Details of Vancouver public bike-share program released

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      A public bike-share system is expected to roll out in Vancouver in early 2014, according to a report going before city council next week.

      City staff are asking for council’s authorization to formalize an agreement with Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share, which will subcontract the bike-share program to Bixi. An initial contribution of up to $6 million to Alta is being recommended for the installation of the system, in addition to $1 million for initial city costs, and $500,000 annually for staffing and other expenses associated with the program.

      Staff are also recommending negotiations with third parties, including public agencies, the private sector, and philanthropic organizations, for financial or in-kind support of the bike-share program, which would offset the city’s costs for the project.

      The initial launch of the program is expected to involve about 25 stations and 250 bikes located downtown, plus helmet vending machines and return receptacles.

      The system will include a network of bicycle stations aimed at encouraging short trips. Users will be able to rent bikes at one location and return to another as part of a 24-hour system. Eventually, the program is slated to include 1,500 bikes at 125 stations, in an area that will include downtown and stretch to 12th Avenue, between Main and Arbutus streets.

      According to the staff report, a receptacle for returning helmets is still in the design stage.

      “Alta/PBSC is confident with their ability to have helmet vending machines and return receptacles ready for both phases of the PBS system launch, including hardware, software and helmet rental and return processes,” the document reads.

      The vending machines will include two sizes of low-priced helmets, according to the report. When helmets are returned, they will go to a facility for sanitization and inspected before being rented out again. Rentals “will be priced to encourage users to reuse the helmet for multiple trips," and users will be charged for not returning helmets.

      The city plans to avoid issuing permits for stations within a 50-metre area from bike rental shops. Some bike-rental operators in the West End expressed their concerns to city council last June about the potential negative impacts of the bike-share program on their businesses.

      At that time, staff estimated the bike-share program would be launched in the spring of 2013.

      “While staff see significant value in developing a Public Bike Share system in Vancouver, implementing the world’s first Public Bike Share system with an integrated helmet system has taken considerable time and effort, and has represented challenges beyond those experienced in most other cities who do not have a mandatory helmet law,” the report released today (July 17) indicates.

      The proposed fees for using the public bike-share program are $95 for an annual membership, $20 for a weekly membership, and $5 for a daily membership. Under all memberships, the first 30 minutes will be free, and cyclists will pay $1.50 to $2 for between 30 to 60 minutes of use, and $5 to $6 for 60 to 90 minutes.

      The report will go before council next Tuesday (July 23).



      Norma Rae

      Jul 17, 2013 at 7:27pm

      $2 an hour? Sounds expensive compared to walking + transit


      Jul 17, 2013 at 7:49pm

      I like the idea of a bike share program, but I'm not sure I want to pay higher taxes to fund this. Hopefully it'll pay for itself. If you're going to spend $95 on an annual membership, you may as well invest in a bike, though I think prices by the hour is a great deal compared to bike rental shops. I paid almost $30 for 2 hours by the seawall.


      Jul 17, 2013 at 8:44pm

      I have to wonder what percentage of the $6 million in startup costs are going to pay for helmet washing machines. If it wasn't for that I'm sure they could have bought more bikes and expanded the service to Commercial Drive.

      Knee Jerk

      Jul 17, 2013 at 8:58pm

      @Norma - The first 30 minutes are free. i.e. Biking from Kits to downtown should be < 30min. Same with biking anywhere within downtown (West End to Stadium)
      @hmmm - There is a convenience factor in leaving the bike and not having to get it again. This is why Car2Go works so well. For commuting and the odd trip, this is great. If you're taking it on a leisurely tour, you should pay more, and as you pointed out, it is cheaper than the rental shops.

      This will depend heavily on where and how many stations there are, but it's always good to have options. Good for them for solving the helmet problem.

      Norma Rae

      Jul 17, 2013 at 9:15pm

      I didn't mean to condemn the project, I am interested and hopeful for it.

      But at first blush and the program's first foray, my reaction was about price.

      One positive among many not mentioned might be a depressing effect on bike theft. We'll have to see how it starts and grows


      Jul 17, 2013 at 9:43pm

      I enjoy using similar systems in other countries, but without the helmet hassle. These heavy, upright bikes are very stable and there's less risk of head injuries, so I wish we could wave the rule for these bikes. It's adding hugely to the cost.


      Jul 17, 2013 at 10:38pm

      What a complete joke! You are willing to spend taxpayer money and shut out businesses which used their own capital to grow in order to fulfill some weird fantasy of being the greenest city in North America.

      I want to see how many people use the bikes once it starts raining. If people want to borrow bikes, direct them towards those who already operate bike rental places.


      Jul 18, 2013 at 12:49am

      $6,000,000.00 for 250 Bicycles? $24,000.00 per bike and support? Am I reading this correctly? Where is the bulk of the money spent?


      Jul 18, 2013 at 1:43am

      It seems that it would work best the more convenient and accessible and simple it would be to use. Anything less and that would make it more vulnerable to criticism, and perhaps ultimate failure. Bike rental places are more for tourists. This SHOULD be people who would normally take the bus not too far, but don't want to walk.

      Alan Layton

      Jul 18, 2013 at 8:04am

      I don't think it really matters if this program has major problems and the taxpayers (ie evil, diabetic car drivers) have to bail it out. Moonbeam is going ahead with it regardless. Being 'The Greenest City' means a lot to the mayor and nothing will stop him from trying to achieve it.....other than the fact that other cities in Canada, the US and the world are already greener and have more money to spend on it. London England has committed 1 billion dollars to becoming The Greenest City. Perhaps the mayor will have to settle for bragging that we are the Greenest City in the Lower Mainland?