John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
More than a quarter of Biketown’s users say they’ve turned to the service for trips that would otherwise have been taken by car.
Perhaps no civic fixture in Portland will ever be as beloved as those strategically uncomfortable public toilets, but the new bike share is coming close after a mere six months in operation.
The Nike-sponsored Biketown program, which rents 1,000 carrot-colored “smart” cycles for $2.50 a trip, has logged 160,000 journeys since July for a total distance of 312,690 miles. That’s the “equivalent of 49 round-trip rides from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine,” according to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Last year also saw 3,000 people sign up for year-long contracts, which cost $12 a month and provide 90 minutes of free riding daily.
In surveys with more than 2,400 bike-share users, Portland dug up some other modest successes. Twenty-six percent of Biketown users said they had used the bike-share program instead of driving a car at some point, and 64 percent said they’re biking more, according to the city. The program also reported some upsides for local businesses: 71 percent of tourists who used the bikes said they did so to reach stores or restaurants, and 69 percent of local riders said they were more likely to visit a business near the bike-share stations.
Additionally, Portland says 20 percent of local Biketown users have “reduced their car ownership” or at least “considered it.” Even the recent spate of foul weather hasn’t driven people away from the program. The city says five people signed up for annual contracts during a record-breaking snowstorm on December 14, presumably as an “alternate means of travel during winter-weather conditions.” And one Portlander recently noticed a couple people pedaling the cycles around town, which was “pretty impressive… because the city was frozen over and I was only riding because I have studded tires.”