The city of Bend told The Bulletin in July it hoped to have a bikeshare program up and pedaling by the fall 2021.
It didn’t happen.
What went wrong? Should Bend try again?
A bikeshare program enables people to use self-serve bike stations. Walk up. Click on an app. A bike unlocks, and off the rider goes.
Putting several stations around town can make the option attractive, at least when the weather is not nasty. It’s not going to be for everyone. Done right it could shift people out of thinking they need to hop in a car. Bike trips can be easier on roads, traffic and parking. They can help keep the air clean and reduce emissions. People who use them may also be that little bit healthier.
It wouldn’t transform Bend into a bike town or transform emissions or anything like that. It would help.
In the effort last year, Bend was going to get bikes donated from Portland after that city upgraded its bikes to e-bikes. Bend got a $33,000 grant from the Bend Metropolitan Planning Organization, a regional transportation group, to give the program a push.
Tobias Marx, with the city of Bend, told us it turned out the bikes the city was getting from Portland needed a specific controller chip. The chip was on back -order. A long back -order. Perhaps more than a year. And many bikeshare programs are transitioning to bikes with pedal assist anyway, which can make them a more appealing option.
With bikeshare, Bend may face a similar problem that it does with bus service. To get more people to use it, it needs to be attractive, convenient and reasonably priced. And even with buses running around Bend at no charge, do you know many people who have switched to using the bus? Of course, it takes time for people to change. And if the bus or the bike isn’t there for people to make the change, they won’t.
Bikeshare programs often don’t survive without extra help. Oregon State University-Cascades operated one for a few years. It died when the operator Zagster went out of business. In many places that have them, they aren’t self-supporting on the fees riders pay. They are subsidized or get sponsors. Bend’s program would need that, too. Who in the community will step up to support it?
In February or March, Marx told us city staff may make a presentation to the Bend City Council on what it will try next.