At 5:30 p.m. tonight in the State of Maine Room at city hall, members of the public are invited to learn more about a potential bikeshare program in Portland. Maine’s largest city was one of five nationwide to be selected to receive help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to explore the feasibility of such a program.
Here’s how a city announcement described bikeshare programs, if there are readers unsure of the concept:
Bikeshare is a program in which bicycles are made available for shared use. The program is designed to provide affordable access to bicycles for short-distance trips in an urban area as an alternative to motorized public transit or private vehicles. Bikeshare programs help reduce congestion, noise and air pollution and support sustainable growth that encourages local economic development while safeguarding health and the environment.
In a nutshell, you pick up a bicycle at a public kiosk and use it to go to lunch, visit the museum — whatever — and then return it to either the kiosk you picked it up from or another one in the city. How you’d pay, how much you’d pay, and where the kiosks would be, among other fairly significant details, remain to be pounded out in Portland and vary among other cities where these programs have been implemented.
According to Bicycling.com, bikeshare programs in other locations have payment systems that range from day passes of $5-$10 to annual subscriptions of $60-$75, some take credit cards at the kiosks and some force subscribers to access the bikes with key pads.
The number of bikeshare bikes per person varies pretty significantly in other cities that have tried the program as well. Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and Miami have between 552 and 573 people for every bikeshare bike on their racks, while Denver, Boston and New York City have between 1,041 and 1,374 people per bikeshare bike.
If Portland chose to be more like the former group, the city would have something like 115 bicycles in its program, while adopting the ratio of the latter cities would give it around 55 bicycles (back-of-the-proverbial-napkin math here).
Tonight’s where you, a Portland resident and potential bikeshare subscriber, might want to find out what’s feasible and weigh in on how many bikes you think should be offered, how much you’d pay to use one, and where you’d want to pick one up.