The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Portland’s Bike-share Program

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

By |April 24th, 2017|Bicycle Accidents|

Portland Bike-Share Bars Lawsuits

Nike-sponsored Biketown is Portland’s premier bike-share program. A thousand bright red-orange bikes eagerly await commuters at one hundred stations across downtown and local neighborhoods. At $2.50/ hour or $12 for a full day, these bikes are attractive and convenient options for city transportation. The program launched in July 2016 with extremely promising results. A total of 136,000 miles were traveled over 59,000 trips in its very first month. Biketown allows locals and tourists alike to traverse our bike-friendly city easily and relatively cheaply; yet what consumers may not know is that with each Biketown agreement they sign, they waive their constitutional right to a civil jury trial in court if something goes awry.

How Forced Arbitration Impacts Consumers

Arbitration clauses were developed as an informal, expedited method of resolving common disputes among businesses. The model does not work well when a consumer is pitted against a corporation, for these two entities are not equal.

Companies that include forced arbitration clauses in their user agreements try to paint them as user-friendly alternatives to complicated and unpleasant court proceedings. Little do most people know that arbitration is heavily biased toward the corporation. It is also generally not a more cost-effective approach to dispute resolution than taking someone to court.

Portland’s Biketown yet Another Peddler of Forced Arbitration

The program boasts it is the perfect solution for one-way trips around town. Its own website states it is “fun, affordable, and convenient;” yet, in the depths of the Biketown User Agreement there is a forced arbitration clause buried in the section titled “Binding Arbitration; Class Action Waiver” that prevents users of the popular bike-share program from pursuing their claims in court or as part of a class action settlement. The only solution the contract provides is to pursue mandatory arbitration to resolve disputes.

A portion of the clause reads:

“You agree that any dispute or Claim relating in any way to Your use of the Services will be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than in court.”

Forced arbitration clauses have long stripped away the rights of consumers to stand up to corporations for wrongdoing. Over the past 30-odd years, companies have used these clauses as shields against taking responsibility for violating a myriad of consumer protections. These clauses are everywhere —

By |April 14th, 2017|Bicycle Accidents|