August 2009 started with a Portland City Tour with 6 participants. A nice and sunny day, we headed up to the PSU farmers market upon request, before visiting some public art and towering buildings. We stopped for a picnic in the Park Blocks and listened to some local music from a nearby street artist. On the second day of the month, Good Sport Promotions put on the Hottest Day of the Year Ride. I had the shop open for rentals but was able to sneak away and check out this years route. Last year I volunteered to be a on-site medic and mechanic support. During the rest of the week, I had a broke bike mechanic come and ask if he could borrow a bike in exchange for some mechanical work. This was a special situation and I accepted his offer because I happen to need some more hands on that day. I had a good Smart Trips ride with Timo and the gang and this time we explored local storm water infrastructure and the ever popular bio-swales. Things went well, and I took some good notes for my Green Portland Tour.
After a Staff meeting on the 5th and rentals on the 6th I had a great day checking out the Twilight Criterium Race on the 7th. Another Portland City Tour on the 8th, this time with a large family visiting from Florida. A special focus on local restaurants and cafe’s this time. I love the food carts! On August 9th we had the Providence Bridge Pedal here in Portland, and I commuted to work on a four lane bridge void of motor vehicles. A strangely wonderful feeling. I had more rental requests than ever before for this event and rented out all of the fleet – approaching 35 bikes! This gave me a kick in the pants about getting my rental reservation software up. I still like the chance to have a conversation with my customers versus just an internet transaction. I’m human. Times must be busy because my phone wont stop ringing and I’ve got more cash flow to upgrade the bike fleet.
I had a great Portland Bike Share brainstorm session with my buddy Andrew at a sweet BBQ place and we talked about “automization” and what a modular kiosk bike share station might look like. It’s times like these that I love to reflect on my design education and experience. On the 11th and 12th I had long shop hours facilitating bike rentals, preparing for bike share demo days, and building bikes for the BTA’s National Safe Routes to School Conference. On the 13th I had a great Portland Sunset Tour with a family of 5 and we added on an extra bridge loop for the kiddies.
August 14 was the first day of the Portland City’s Bike Share Demo held down at the Waterfront Park. Portland Bicycle Share was one of 5 different companies that responded to the city’s RFI (request for information) and the event went great. We set up the booth in the morning and sipped Stumptown Coffee and shared Voodoo Doughnuts with visitors as they asked questions about the program. I talked with dozens of people throughout the day-long event and saw lots of cycling friends as they cruised by on the esplanade. This was a larger media event for me and I was interviewed by Oregon Public Broadcasting, Willamette Week, bikeportland.org, and the Oregonian. The City was great and really supported the idea of diversity in the demonstration.
The current Portland Bicycle Share description is:
Portland Bicycle Share is a subscription service for locals and a system for visitors to check out a bike while they are visiting. Participants can sign up for a monthly membership if they plan on using the system for commuting. This is facilitated now by a single downtown Portland location, but there is a strong possibility for multiple locations throughout the city with small modular kiosks that hold a few bikes each and operate as a place for both check out and check in. The kiosks that have been proposed so far would be roughly the size of a current city vehicle parking spot for the system to integrate in to the existing urban infrastructure.
This automated system allows users to approach a bike station with a credit card and leave with a bicycle. A security deposit is placed on the card by the bike station vending machine and a key is issued upon verification. The bike lock key, has a key card attached to it (barcode) to track the time usage of each bike. The user may then use the lock specific key to unlock the bike they are going to use and ride away. Bikes, locks, and keys are all identified with matching numbers. There may be different styles of bikes at each station, so the participant will pick the bike they want to ride, get it’s identification number and then use the vending machine to get the matching key.
Upon return, or to check a bike in to another station, the bike is locked back on to the rack, or the overflow section, and the key card attached to the key is scanned and placed in a drop box. Station attendants will go around to each station and pick up overflow bikes and keys to take to stations that are low on bikes. The keys will be taken out of the drop box and placed back in to the vending machine for the next user.
Another vending machine at each station would provide accessories, like helmets, lights, snack bars, water, or pant cuff retention devices.
Bike stations would be placed throughout the city and would be the same size as a standard city parking spot to integrate with the existing urban infrastructure. Space requirements would be roughly 12 ft wide and 7 ft deep.
Right now the Portland Bicycle Share fleet consists of 40 bikes and eighty helmets with a hope to expand to over 100 bikes by next summer. The bikes are a mixture of styles, shapes, and sizes and most are recycled and refurbished bikes from Portland. The majority of our bikes are upright ten speed hybrids and weigh between twenty and thirty pounds. We also have a number of single speed road bikes that weigh around twenty pounds each. The goal is to constantly upgrade the bike fleet and strive towards more modern hybrid style (user friendly) of bike that is easy to maintain. This would also be a opportunity for a possible local bike builder to receive a bike building contract. Especially if the builder could come up with a design that deterred tampering with the bikes and their components.
The cost for implementing a system of 500 bikes and 20 initial kiosks would be between $500,000 – $1,000,000.00 I am proposing a low cost alternative to a multi million dollar system that would keep the contract local, provide jobs here and now, and that uses recycled materials (including bikes) to operate. Hopefully the number of bikes and kiosks would increase with the popularity of the system.
