Portland To Donate Used Biketown Bikes

Photo: Ford, Brad

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) plans to donate surplus BIKETOWN bicycles to two cities, reviving a bike-share system in Bend, and enhancing the bike-share system in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, under a plan the Portland City Council is expected to consider on Wednesday.

BIKETOWN, Portland's beloved bike-share system known for its ubiquitous orange bikes, converted to an electric pedal-assist system in September, replacing the original pedal bicycle fleet. As PBOT considered the future of the bicycles remaining from the original BIKETOWN fleet, the bureau focused on finding a way to reuse the bikes, which come with special technology for renting and locking.

Reuse -- rather than recycling or disposal -- can make bicycling accessible for more people and reduce carbon emissions by extending the life of the equipment and avoiding the need to manufacture new bicycles. Bike-share systems use specialized technology and proprietary parts specific to bike-sharing, so thousands of bike-share bicycles have been scrapped worldwide as new technology replaced them. PBOT determined that the best way to extend the life of the original fleet was to donate them to another bike-share system that uses the same technology.

"With this donation, BIKETOWN is making good on our goal to expand access to bicycling," Portland Transportation Director Chris Warner said. "By reusing our equipment, these bikes will keep serving the public and providing a sustainable transportation option. I am glad that PBOT staff have created partnerships with other communities that are eager to make bicycling more accessible to more people through bike sharing. Portlanders should be proud that BIKETOWN is able to help other communities in this way, and I hope this kind of creative reuse of bike-share technology becomes the standard across the nation."

On Wednesday, the Portland City Council is expected to consider an agreement to donate about 625 BIKETOWN bicycles to the City of Hamilton, where a nonprofit organization called Hamilton Bike Share operates the public bike-share system.

The Hamilton City Council voted to approve the donation on Friday. If the Portland City Council approves on Wednesday, the bikes will be delivered to Hamilton this summer.

Also this summer, Director Warner plans to authorize the donation of 100 bikes to the City of Bend, which plans to use the fleet to re-start a bike share system in the high-desert hub of active living. The donation does not require Portland City Council approval.

The new program in Bend will be operated in partnership with Cascadia Mobility Inc, a new nonprofit with a mission to develop an interoperable network of equitable shared transportation programs in small- to mid-sized Oregon communities. In April, Cascadia Mobility and its nonprofit fiscal sponsor Forth assumed operations of PeaceHealth Rides in Eugene. Eugene's PeaceHealth Rides program and the donated fleet of BIKETOWN bikes both function on the same software platform, making interoperability between Bend and Eugene possible. 

Well managed bike-share systems increase affordable transportation options for community members who need them most. People on low incomes and people with disabilities are especially likely to benefit from bike-share programs because driving a vehicle may not be accessible for them. Hamilton Bike Share operates the Everyone Rides Initiative which is focused on increasing access with rider subsidies, education, and outreach in the bike-share program.

Bend, meanwhile, hopes to reintroduce bike-share as a small central pilot, serving downtown, the Old Mill District, and the OSU-Cascades campus. Bike-share service previously ended in Bend in 2020. Bend and Cascadia Mobility have ambitions to expand the program to serve more communities on the east side, and to extend the reach of the city's transit system.

About 750 bicycles are remaining from the original BIKETOWN fleet of 1,000 bicycles. The other 250 are not in usable condition. The new owners will change the branding and other characteristics to match the systems in Hamilton and Bend.

BIKETOWN’s 2020 expansion and new electric pedal-assist bike fleet were made possible in large part due to the extension of the sponsorship agreement with its founding partner. Nike increased its BIKETOWN sponsorship with PBOT by more than $8 million through September 2025 — building on the initial $10 million sponsorship for the system’s first five years of operation.

Launched in July 2016, the original BIKETOWN system made 1,000 bikes available for short-term rentals. By the original system’s last day on September 7, 2021 Portlanders and visitors had logged 1.3 million trips on the iconic orange bicycles. On September 8, 2020 BIKETOWN re-launched with 1,500 electric pedal assist bicycles. While the start of the pandemic caused a drop in ridership, it has been rising steadily, with riders logging more than 200,000 trips through July 8 on the new all-electric fleet.

Source: Portland Bureau of Transportation

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