In 1994, a community activist in Portland had a harebrained idea: Communally shared bicycles. Why not paint a fleet of 400 low-maintenance bicycles yellow—completely yellow, from handlebars to spokes—and leave them out for public use; any one needing a bike, could simply pedal away.
Already, a few European cities were successfully employing the all-for-one, one- for-all idea, but the community project in Portland is roundly considered the first bike-share program in America. The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial calling the concept an affront to private property rights and, ultimately, the yellow bikes disappeared one by one, as users held on to them for their own personal use.
But 20 years later, the concept of bike-sharing has grownup, along with it sophisticated membership and check-out systems, including credit card deposits, tracking systems and geographically smart locations for checkout stations. With some 400 bike-share programs in an equal number of cities worldwide, the concept hardly seems harebrained anymore.
In China, one program makes available 61,000 bicycles every day, and the program in Washington D.C., the largest in the U.S., has more than 200 checkout stations located throughout the metropolitan area (roughly the same number of stations as Starbucks coffeeshops in the city); last year, the D.C. program reported more than 2 million users.
And, last Friday, Bend took a baby step (wheel roll) forward and joined the growing list of bike-share programs when Commute Options rolled out Bend's only bike share program, a need-a-bike, take-a-bike situation. The program is based at Commute Options offices on 50 SW Bond St. and limited to employees in that complex. The bikes—only three to start—are teal green and made by Eric Power over at Bend Velo. For now, the bikes will be available only for the 25 or so employees who work in the buildings nearby.
"We wanted to start low key," said Jeff Monson, Commute Options' executive director. The current project—bikes, storage area, tools, pump, etc.—costs close to $1,500, Monson added.
There is no fee associated with usage. Instead interested parties will sign out a bike and include their destination. Commute Options hopes to round up some tracking numbers by year's end, and use that data to launch a further-reaching program. Monson also hopes this pilot program will motivate other employers and centralized offices to create their own bike share programs. With reporting from James Williams