Portland currently has a car-sharing program, UCar Share, so could it also support a bike-sharing program?
There are several bike-sharing systems in place around the globe and dozens of companies that are specializing in this field. A notable new North American system is in Washington D.C. The U.S. capital's new bike-sharing system, Capital Bikeshare, recently debuted this month.
The system works similar to car-sharing, in that you sign up for a membership and then have access to the bicycles which are parked at convenient locations throughout the city. According to the Capital Bikeshare website, their service in D.C. has started with 1,100 bikes at 114 stations. After signing up with the bike-share service, you then can take a bicycle from its station anytime, as long as there is indeed a bike there, and use it as you wish.
The pricing for the service is interesting. You can use a bike for a day by paying $5, or pay for a 30 day or an annual membership. An annual membership is normally $75 but is currently discounted to $50 and I'm sure there will be promotions on the yearly membership throughout the year. Beyond the membership fee, there is a certain price depending on how long you use the bicycle. The first 30 minutes of each session are free, but beyond that the prices get a bit steep. They caution users on the website that if you are planning on using a bike for an extended amount of time, that you go through a bicycle rental facility. Currently, having a bike for 6.5 - 24 hours is a hefty $70.50.
Clearly, an avid cyclist would be better off purchasing their own bicycle, and won't be getting rid of their current one in order to switch to bike-sharing. But for someone who only occasionally wants to use a bicycle or someone whose bike is temporarily out of service, bike-sharing seems like a good deal. Bike sharing might be comparable to standard bicycle rental prices in some cities, which would make it an option for tourists as well. It's an obvious point, but I will just mention that whereas car-sharing aims to reduce overall car usage, bike-sharing aims to increase bike use. So perhaps bike sharing would work better with a different approach than that of car sharing. Just a thought, I don't have any suggestions at this time in regards to a radical new approach.
Here in Portland, it would be tough to make a strong argument for the necessity of a bike sharing program. It does seem to have some potential in larger cities, and I've heard that some sort of bicycle sharing system may be started a bit closer to home in Boston .Most people in Portland who would want to ride a bicycle around town probably already own one, and there are some great affordable options in the area for bike rentals. I'm not being paid to mention them (but I would be open to some sort of compensation!), but Gorham Bike & Ski on Congress Street rents bicycles starting at $25 a day or $125 a week. That price even includes a helmet and lock and choice of many different styles of bicycles for both genders.