The subject of a bike-sharing program in Vancouver has recently taken off again, with plans to launch it this coming summer.
I first encountered the topic seven years ago this week, when I was interning at the Vancouver Courier. At that time, the plan was to have a program in place before the 2010 Olympics. Clearly, that didn’t happen. Bike rental businesses brought forward their concerns. A number of providers were considered and found wanting. Bixi, the service provider in Montreal, went bankrupt in 2014. Helmets were also an issue.
Anyway, after nearly a decade, it looks like it’s going to happen! Here’s a piece by Dan Fumano at the Province about the new program. It’ll be interesting to see how it works here compared with other cities.
Here’s my first article on bike sharing from those many, many years ago:
Council peddles public bike sharing concept; Program could place 3,000 bikes at depots around town
Wed Mar 25 2009
Vancouverites could be riding shared bicycles throughout the city by the summer of 2010, according to Vision Coun. Raymond Louie.
Louie presented a motion, seconded by Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs, to city council on Tuesday, March 24 to start a public bike sharing program in Vancouver, with a large scale demonstration of the project in time for the Winter Olympics in February 2010.
“We hope to have a system in place by winter 2010,” Louie said, adding he wants the program fully established by the following summer.
The program could place 3,000 bikes at depots around downtown Vancouver and over the bridges between Kitsilano and Commercial Drive up to 16th Avenue, according to Louie.
The primary goal is to make bikes easily available to the public without having to buy or store them, so more people might be inclined to ride short distances instead of driving. “The underpinning is to have little or no cost to our citizens,” Louie said.
The program would be funded by advertising, corporate sponsorship or a user pay system.
“It would likely be a combination of all three,” Louie said.
According to the president of the Vancouver-area Cycling Coalition, a shared bicycle program would need to be combined with better cycling infrastructure in the city, such as the proposed Burrard Bridge bike lanes.
“The City of Vancouver’s goal is to increase cycling trips to 10 per cent [of city travel including driving and transit] in 2010. The combination [of an improved cycling infrastructure and the shared bike program] will make it happen,” said Arno Schortinghuis, the group’s president. “That kind of combination, it’s a synergy. You have to have both.”
City council is considering a plan to convert one or two of the six lanes on Burrard Bridge to bicycle lanes for a trial period. City staff drafted a report on the lanes to present to council but so far that presentation has been delayed.
Schortinghuis spoke to TransLink’s board of directors when it was preparing a feasibility study on bike share programs last year. NPA Coun. Peter Ladner requested the study and was behind an effort to establish a shared bike program with TransLink.
The study, which came out in March 2008, recommended eight regions of B.C for a shared bike program with Vancouver as the best option.
But TransLink has decided not to be involved with the project because it is concerned about the economy, according to Louie.
“TransLink is not inclined to consider it any time soon,” Louie said.
The motion put forward on Tuesday also directed staff to send out a request for proposals from private companies for the bike share program.
Bidders would need to meet requirements such as providing bikes that are sturdy, well made and theft proof, as well as dealing with the question of helmets. In Paris, France, where a similar program started in 2007, there are no helmet bylaws. But in B.C., helmets are legally required, and riders may not be willing to bring their own.
Louie suggested helmet kiosks could be a possible option, as well as liners for hygiene, but said bidding companies would have to includepossible solutions in the proposals.
“We’re hoping proponents will come up with ideas,” Louie said.
While the project demonstration planned for February 2010 is not intended to alleviate traffic flow for the Olympics, Louie said it could be one way to deal with transportation problems.
“Conceptually it could be,” Louie said. “But it’s not intended to be an Olympic project.”
Montreal has a similar bike sharing program, Bixi, which is being run by the city’s parking authority, set to start in May. Helmets are not required in Montreal.