© 2016 By Carl Larson

Many images courtesy of bikeportland.org. Thanks Jonathan!

BIKETOWN

launch assistant, brand ambassador

tl;dr  I helped win support for bike share in Portland and then, when it was about to launch, got hired to install and promote the system.

My first exposure to bike share was in Vermont in 2001. Inspired by citizen-organized programs in Amsterdam and later Portland, Middlebury College students wrapped bikes in yellow tape, declared them "yellow bikes," and shared them around campus. Many were thrown off bridges, but I loved 'em. Later that year, I witnessed the next generation of bike share: Copenhagen's Bycyclen (City Bike) program. By the time Montreal brought big league bike share to North America with their Bixi system, I was hooked and eager to bring something similar to Portland. After a vacation in Montreal, I came back to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) and delivered an impassioned lunchtime presentation about bike share for any staffers who'd listen. In the years that followed, Portland made various attempts to create a bike share system. Internally and externally I was frequently the guy at the BTA who defended the idea against its many critics including active transportation and environmental justice advocates.

 

Fast-forward to 2016 and Portland finally launches BIKETOWN with $10M from Nike. I was excited and proud but I was also only a month away from moving back east when the system launched. Around that time, I got a call from an old friend and former BTA staffer -- one of the folks who sat through my gushing-over-Bixi lunch. He'd been hired as BIKETOWN's new marketing manager and now he wanted to hire me! I had a lot of packing to do but couldn't turn down an opportunity to put on an orange tshirt, hop on a BIKETOWN bike, and, once again, spread the word about bike share. I talked to hundreds of people and provided countless test rides and smiles. I also figured out that the basket on those bikes will hold a 8 pack of LaCroix and a bag of ice very nicely. 

After helping with the launch and moving back to the east coast, I remained involved remotely answering customer inquiries ("Why did I get charged $20 for parking the bike in my back yard?!") and watching as pictures and stories keep rolling in about BIKETOWN's tremendous success. Portlanders were skeptical about bike share. I wasn't. It's every bit as amazing as I thought it would be.