For memberships, participants give credit card information for a $300.00 deposit, sign a liability release, and are issued a membership code. Ideally, with the help of grants or government subsidization the cost for a membership would come down to be a more affordable option for participants.
Right now, with only one station, bikes are placed at different locations throughout the city, and members can access them with a combination to the lock they are secured with. Members can text message or call our dispatch center and get the nearest location of the bikes and a combination for the lock (changed often) after supplying their membership code. They can then return the bike to its original location or another designated place.
Bicycles could be tracked to know their exact location and speed of travel at any time. Modern cell phone technology has made it possible to read gps location and speed of objects by connecting a computer chip. The chip would ideally be installed on the inside of the bicycle frame to make it inaccessible to thieves or vandals. The system works by the computer chip sending out a blip to a monitor (even another cell phone) that gives the current gps coordinates. Programs like Google earth, allow you to plug in those coordinates to get a real time location and speed of the chip (and bike). The cost for this tracking system for now is about $30.00 per bike, but the cost might come down if you were able to install the system on an entire fleet at once.
I know this system is not the fanciest or most modern, but it is evolving every day and has the opportunity to continue to grow. The system is designed to be flexible, upgradeable, and adaptable to work best for the participants and the host city. I know this is kind of small potatoes compared to the larger systems that we have seen implemented in different cities around the world, but could be a jumping off point for Portland or at least a start for something larger to come.
I had a hugely positive response and lots of congratulations for “getting out there and doing something” that’s always nice. I was surprised at the other demonstrators lack of knowledge about Portland. I have been practicing my tour guide skills, but I expected them to at least research the town a bit more. Anyway, we had rentals as well and the day ended with a great Friday NorthFreaks Ride. On the 15th Portland hosted the Tour de Fat, I swung though but was working hard on bikes for the conference still and needed to direct my employees. I did have another Portland Brewery Tour in the afternoon and we rode to Rouge, Bridgeport and Widmer Bros. Brewing. Yeehaw. Lots of prep for the 16th as another Sunday Parkways was upon us. This was also the second demo day for the Portland Bicycle Share event and also the day that the Portland Bicycle Music Festival would be arriving. Put on by the Ginger Ninjas, the music was great and the organizers (who I had been in contact with on their way to Portland during their West Coast Tour) were just as nice as I thought. More Booth set up, more rentals, more networking and interviews. I got interviewed by Chris of the Portland Transportation Blog and had a nice chat with some other city planners. I also got interviewed by channel 6 news and my story made the evening segment. I don’t have a tv, so I never saw it, but have had people come up to me since and say “hey, I saw you on the news!” I had Mark working for me that day with his mechanic stand on duty so that I could concentrate on the event. We had lots of people stop by for bike service at our booth in the beautiful Laurelhurst Park. We used the Portland Bicycle Bus for the event and then hooked up with the Ginger Ninjas to help them out with a bit of flyer production for the evening bike ride and event we had planned. I donated some cash for an epic grocery run and we had a potluck style dinner and celebration with movie showing of the tour so far, hosted at the beautiful Vanilla Bicycles workshop. What an awesome day. Did I mention that the Bicycle Music Festival is all human powered and they use bicycle generators to power their sound stage. Check out their website for a closer look.
On the 17th I attended a Rotary meeting for their group study exchange program and worked all night at the shop. The 18th was my last day to prepare for the Safe Routes to School Conference and I had a few extra mechanics on hand. In the evening BTA staffers and I loaded up the truck we would use to transport the fleet to the on-site rental facility we set up in the underground parking facility of the Hilton on Broadway. A large task, but worth it to get more visitors riding. We took a pub break after and went over a few event details for the next day. On the 19 I got to read the Willamette week article that they did on bike share and and catchup on the bikeportland.org coverage. The conference started with early mobile workshops and bike checkouts as I processed the rental reservations and had participants sigh liability waivers. I brought about 40 bikes , helmets, locks and also directed the BTA”s 25 bikes they had on hand. Another huge networking day for me, as i met biking enthusiasts from around the country. I finally got an engraver and numbered all my locks for inventory. I gave out spoke cards, stickers and even a few t-shirts. “lots of positive feedback” is what Scott said to me about my part in the conference. That’s nice to hear after pulling a couple all-nighters. We had a party at the Flight Deck for some square dance action and went on Rodger’s ride. We talked about an event on Sept. 30th Friday night I put the shop back together and went on another Dropouts Bike Ride.
Tours and Rentals everyday and on the 22nd of August I had the shop open and lingering rental returns from the conference. I updated my business log and caught up on e-mails. Sunday the 23rd we opened up for rentals and I sold off on of my Free Spirit bikes to a friend from the Portland Pedalworks Team. We had an awesome Monday Funday Zoobomb style on the 25th and I had a meeting on the 26th with Scott to learn more about Twittpay and other forms of meta-currency. I trekked up to the vibrant Last Thursday Artswalk with my good friends and pedaled our way through the crowd at a saunter. The end of the month was full of rentals and the annual Pacific Crest Trail Day that I help plan out in Cascade Locks, Oregon. Great to see hiker friends and give back a bit to the hiker community that supported me on my through hike of the trail in 2005.
A great month and super busy times for Just trying to keep up!