Portland transportation leaders 'flabbergasted' by Biketown success

Biketown is booming in Portland. (KATU Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland's Biketown bike share program has only been in existence for a little over three weeks. But Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) leaders are already touting its success.

"We're flabbergasted at how popular it is," said PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera.

City leaders say they anticipated success for the program, but that the early numbers have exceeded expectations.

While Biketown users don't have to sign up for annual memberships, more than 2,000 people have taken that step. The busiest Biketown station in the system, at Southwest Naito and Southwest Salmon, has logged 4,000 rentals in the past three weeks. Rivera also says a few bikes have logged around 500 individual miles.

"We're having to go out and adjust some gears," said Rivera, referring to problems caused by the heavy use.

Rivera says there have been a few hiccups. Some users have been confused by the "hold" feature on bikes. While riders can hold a bike, those holds only last for 30 minutes. In addition, "all day pass" doesn't mean riders have one specific bike tied to them for the day. Some people have bought all day passes, and locked their bike up at various locations. When they've returned, their bikes have been rented by someone else.

"All day passes don't mean that one bike is on hold for you," said Rivera. "They give you access to any bike."

Rivera also says there have been no reported cases of theft or vandalism, noting theft isn't usually a problem that other bike share programs face.

"The parts are unique," said Rivera. "There's really no market for them."

Riders seem enthusiastic about the bike share launch.

"I thought it was going to fail," laughed Vince Schreck of Portland. "I thought it was actually going to bomb. I've used them probably three times now and I didn't think I would."

"My girlfriend hasn't really ridden bikes before this so this is a great opportunity for her to kind of learn the ropes," said Niles McGiver of Portland. "It's been handy for her to commute and I think she's probably going to use them more for that reason."

Potential riders are encouraged to read through the Frequently Asked Questions category on Biketown's website.

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