Green Living: Vancouver's new Mobi bike-share comes with locks, helmets

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      Ridiculously convenient, cost-effective, and good for both you and the Earth, cycling has unsurprisingly become the transportation mode of choice for many Vancouverites. And come September, city dwellers won’t even need to own a bike in order to harness the vehicle’s health- and green-related benefits.

      This is thanks to Mobi, Vancouver’s first public bike-share system, which is set to roll out within the next four months. First proposed by the City of Vancouver in 2009 as part of its Greenest City Action Plan, the program was delayed by operator-related setbacks. But with the recent announcement of the service’s finalized name—a portmanteau of the words more bikes pronounced “moe-bee”—program lead Scott Edwards tells the Straight that preparations for the launch are well under way.

      “We’re re-envisioning how people can explore the city,” he explains by phone. “If you’re a local, you have your favourite haunts, your favourite neighbourhoods or your favourite places to shop, and you now have this opportunity—through a three- or five-minute bike ride—to explore and see the city that much more.”

      Mobi will operate much like the locally owned Evo or car2go, a German-based car-sharing service that has enjoyed considerable success in Vancouver. Users sign up for a yearlong membership online and receive a special card and key fob in the mail. These items, along with a PIN code, activate the universal bikes, which will be available for use at all hours.

      All bikes come equipped with a helmet and waterproof computer technology, and are parked at docking stations across the city. Cable locks will be provided in case you wish to make a pit stop before arriving at your destination, where you can then end your trip at a nearby docking station.

      In total, 1,500 bikes will be deployed across 150 docking stations, though some spots will remain empty to accommodate incoming two-wheelers. Discounted one-year memberships are currently available online, offering Vancouverites unlimited 30- or 60-minute rides for $99 and $129, respectively. Street kiosks will also be set up, where visitors can purchase day or hourlong passes.

      Like car-sharing companies, Mobi’s area of operation is restricted to a designated zone, Vancouver’s downtown core and across the bridges to Arbutus Street, West 16th Avenue, and Main Street. The city is accepting suggestions for possible docking locations, though Edwards notes that transit hubs and shopping districts are a priority. Because users will not be able to reserve bikes, stations will be situated every two or three blocks for maximum convenience.

      “That information helped to provide ideas and heighten awareness of where people would want stations,” Edwards says of Mobi’s interactive “Suggest a Location” feature, which, so far, has racked up 6,000 ideas and votes from the public.

      According to Edwards, the city has also learned from existing bike-share services around the globe, including ones in Seattle, Melbourne, Paris, and Montreal, where adequate biking infrastructure emerged as a key determinant of the programs’ success.

      “Vancouver’s extremely well-suited for this,” he adds, “and we’re continuing to add even more infrastructure through this summer to provide for all ages and abilities.”

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.