After years of frustrating delays, maybe bike share's finally about to happen in Portland?
At this morning's city council meeting, City Commissioner Nick Fish dropped an interesting tidbit into one of his typical pre-vote stem-winders (he was about to vote on better standards for the city's neighborhood greenways, so it fit): "Soon we'll be taking up bike share, which I fully support," Fish said before moving on.
The comment led to questions, which led the Portland Bureau of Transportation's chief spokesman John Brady to send us a statement: "We have reserved a time for a Council session on bike share on September 16th. We will release more information as it becomes available.”
Whispers within City Hall suggest that's a bit dodgy, because it seems there's plenty of information available. There's talk PBOT's finally secured a long-sought sponsor for bike share, and that the deal set to be announced won't involve public money—long a sticking point for Commissioner Dan Saltzman (who may not support a program anyway), and probably a wise move at a time PBOT's funds are being closely scrutinized.
Why make such a big deal of an off-hand remark and a vague council date? Because this is the most movement we've seen on bike share in years. Time and again, promises for a 750-bike system have been put off for lack of millions in sponsorship funds. Portland was initially promised bike share in early 2013, but it's been delayed again and again.
In the meantime, Portland's estimation as bikey paradise has diminished in some people's eyes specifically because the city doesn't have bike share, the Portland company we'd contracted with to purchase and run a program has been sold off and shipped to New York City, and the supplier we had in mind went bankrupt.
Earlier this year, PBOT Director Leah Treat told the Mercury bike share would be delayed a third time, but promised to have something up and running next year. She didn't have specifics, but said she'd commit to getting some system off the ground—even if it meant using just the $1.8 million in grant money Portland's been sitting on since 2012.
The city may be feeling rushed to get something out in front of the public. Portland's the first city where the company Spinlister is planning to roll out a brand new type of bike share system in coming months. Representatives from the company told the Mercury earlier this year that PBOT officials were chagrinned by that timing, since the city is planning a March launch for bike share. PBOT wouldn't confirm that timeline at the time.