For Portland’s new bike share program, a smooth ride so far

Lucy Morrell and Felix Garcia, who live in Guatemala, rent bikes from a Portland waterfront depot on Friday as they try out Portland’s new bike-sharing program. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

When Nick Ramos wants a few extra minutes to unwind before his shift at Urban Outfitters, he looks out his window on Congress Street.

From inside his apartment, he has a clear view of a rack installed last month as part of Portland’s new bike share program. Until now, he has always been able to rent a bike from this station when he needed it. Driving instead of walking saves him a bit more time at home and costs him no more than $2.50.

“I’m going to milk this as much as I can,” the 22-year-old Ramos said.

Ramos is one of 376 people who have used the bike-share program since it launched in mid-August. Tandem Mobilité, the company contracted to carry out the program, now has 130 bikes in 35 stations in the city. Passengers made 1,098 trips between August 15 and September 1, meaning many people were regular users.

Keli Hoyt-Rupert, founder and CEO of the company, said the data was slightly above projections for the first few weeks.

“Seeing it in action is really rewarding, and it just goes to show that this kind of system can work in Portland,” she said. “I know it’s still early days, but we’re really encouraged by the public support.”

The average journey is between 15 and 20 minutes so far. The busiest stations are those on Commercial Street and near East End Beach. Mondays have the highest volume. These trends suggest to Hoyt-Rupert that bicycles are used for both recreation and commuting.

To rent a bike, a cyclist must download the application Movatic, which shows station locations and the number of bikes available at each. Tandem is launching stations as they are approved by the city, and Hoyt-Rupert said the fleet will grow to 150 bikes at 38 stations next week. By the end of September, the company will also have added 50 electrically assisted bicycles.

Tandem has installed physical racks in most stations, but some are virtual. This means that Tandem has not installed a rack, but bikes can still be found or left on existing ones at these locations. On Commercial Street, the bikes are parked and locked in new silver racks. Outside Rosemont Market in the West End, a sticker marks the spot where two rental bikes with their red baskets are locked alongside personal bikes on city racks.

Outside Masterton Hall on the University of Southern Maine campus, four more bikes waited on a rack near where Psalms Lovejoy was doing his homework on Friday.

Lovejoy, 21, hadn’t tried the program yet but was excited to learn more about USM’s stations. She had seen one near her job at the King of the Roll on Congress Street, and now, she said, she would try to roll from campus to work. The chemistry and creative writing student lives in Gorham and takes the bus to and from Portland. Originally from Los Angeles, she had used a bike share program in the past.

“I think it will be a good start for a healthy ride,” Lovejoy said.

Cyclists pay $1 to unlock a pedal bike, then $0.15 for every minute of the ride. Electric bikes will cost $1 to unlock and $0.30 per minute. A pedal bike ride from USM to the rack outside Holy Donut on Park Avenue is $2.05. Another trip from the West End to the Old Port costs $2.65.

A monthly subscription is available for $14.99, which includes all unlocking fees and half the per-minute rate. Annual membership will be available starting next spring. Bikes should be available from April to November.

Hoyt-Rupert said the company had only had minimal issues with vandalism or theft, “nothing out of the ordinary.”

Portland’s Nick Ramos returns a bicycle to one of Portland’s new bike share depots on the corner of Temple Street and Middle Street after using it to commute to work on Friday, September 2, 2022. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“Bikes that aren’t finished at a station are locked down, which means people are using the app mostly the right way, and they’re not abusing the system, but it’s just allowing them to understand how it works” , she said. “So we will continue to work on that.”

The city does not pay directly for the program, but has offered “in-kind” payment using city staff to help locate suitable mooring sites and potential donors. Income from rentals and sponsorship fees should cover program costs.

Tandem has projected a need of $350,000 per year in sponsorship fees, and most of the first year will be covered by a $150,000 commitment from the Maine Department of Transportation and a $100,000 commitment from Harvard Pilgrim Health. Care. Hoyt-Rupert said the company hopes to secure about $50,000 more before winter and will soon finalize a few “location sponsors” who are willing to contribute in exchange for ad space or stations near their businesses.

The peninsula is now dotted with silver bike racks, especially downtown. A man who didn’t want to give his name signed up for the app on the rack at Bell Buoy Park near the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal. He was hoping to find an electric bike, but tried a pedal bike anyway. His ultimate destination on Friday afternoon was Westbrook, past the last bike rack in the system, but he said he planned to ride to USM and then get on the bus.

“I would use it to get from place to place to do a 20 minute walk in a 5 minute ride,” he said.

Lucy Morrell, 31, and Felix Garcia, 39, found just one bike on the rack near East End Beach on Friday, so they huddled together on the seat and laughed as they pedaled slowly for praise a second bike to the next station on the East Piste. They live in Guatemala, but Morrell is originally from Brunswick, and they were in town visiting family when they spotted the new bike racks.

A row of bikes in a depot near Ocean Gateway on the waterfront. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Where to go ?

“You are the tour guide,” Garcia told Morrell.

First, a lunch downtown. Then “maybe a lap around the creek,” Morrell said.

Near “The Maine Lobsterman” statue on Middle Street, Ramos locked the bike he rented for his Friday ride to Urban Outfitters. He said he moved to Portland from New York earlier this year. He had used a bike share program there and was thrilled to see the stations appear in his new home. He rode them even in winter.

“As long as the road is safe, I will continue to use the bikes,” Ramos said.

The City and Tandem Mobility will hold an official launch of the bike share program on September 16 from 10 a.m. to noon at the station near Commercial and Dana streets. Hoyt-Rupert said the event will include a ribbon cutting, promotional codes for the rides and education about the program.

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Ryan H. Bowman