Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bike Rental "Share" in Portland Maine

I was at the Portland, ME Amtrak railroad station and had a chance to try out the bike rental/bikeshare system called Zagster. Zagster had ten bikes lined up at a rack adjacent to the train station, less than 50 feet from the door. The system required a login and password (on the web) and I had set that up a couple of weeks before. I found the interface

The bikes were Breezer bikes with full fenders a rear rack and a front basket which made carrying my luggage from the station easier than I anticipated.  The one downside of reserving the bike online through the Zagster website is that they didn't indicate what size the bike was, so I reserved #209 and did not get one that was my size. It worked out, but it's something I shared with customer service as an idea to improve the web interface.

The docking station is not as elaborate as other bike share stations I have seen in Montreal, Washington D.C., etc. but was simple and did the trick. Rather than get a code from a kiosk adjacent to the bikes like these other units, it was delivered via text message on my phone. The text message allowed me to open the lock box that was simply bolted to the rear rack. It reminded me of the lock boxes that realtors use to control access to a spare key for a house they are showing, a simple solution to a problem with controlling access to the bikes.  The key to the lock was inside the box and attached to a cable that could be pulled out to operate the lock.

I did have trouble with the lock box in that I failed to close the box and that seemed to cause problems when I tried to reclose the bike. It also could have been user error.

The biked worked well for my trips and included a chain guard, so that is great for those that were just jumping on from the train station. One complaint was that the lights on the bike were really limited to  the 1-LED Frog bike lights (originally by Knog). At least there were lights on the bikes, unfortunately they weren't worth much for actually seeing the potholes of Portland, ME.

The pricing was more traditional than the newest bike shares that are by the hour with a single day membership. At $20 a day, it was about the same as the local bike shop ($25) with the upside of the Zagster bike being that it was right at the train station and the bike was set up with all the necessary equipment (fenders, chain guard), that I could just get on and ride without any additional gear (I did wear a helmet with another tail light).

I would definitely use it again for day trips, of course the limitation of the system is that is just one dock in the City, but I could see a second dock in downtown Portland being useful for some of the bus transit that was part of the community.   
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