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Portland debuts bike share with 1,000 smartbikes (we'll explain)

Published July 19, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (BRAIN) — A ceremonial unlocking of the first Biketown bike and inaugural ride across Tilikum Crossing took place Tuesday at the launch of Portland, Oregon's bike share.

Biketown offers 1,000 bikes across 100 stations, and is claimed to be the nation's largest smartbike program. What does that mean?

"It allows people to park the bike and you don't have to worry about coming up to a station and it being full or coming to a station and not seeing any bikes," John Brady, director of communications for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, told BRAIN. "You can locate bikes via the phone app. And it will make it easier to use the system to find, rent and return bikes."

Bike share users can park the bike away from a station, but will pay an additional $2 to do so. A user who picks up a bike not at a station and parks it at a station will receive a $1 credit.

Portland is the 65th U.S. city to launch a bike share system, despite its well-known reputation as a bike-friendly city.

"It did take us a while, but as we've been saying, there are advantages to being the 65th city," Brady said. "One of the biggest is we've been able to use the next generation of smartbike technologies that include a locking mechanism and communication technology on the bike."

Nike came aboard as sole title sponsor, with a five-year, $10 million investment into Biketown. That allowed the city to expand from its initial 600-bike plan to 1,000 bikes. As part of its sponsorship, Nike is able to wrap 400 bikes per year in special designs. For the launch, it wrapped 100 bikes in designs inspired by three of its iconic sneakers.

"Biketown demonstrates the value of innovative partnerships and the great things that can happen when we work together as a city," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

"Nike believes in the power of sport to move the world, and that commitment starts here — in our home state and in Portland. Those who live and visit will now be able to move through the city with Biketown," said Jorge Casimiro, vice president of global community impact for Nike Inc.

Annual memberships cost $12 per month and give members 90 minutes a day of riding time. Single-ride passes cost $2.50 (for 30 minutes) and 24-hour passes cost $12 (for 180 minutes of ride time).

More than 1,000 people had already signed up for annual membership as of Tuesday morning, according to the PBOT.

Customers will be able to check out a bike using a smartphone, a computer, a member card, or by typing in their member number and PIN into the keypad on the bike.

The Biketown app can be used to purchase memberships, reserve bikes for up to 10 minutes in advance of a ride, and view account history and trip maps.

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