and subsidies for oil companies and all that. Given that 8% of the city commutes to work, and that Portland is attracting tourist attention for its innovations with bicycles, this program is a good investment.

        Anyway, that isn’t what this article is about. It’s just a shallow excuse to criticize and make fun of people who care about the environment, people tired of the status quo, people who want cleaner air, people who think the solutions cars provide are perhaps not greater than the problems they create, people sick of congestion. People who think there has to be a better life than this. In other words, all those pansy liberals

  • Dan

    Maybe it is just me….

    I think this article is mean to be sarcastic. I have read many of Jerry’s articles and the sarcasm is at times difficult to pick up but I am pretty sure he is making fun of the idea.

    Although it does seem like an article that would be seriously posted on Blue Oregon.

    • Max

      I think the guy is right on with this article.
      I hope the bike program succeeds, as we only have months left before the planet melts.

      • dan

        ok…..well it seems that either you are using the same type of sarcasm that Jerry is or….. you are an idiot.

        • v person

          A 3rd possibility is that Max is Jerry. Which does not preclude the first 2 possibilities by the way.

          • dan

            hahahaha true true….

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