Comment of the Week: E-assist boosterism will be Biketown’s demise

未分类 / 星期二, 九月 25th, 2018

Our post last week about new keypads coming to the Biketown fleet led to a discussion about the future of the orange bikes.

Commenter John Liu sounded an alarm. He said this website and “other cheerleaders of dockless and e-sharebikes” will shoulder the blame if Biketown ends up in the scrap heap. Here’s his comment:

BP [BikePortland] and other cheerleaders of dockless and e-sharebikes will be responsible for Biketown’s demise if that sad day comes.

Not long ago, we had a good bikeshare system that was working well and expanding in a thoughtful, measured way. Our city had worked for this for a long time. The bikes were high quality and sturdy. We were proud of our bikeshare.

Then this blog and others got enamored with the shiny new toy. Dockless! Electric! Thousands and thousands of dockless e-sharebikes, appearing on every corner, through the magic of tech venture capital! Throw out those clunky old Biketown bikes! We don’t want to work at pedaling or get any exercise at all! Cross the “active” out of “active transportation”! Promise us anything! Bring in Lime and Ofo, Spin and the rest, throw the doors wide open to the next new thing! Force Biketown to go full dockless, to expand faster than it was ready to, leaving orange bikes scattered far and wide. Don’t be patient and see how it works out for other cities before upending our own applecart. We have to jump on every bandwagon!


It was obvious what was going to happen. Most of the new bikeshare companies will go bust. The e-sharebikes will prove too expensive to recharge and maintain. Bikes will get stranded far from high usage areas with dead batteries. Rebalancing will be very costly. Thousands of dockless bikes will be dumped in landfills. Cities will end up with one monopoly e-sharebike company, if that. Prices will go up, way up. Service levels will go down. Customers will find that they, not the sharebikes, are the product. We talked about all this in the past year, but too many were and are willing to uncritically swallow the tech-bro marketing lines.

We are repeating the mistake with the e-scooters. Venture capital funded companies burning cash for marketshare, promising every possible benefit except actual physical exercise.

I feel this comment is worth highlighting for several reasons: It’s well thought-out, shows knowledge of the subject, demonstrates strong interest in the topic, and it bravely offers an opinion that runs counter to a prevailing wind. I appreciate how Mr. Liu did not go overboard and lob personal insults toward people that disagree with him. This is a good example of how to share an opinion — even when it’s clearly something you’re passionate about and it’s likely to be divisive and/or unpopular with other readers.

Thank you John. I value your comments and hope to read more from you in the future. (If you’re curious, I responded to his comment here.)

p.s. Please help us keep our comment section productive and welcoming to all. Let’s keep the focus on the message and not the messenger. Our national dialogue is so toxic right now, let’s prevent that from seeping into our interactions here. If you think someone has been abusive or inappropriate, please let me know and I’ll take a closer look at their comment(s).

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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