Tuesday, February 23, 2016

6 Reasons You Should Care About Vancouver's Bike Share

Today the City of Vancouver announced the implementation of a public bike share system this summer. The city has signed a $5 million five year deal with CycleHop Corp Canada Inc to manage the bike share program, with equipment to be provided by Smoove.

CycleHop intends to roll out the first phase of the bike share in mid June of 2016, making 1000 bikes available to the public, with a further 500 a month later. The docking stations will be within the boundaries of Downtown Vancouver to the North, Main Street to the East, 16th Avenue to the South, & Arbutus Street to the West. This will be the largest public bike share system in North America once it's complete.

Photo Credit: sanmateocountyphotos via Compfight cc

Awesome... so why should you care?

  1. Bike share works well with transit. Here's a potential scenario: you can grab a bike share near home, ride to a skytrain station a kilometre or two away, then take the train. No worries about your bike getting stolen while it's locked up, or having lights on it for the ride home after dark. 
  2. Bike share is a great way to try before you buy. If you want to try bike commuting but don't really want to commit to dropping $1000 on a decent bike, try out bike sharing for a while to see if you like it. 
  3. Bike share is great for people who don't want a bike. Perhaps your apartment is too small or you're not allowed to bring bikes into your building & you don't have anywhere safe to store a bike. This is a huge problem that the city of Vancouver really needs to solve, but until they do, maybe using bike share & not owning a bike will work for you. 
  4. Bike share is fabulous for fairweather cycling. It rains a lot in Vancouver, & though I ride in the rain, I totally understand why other people don't. With bike sharing, you could easily take the bus to work, then if the rain clears up, ride home. Or vice versa. If you ride bike share to work, but then the skies open up just before you leave, no big deal, you don't have to ride.
  5. Bike share doesn't kill bike rental businesses. I've rented bikes & used bike sharing systems in several cities & they were for very different purposes. When we did a full-day trip out of Paris to Versailles, we rented bikes. When we were riding a few minutes from our hotel to the Louvre, we used bike share so that we could see the sights rather than be stuck in the Metro underground. Bike share functions more like transit because you pay little or nothing for the first half hour of use on the bike. If you leave it at a docking station within that window, it's a quick, cheap ride. If you were to hang onto the bike for several hours, you'd likely pay more than a bike rental company charges. 
  6. Bike share gives you options. When you go somewhere on a bike share bike, you can decide later how you're going to get home. Your bikeless friend can grab one too & ride with you. Maybe you went to the bar & have had a few, so a taxi or the bus is a better option than riding home. Perhaps there's a traffic jam or a skytrain malfunction. Just grab a bike share ride & go around it.

Of course, these scenarios really only apply to people who live in or near the area served by the bike share. Until it succeeds, the 'drop zone' won't expand further. I'm also a little skeptical of how well this is going to work with our current helmet laws. I really think we need to allow adults to decide for themselves whether to wear a helmet or not. Helmets are a small issue, but can be a barrier to riding. There's also no research to show that helmet laws reduce injury & death rates. It's actually safer in jurisdictions where there are no mandatory helmet laws.

Overall, I think that if this bike share system succeeds, it will do a lot to increase the cycling mode share in our city. More bikes on the roads means drivers get more used to driving around cyclists & it becomes safer. More bikes on the roads means fewer cars & maybe a seat or two free on the bus. More bikes on the roads means more of us are getting more exercise, which leads to healthier people & lower health care costs. More bikes on the roads means more of us experiencing the fun of riding, being able to quickly stop to say hi to a friend or carry on a conversation with a stranger you are riding with for a block or two.

What say you? Will you use the public bike share in Vancouver? What kind of trips do you think it'd be useful for?

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  1. Wow I hadn't heard the announcement! That's great news! I will definitely use this for picking up groceries on my way home from work (bike to Whole Foods, then take the B-Line home).

    1. That's a great idea--I know a lot of people take taxis home from grocery shopping too. I like that it's just a way to sneak a little more biking into a lot more people's lives. :)

  2. Absolutely! The fear that my bike would be stolen is often a big part of why I choose to take the bus.


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