With another month remaining in 2022, BIKETOWN bike-share rides have exceeded 500,000 trips in a year, surpassing last year’s usage numbers by 60%. This achievement follows the program’s successful expansion into more of East Portland and North Portland at the beginning of the year. Although multiplying, bike-share usage in Portland is far from its potential peak, with other US-based programs exceeding these numbers by implementing regional connectors.
In September 2020, BIKETOWN first expanded into East Portland and began converting the orange bike fleet into electric pedal-assisted units. Then in January of this year, the program expanded its service area by more than 25% to include St. Johns and unserved sections of East Portland. The program’s expanded service area and the rising popularity of BIKETOWN’s 100% e-bike fleet has boosted ridership across the network.
Another contributing factor for the surge in ridership comes from a bolstered BIKETOWN for All option for people with income restrictions. One-third of all trips this year were made by those members, with participation in that program growing by 123% in 2022. The discounted membership is available for those who utilize certain state or federal assistance, people who qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, have a TriMet honored citizen pass, high school students, and college students eligible for financial aid.
High school students helped shape the ridership map in 2022 thanks to usage discounts and support from a Living Labs grant from PeopleForBikes’ Better Bike Share Partnership. Because of that support, BIKETOWN increased outreach to high school students in areas of increased equity need. Additionally, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) added BIKETOWN stations at Parkrose, McDaniel, and Roosevelt High Schools this year. The station near McDaniel High School is the highest ridership location east of 72nd Avenue, with over 2,200 trips beginning or ending at or near the bike dock.
Portland’s bike-share system, operated by Lyft, is seeing rapid growth. However, it is far from the most used in the country and has the potential to double its usage by expanding to other cities. By comparison, Jersey City in New Jersey has roughly half the population of Portland and sees similar seasonal ridership trends for its bike-share program. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics collects data on bike-share operators. Its graph of ridership over the last four years shows Jersey City usage numbers in line with Portland from 2019 through 2020. However, the 2021 data indicated a substantial increase in bike usage that coincides with a partnership between Jersey City and Hoboken. The two municipalities merged their bike-share programs, allowing riders to travel continuously along their shared shoreline across from New York City. Since then, riders have taken over 180,329 trips between cities, accounting for 13 percent of total ridership. That intracity bike transit should only continue to grow with a new protected bike lane connecting both cities.
Jersey City is not a direct comparison to Portland. Although it has half the population, Jersey City greeted 96.6 million visitors in 2021, compared to Portland’s 11.3 million. Portland’s pre-pandemic tourist numbers were previously closed to 29 million in 2018 when riders set the previous BIKETOWN annual ridership record of 399,893. Nonresidents likely contribute to the ridership growth in Jersey City. However, their example does indicate the potential for increased bike-share usage in an intracity program with protected bikeways. Recent investments in protected bike lanes installed during the Outer Division Safety Project would be a suitable intracity connector for most commuters traveling between Portland and Gresham. Although not currently planned, expanding the BIKETOWN system into Gresham could significantly increase ridership across the system, particularly among people eligible for BIKETOWN for All.
The BIKETOWN program’s operators are celebrating their 60% growth this year. In recognition of the milestone, PBOT is offering Portlanders discount memberships for a limited time. People can use the checkout code SAVE50PDX to save $50 when becoming an annual member. As tourism returns to Portland and the bike-share network expands, 2023 could become another significant growth year for BIKETOWN.
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