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Five things to know about BikeTown, set for July 19 launch

Portland bike share membership, station locations, other details announced


COURTESY: PORTLAND BUREAU OF TRANSPORTATION - BikeTown launches in Portland July 19 with 1,000 bikes at 100 station locations throughout the city, with high hopes to draw out new riders. 
A thousand orange bikes will roll out on Portland's streets for the city's bike share launch five weeks from now, on July 19.

Portland Bureau of Transportation and Motivate Co. — the Brooklyn-based operator — announced the launch date and other details this week.

The Nike-sponsored BikeTown bikes will be located at 100 station locations that people may see for the for the first time Tuesday, June 14 at the program's website, http://biketownpdx.com.

The stations stretch as far east as Southeast Cesar Chavez Avenue and Taylor Street, as far south as Southwest Moody at the Aerial Tram, as far west as Northwest 24th Avenue at Thurman Street, and as far north as North Albina at Killingsworth Street.

Also starting Tuesday, the first 1,000 people to sign up for annual membership — at $12 per month — will be designated as "Founding Members" of BikeTown, receiving a special Nike T-shirt and commemorative key card.

The first 500 of those members will receive their first month free, thanks to a sponsorship by Metro.

The stations will be installed in late June and early July, and the bikes will show up right before launch.

Dorothy Mitchell, Motivate's general manager, says they're now hiring 12 positions for operations, including mechanics and "rebalancing" duties — returning the bikes to the proper stations. They'll use two vans to retreive bikes along the outskirts of the service area and two human-powered trikes with trailers to pick up bikes from small clusters of stations.

Motivate operates the bike share fleets in Seattle, the Bay Area, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Boston, among other regions.

“When we launch on July 19th, we’re going to have one of the best bike share systems in the world," transportation Commissioner Steve Novick said in a statement.

Here are top five latest things to know about Portland's BikeTown's launch this summer:

1. Become a member or use a credit card — BikeTown members will have three options to choose from: A $2.50 single ride (30 minutes of ride time); a $12 day pass, good for 24 hours (180 minutes of ride time); or annual membership at $12 per month (90 minutes of ride time per day). Nonmembers can still use the program for a single ride at any of the 100 stations by reserving a bike online or using the smartphone app.

2. The system will be a "smart" one — BikeTown has contracted with Brooklyn-based Social Bicycles (SoBi), which places all the communications and locking technology on the bike itself.

People will be able to check out a bike through their smartphone, a computer, their member card, or by typing in their member number and PIN into the keypad on the bike. Bikes can also be parked at thousands of publicly-accessible bike racks in the service area.

Users who park a bike outside of a station will be charged an additional fee, and users who return such bikes to the stations will receive a credit. Every bike’s exact location can be viewed in real-time from the system’s website or smartphone app. The app will be available shortly before the program launches.

3. Public feedback shaped the station locations — All but three of the top 25 most popular BikeTown station locations are part of the final map. The Top 25 reflects the feedback PBOT has received since March, after releasing a draft map of 300 potential station locations. PBOT held five open houses and 40-plus community meetings in March and April, and saw 4,500 comments pour into an online portal run by Motivate.

All of that feedback was then combined with technical analysis, says Steve Hoyt-McBeth, PBOT program manager.

Three factors were key: which spots are ridden the most, public demand for each location, and how they align with the city's equity goals. "We feel really good about how we nailed all those three things," Hoyt-McBeth said Monday.

The stations are placed close together for a high level of service, especially on the west side. There are 52 stations on the east side, among 5.6 square miles, and 48 stations on the west side, among 2.5 square miles.

More stations will be added over time, both filling in the inner city and expanding outward.

4. BikeTown is trying hard to make it an equitable system — To align with the city's equity goals, a $75,000 Better BikeShare grant from the nonprofit Community Cycling Center will help the city buy down the cost of membership to "near-free" for 500 low-cost residents. The organization will be doing grassroots outreach to people to teach them about the program and get them signed up. Most of the BikeShare stations are in close proximity to affordable housing units, as well. Of the 13,000 affordable housing units in the service area, 90 percent are within a quarter mile of a BikeTown station. BikeShare is "powerful in bringing new people to bicycling," Hoyt-McBeth said.

5. BikeTown aims to be a safe system — With potentially hundreds of new riders on the street everyday, PBOT officials say they'll "use BikeShare as a rallying call within our agency." They'll add more sharrows and wayfinding signs to help cyclists navigate the city's street car tracks and other tricky spots safely. It's a general phenomenon, Hoyt-McBeth says, that there's safety in numbers. So more cyclists on the road means the crash rate should go down. Nationally, he says, the crash rate among BikeShare trips is lower than for private bike trips.

For all of the latest info, visit biketownpdx.com.

@jenmomanderson