Vancouver city council has voted to move ahead with plans for a public bike-share system.
With NPA councillors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball opposed, councillors approved a motion today (July 23) to finalize an agreement with Alta Bicycle Share.
The Portland-based operator, which will be subcontracting to Bixi, expects to launch the program in two phases. The first will consist of 250 bikes at 25 stations in part of downtown in early 2014, and the second will expand to 1,500 bikes at 125 stations in the spring of 2014.
Deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston referred to the public bike-share system as “an extension of the transit system”, intended for short, one-way trips.
The system will cost $95 for an annual membership, $20 for a weekly membership, and $5 for a daily membership. The first 30 minutes of use will be free, and cyclists will pay $1.50 to $2 for 30 to 60 minutes.
Council approved an initial contribution of $6 million to Alta toward the cost of installation of the system, in addition to $1 million in signage and other start-up city costs, and $500,000 a year for staffing and other ongoing expenses.
Affleck said his vote wasn’t against bike-sharing in Vancouver, but against spending taxpayer dollars on what he called “potentially a failing system”.
“My challenge was that there was nothing in the report that showed success stories,” he told reporters.
Vision Vancouver councillor Heather Deal called the bike-share plan an “amazing proposal”, and said a business model was chosen that places any financial risks on the operator, not on the city.
“We have a ton of information on this,” she told reporters. “There are over 500 cities around the world that have bike-share programs. We have learned from all of them. As it clearly outlines in the report, we are giving a very finite amount of money, it’s $6 million, up front, for capital infrastructure. In return, the entire operating budget goes to Alta.”
Before casting their vote, council heard from over 10 speakers on the bike-share program. Many of them spoke in favour of the plan, including Heather Harvey, of Vancouver cycling group HUB.
“I do believe that public bike share will help…that large contingency of people that are too scared to bring their bike into town, that are too scared to try it out,” she said. “This will help bridge that gap to allow people to just try it.”
Other speakers raised concerns about the proposal, including Glen Chernen, who called the proposal “a lose-lose proposition” for the city.
“If the program’s a failure, then we all lose,” he told council. “If the program’s a success, then we will have succeeded in putting many successful, local bike-rental shops out of business.”
Staff say the city aims to avoid issuing permits for bike-share stations within a 50-metre area of any existing bike-rental businesses. Johnston noted Alta has proposed stations in Stanley Park.
Vancouver's bike-share plan has been in the works for five years, after council first asked staff to look into a program in July 2008. It will be the first of its kind to offer an integrated helmet system, featuring vending machines and return receptacles at each station. The helmets will cost $3 to rent for a 24-hour period.
Once fully launched, bike-share stations will be set up from downtown to 12th Avenue, and between Main and Arbutus streets.
Johnston noted the contract with Alta is contingent on the operator confirming sponsorship and financing agreements.
“They need to have all of their money lined up through sponsorships before we would enter into a contract with them,” he said.
Staff will report back on the success of the program one year after it has been launched.