In Bicycle Based Businesses, community, Portland, sustainability, Transportation

A couple weeks ago, we wrote about how New York is taking advantage of the Citi Bike program and replacing yellow taxis with blue bikes. The big apple fell in love with the idea, and now everyone who is anyone seems to ride the two-wheeled advertisements across the city.

For a while, it looked like this same kind of program was headed for Portland, and on paper, that might be a good idea, right? More bikes on the street, frequent stations for said bikes, reasonable rates. And it’s not just New York, there are many cities across the globe who are turning to bike sharing programs. All in all, its appears to be something like a bike version of Zipcar… So where’s the problem?

Unfortunately Bixi, the Montreal-based company who picked up the contract to install the $4 million investment, recently filed for bankruptcy and put to rest any chance of a bike sharing system for Portland in the near future. To keep from placing all of our free-range eggs in one basket, City Hall is putting a hold on its sharing system until another financially stable company gives us a better plan.

Of course, a bike sharing program similar to what New York has might not be the right kind of fit for Portland. After all, more than half of readers of the Oregonian claimed they wouldn’t consider using the shared bike program (Full disclosure, 58.65% No, 34.34% Yes, 7% uncertain at the time this blog was written) And lets be honest, if you’re planning on using a bicycle in the near future, you likely have one fairly close at hand, right? This is Portland after all; we are THE place to be with 2 wheels.

So if thats not the answer, what can Portland do? I think we all agree having bicycles available to the general public is a great idea, but the implementation might be a little flawed. Is saturating a cycling city with more bikes going to solve anything when we all have our own fixed gear?

Well as it turns out, there are many happy alternatives to the standard bike sharing program, and aren’t alternatives exactly what Portland is all about? Check out some of these brilliant innovations leading us to a sharing-friendly future:

Social Bicycles is similar to the CitiBike program, but without the need for a docking station. In need on a bike? Hop on the internet and reserve a bike located near your vicinity, enter your four digit pin code, ride where you need, and then park wherever you like. You can then brag to everyone how much CO2 you cut down on, the calories burned, and the money you saved on gas.

is calling itself the first smart key-less bike lock. The lock itself is accessible by your smart phone, keeps track of where you locked up, how many miles you’ve traveled, how much gas you have saved. The lock sports a 5-year battery life and an encryption system used by banking companies. And the best part? It doesn’t cost the equivalent of your right arm to get yourself one of these locks.

Lock8 is a similar alternative to BitLock, which sports some anti-theft hardware that will make any would-be bike snatchers think twice. The lock sports some intelligent sensors to keep your bike from being tampered with, a ear-shattering 120 decibel alarm system, and a notification system that lets you and other Lock8 users in the vicinity know when your bike may be drawing some unwelcome attention.

SuperPedestrian is an MIT founded company dedicated to building a smarter bicycle. You may remember our previous blog post focusing on their Copenhagen Wheel, meant to give you an edge when tackling the uphill commute, all while giving developers easy access to open source hardware. This opens a lot of doors for the potential of developing sharing programs.

If you’re one of the innovators trying to tackle this subject and don’t like what these alternatives have to offer, why not develop something on your own? Arduino is open source hardware designed for embedded design, prototyping and development which can prove exceedingly useful for these kinds of projects.

This is only scratching the surface of the possibilities we might have in the near future. Do you have an idea in how to better implement a bike sharing program? Shout out your ideas on our Facebook and Twitter, and we can have a good discussion on the next step.