Portland hopes to roll out bike sharing in spring

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PORTLAND — A bike-share program is expected to begin in the spring, with the city now seeking companies to offer the service.

A request for proposals with a Feb. 21 deadline said a company could be selected by the end of March for a 200-bike pilot program employing a dockless method.

Dockless bike sharing allows users to ride to various destinations, without having to leave their bicycle at a specific place.

The agreement with the city could last three years and include bicycles, tricycles and electric bicycles. Scooters are not yet permitted, and electric bicycles are not allowed on city sidewalks.

City spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the program would be designed to promote bicycles for short trips, as links with bus stops, create more low-cost transportation options, and reduce single-occupant vehicle trips.

While the service could be established citywide, the RFP also gives companies the option of starting a pilot program in a targeted area.

The company selected would set up the program at its own expense, including equipment purchases, construction, installation of infrastructure, operations and maintenance, and marketing.

The company would also have to pay the initial permit fee of $1,500 for a business with up to 250 bicycles. The annual renewal fee for a company that size is $1,000, and $2,000 for business with 251 to 500 bicycles.

The permit fees and rules governing bike share operations were passed by the City Council April 18, 2018, but the city has been looking to host a bike-share program for more than six years.

In 2013, Portland received a $20,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study how to set up such a program. About 18 months later, the city issued a request for information from interested contractors.

No service ever developed, and the industry evolved to allow operators to rent bikes using digital apps, which eliminates the need for fixed docking locations.

Although the city is now seeking a dockless operator, the RFP also says a hybrid system could be used, provided there are docking spaces for 50 percent of the bicycles in use.

Dockless operators would be required to install racks on public property for at least 10 percent of the bicycles in use or pay a fee for the city to buy and install the racks.

Companies would also be responsible for removing improperly parked bikes within two hours of notification. Bicycles left outside the service area would also be the company’s responsibility.

During the pilot program, the bike fleet could be expanded or reduced, depending on demand.

If data during the pilot period reveals each bicycle has not been used an average of three times per week in the first four weeks, the company would be required to reduce the fleet by 15 percent. There is an exception for continued inclement weather.

If demand is strong in the first month, an operator may apply to the city to expand its fleet by 25 percent. High demand after two months would allow an operator to apply to expand its fleet by 50 percent, up to a 500-bike cap.

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.