PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s urban center is looking to roll out a bike share program as soon as next summer.
The city of Portland is looking to partner with private companies on a bicycle-sharing program, hoping to increase the number of affordable transportation options during the city’s warmer months similar to programs in New York, Montreal and Washington, D.C.
Bike share programs have gained in popularity over the last decade as a way to ease traffic congestion and fight pollution. At least 80 U.S. cities deployed bike share programs and 100 more were developing them, according to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center.
“Expanded ways for people to safely bike in Portland is consistently mentioned by residents as something they value and hope to see more of,” said Christine Grimando, the city’s planning and urban development director. “Having a bike share system in Portland will be a fantastic opportunity for us to increase affordable, healthy transit and recreation options for all.”
Portland, with a residential population of roughly 66,000 excluding commuters and tourists, follows a number of smaller cities beginning to put bike share to use. A 2017 report found that these programs are “almost universally popular” and use relatively little tax revenue, with costs often covered by membership fees and sponsorships.
The first year of Portland’s bike share program would be a “provisional pilot period” with possible extensions. The expectation is that the selected provider would design, market, operate and maintain the bicycles, and initiate a pilot no later than June 2022, according to a city spokesperson. City officials issued a request for proposals this week.
Jim Tasse, assistant director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, was excited to hear that Portland is reviving efforts to start a bike share.
“The Bicycle Coalition of Maine enthusiastically supports bike share programs as they help grow ridership, drive infrastructure improvements and make motorists more familiar with bikes on the road,” Tasse said.
Officials did not define the cost, number of bicycles or geographic area of coverage for a potential program, which could encompass the entire city or a smaller area. It is not yet determined whether the system would be dockless, station-based, or use non-electric or electric-assisted bicycles. Bike options should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have a range of membership options.
The city hopes to decrease “drive-alone trips,” expand tourist travel options and “encourage car-free visits to Portland,” the spokesperson said.