By now, you may be familiar with the ubiquitous red-orange bikes around town. They are the meat of Portland’s Nike-sponsored bike-share program, Biketown. The program officially launched nearly a year ago in June 2016 after several years of development and logistical setbacks.

Portland’s Struggle to Acquire Biketown

Portland has long held the reputation of being a bike-friendly city. In fact, it was one of the first cities in the U.S. to brainstorm of some type of bike-share program. Way back in 1994, the city launched the Yellow Bike Project in an attempt to model Amsterdam’s free community bike program. This ended up in disaster. The city teamed up with a nonprofit organization to release free bikes to whoever could use one, with only the honor system to protect them. Bikes were quickly vandalized or stolen.

In 2006, the city requested a municipal bike-share program proposal. This request was canceled two years later to dedicate more time to analyzing logistics. In 2011, activists from Bicycle Transportation Alliance encouraged the project’s revival. Further unfortunate events ensued. It took another two years for federal funds to disperse as financial obstacles struck the bike-share industry.

In 2014, Bikeshare Holdings purchased Alta Bicycle Share, the company the city had selected to operate its program. Later that year, the company’s major bike supplier filed for bankruptcy.

Alas, some light appeared at the end of the tunnel when in 2015, PBOT’s new director, who had worked on launching bike-shares in DC and Chicago, was determined to launch whether or not a sponsor was involved. By 2016, Portland struck a deal with Nike, allowing the program they were developing with Motivate, the updated Alta Bicycle Share operator, to expand it.

For all the setbacks, the program has seen a significant amount of use since it finally launched last year. Let’s take a closer look.

The Good

Biketown Portland is a relatively cost-effective bike-share program that contains more smart bikes than any other city bike-share. The technology to manage the program is less expensive than traditional systems that Motivate has employed in other cities. This is good news for taxpayers considering the program is publicly funded.

They aren’t called “smart bikes” for nothing. Each Biketown bike is equipped with GPS tracking and the U-lock serves as the point of sale for riders using prepaid cards or their mobile app to pay for rides. While the most basic ride (30 minutes) is not much of a steal at $2.50, the bikes are an accessible mode of green transportation to a city who loves its bikes. The rates are also the cheapest rates for a bike-share program anywhere in the country.

The Bad

The Biketown program is not without its risks. If the novelty of the program wears off and it loses annual members, it has the potential to become a significant burden to taxpayers. There are 1,000 orange, Nike-logoed Biketown bikes spread all over downtown, to the east and west of the Willamette. Over time, these bikes will be costly to maintain and repair.

In addition, vandals recently defaced over 200 bikes in an act of anti-corporate protest. Like with any public property, the bikes are at risk for intentional damage that will demand.

The Ugly

If you’re not a fan of vibrant colors, you may find these bikes physically repulsive; however, that is not what we’ll be covering in this section. As we’ve talked about before, forced arbitration clauses are creeping into nearly all facets of consumer life. When it comes to Biketown, if you get hurt due to a flaw in the bike, the program, or negligence, and you do not opt out of the terms of agreement, you could be forced to resolve your dispute through mandatory arbitration instead of a traditional lawsuit.

As part of the User Agreement, Biketown requires riders to waive their right to a civil jury trial. This is becoming more and more prevalent in consumer services and employee contracts. Hidden forced arbitration clauses in the fine print of these contracts protects the interests of the company, so much so that they often avoid any real penalties for wrongdoing.

If you were looking forward to a ride on these red-orange beauties, be forewarned: the ride is truly at your risk.

If you have a personal injury dispute in Greater Portland, attorney Richard Rizk is at your service. Call (503) 245-5677 or contact us to discuss your case. You won’t pay anything until your case is resolved!