Portland’s delayed bike-share program could finally start rolling in July
The company responsible for running a long-awaited bike-share program in Portland is facing a tight deadline to get its rental bikes on city streets by the end of July.
A planned June launch was delayed as the contractor, Michigan-based Tandem Mobility, secured significant “in-title” sponsorships for the program. It is still recruiting local sponsors for the bike docking stations and has not yet finalized its contract with the city or fixed the location of the stations around Portland.
Those plans should materialize shortly, and the company hopes to put some of its planned fleet of 200 bikes on city streets from mid-to-late July, Tandem CEO Keli Hoyt-Rupert said.
“We’re not sitting on our hands – we’re doing a number of things so we can press ‘go’ as we finalize everything,” Hoyt-Rupert said.
Pushing the launch further could force another delay to next year due to seasonality, she added.
“If we don’t launch until August or September, we risk not launching until next year, which would put us and the city in a difficult position,” Hoyt-Rupert said. “It’s a situation where everyone is on deck to meet that (July) deadline.”
Plans for a bike-share program in Portland have been simmering for at least five years. Last year, the city chose Tandem to put 200 bikes — including 50 electric-assist models — on the streets of Portland by June.
The challenges of reaching an annual sponsorship goal of $350,000 pushed back that date, Hoyt-Rupert said. Tandem eventually secured a $150,000 annual commitment from the Maine Department of Transportation and another $100,000 commitment from Point 32 Health, the parent company of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan.
Tandem is trying to raise an additional $50,000 through docking station sponsorships. These sponsorships cost about $7,500 each, but the company will be able to launch the bike-share program without them, Hoyt-Rupert said.
Tandem plans to install at least 20 docking stations specifically for its rental bikes. Another 20-25 “virtual stations” using designated spaces in existing bike racks with space to lock up shared bikes will be spread across the city.
Portland and Tandem have yet to finalize a contract. General locations of docking stations have been identified but not confirmed.
“We expect the contracting process to be completed within the next few weeks,” Portland communications director Jessica Grondin said via email. “We expect there to be a multi-year aspect, with the first year being a pilot program.”
Portland will be the same size as Tandem’s largest bike-share program since the company launched in 2020. Each of its roughly two dozen existing programs has around 40 bikes on average, with only a handful of bikes on some commercial campuses and other locations. Its largest program to date is in Wichita, Kansas, with 200 bikes and eight docking stations, Hoyt-Rupert said.
Riders will be able to unlock bikes with a smartphone app and cycle between docking stations. It is expected to cost $1 to unlock a bike and 25 cents to 30 cents per minute to ride.
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