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Portland's Ambitious New Bike-Share Will Be Sponsored by Nike

“Biketown” will reportedly be the largest “smart” sharing system in North America.


Portland cyclists will soon be able to use bike-share not just to get across town but to show brand loyalty. The city announced yesterday it is partnering with Nike to put out 1,000 communal cycles by this summer, reportedly creating the largest “smart” sharing system in North America.

The $10 million, five-year sponsorship agreement with the Oregon sportswear giant greatly expands Portland’s ambitions; before, it had planned for only 600 cycles. (Additional financing is coming from a $2 million federal grant.) The system, to be run by national bike-share company Motivate, will use technology from SoBi that eschews locking docks for locks and electronics fixed to the bikes themselves.

Nike says it’ll handle the share’s “stations, the visual bike identity, and digital branding,” as well as “limited-edition bike wrap designs unique to Nike” that’ll be released every now and then. That means Portlanders will be seeing a lot more “Swooshes” and orange hues from the company’s shoe boxes. The bike’s basket is even modeled to look like a box for sneakers:

Felicity J. Mackay/Portland Bureau of Transportation

Though it might be hard to find a more rabid anticorporate city than Portland, officials and locals seem pretty pumped with the new “Biketown” share—and that’s pronounced BIKEtown not BIKEYtown, notes Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland. Here’s more from his visit to the press announcement (which yielded several other images of the cycles’ design):

[Portland Bureau of Transportation] Director Leah Treat nearly choked up (or at least it sounded that way from where I was) while telling the assembled media how much this deal means to her. She has reason to be happy. After years of being hammered by bike share advocates locally and nationally, Treat has delivered a massive deal. “This will be the largest smart bike share system in North America,” she proudly proclaimed, before hopping on one of the new bikes for the news media….

If you believe that marketing and design plays a huge role in culture change and human behavior (hint: it does), than having one of the world’s best designers working on bikes in our city is a very good thing. And consider the halo effect of this deal: Nike is one of the top brands in the world. They are considered “cool” by millions of people — many of them who are part of demographics bike advocates drool over. Nikes partnership with PBOT adds significant legitimacy not just bike share, but to cycling in general.


Felicity J. Mackay/Portland Bureau of Transportation

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.