Portland has taken two big steps to get residents out of their cars and onto bicycles.
The city’s first public bike repair stations were installed last month, thanks to a collaboration with Portland Downtown. The city on May 27 also issued a request for proposals from companies interested in launching a bike-share program by next summer.
The efforts follow a pandemic-fueled demand for bicycles that resulted in a shortage and a rash of bike thefts. Police said there have been 61 reported thefts of bicycles in Portland this year and advised people not to leave their bikes outside, even if secured by a lock.
Amy Geren, program director for Portland Downtown, last week said the bike repair stations are funded by a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Although Portland’s downtown is only a mile wide and a half-mile deep, Geren said more than 35 percent of the city’s businesses exist in that area, and people visiting them “can’t possibly all drive a car and get to their place and park in front of where they want to go.”
Portland Downtown also partners with the city to support an initiative known as “Drive Less, Do More, Portland,” which suggests alternative modes of transportation to driving such as taking a bus or ferry, or the Amtrak Downeaster.
Part of the campaign, Geren said, involved installing 45 bicycle hitches around the city.
The three bike repair stations were the result of a request from the nonprofit Friends of Congress Square Park, where one station is located. The other two stations are at the METRO Pulse on Elm Street and Amethyst Park along the Eastern Promenade Trail.
The stations have tools for bike tune-ups secured by cables, a device to check tire pressure, and a hand-operated pump.
While many people might have those same tools at home, Geren said, the stations are handy because they make it possible to work on your bike without “stooping over.”
She added she believes Portland’s bike repair stations are the first ones in the state, and noted one of them exists along a leg of the East Coast Greenway Trail, which stretches from Canada to southern Florida.
Knowing the repair station will be available for bicycle riders who travel through Maine as they complete the 3,000-mile journey is “very exciting,” she said.
The RFP seeking companies to pilot a bike-share program is the third time in recent years the city has tried to get a bicycle sharing system up and running.
The selected provider will be responsible for all aspects of the program, and proposals are due June 16, with the pilot to be launched no later than June 2022.
According to a May 27 press release from the city, the program could be dockless, station-based, or a combination of both. It could also serve the entire city or a limited geographic area.
Christine Grimando, planning and urban development director for the city, said residents consistently tell officials they want more options to bike the city safely.
“Having a bike-share system in Portland will be a fantastic opportunity for us to increase affordable, healthy transit and recreation options for all,” she said.