City’s bike share expands to Strathcona, Commercial Drive

Mike Howell - Vancouver Courier

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Vancouver Bike Share Inc., which is a subsidiary of CycleHop, will expand the city’s bike share program by 500 bikes and 50 stations. Photo Dan Toulgoet

The city announced Wednesday that a bike share company operating in Vancouver since July 2016 is embarking on a $3-million expansion to neighbourhoods such as Strathcona and the Commercial Drive corridor.

Operator Vancouver Bike Share Inc., which has an agreement with the city to provide the rental system, will provide $2 million of the cost and TransLink will contribute $1 million to add another 500 bikes and 50 stations by next summer.

“We are very pleased with the system, so far,” Scott Edwards, manager of the city’s public bike share branch, told city council Wednesday in announcing the system’s expansion.

The new area of coverage will run east from Main Street to Victoria Drive and be bounded by 16th Avenue in the south and the waterfront in the north.

That area will be an extension of phase one of the system that stretches from Arbutus Street east to Main Street, also bounded by 16th Avenue and north in to Stanley Park.

Council heard from Edwards that a total of 123 stations and 1,214 bikes already exist in neighbourhoods such as Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano and the downtown peninsula.

That system, which goes by the name of Mobi by Shaw Go, has accounted for about 35,000 locals and tourists taking more than 650,000 cycling trips on the heavy duty bikes. The average ride lasted 18 minutes and travelled four kilometres.

As of September, more than 4,700 members signed up to use the service, which costs $9.75 for a 24-hour pass and up to $129 to $159 for an annual pass, depending on the package offered. A 90-day pass is $75.

While city council was unanimous Wednesday in receiving staff’s report for information, the four NPA councillors voted against allowing staff to prepare bylaw amendments to take the bike share system city-wide.

The NPA’s vote was based on Coun. George Affleck arguing that staff’s report gave no indication whether Vancouver Bike Share Inc. was financially sound.

Affleck noted the agreement with the company included a $5-million injection of cash from the city to launch the system. The city also estimated it would lose up to $800,000 in lost parking revenue — because of stations replacing metered spots — and spend more than $1 million in staff costs.

“We’re a partner in this program — a high-risk partner, in my mind,” Affleck said. “Are they in trouble, I guess is the question. Are there cash flow issues with regards to the bike share program that we need to be worried about? Do we have any idea if they’re making money, at all?”

Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s general manager of engineering services, told Affleck the operator was “doing fine” and he offered to share more information with council in a private meeting. CycleHop Corp. Canada, a private company based in Ottawa, created subsidiary Vancouver Bike Share Inc. to operate the city’s system.

“I’ve received no information that they’re in financial trouble,” Dobrovolny said. “In fact, conversely, they’re investing $2 million of the $3 million in this expansion. We’ve worked with them on their business model and on cash flow. We know the partnership has been successful and we’ve got confidence that they will continue an operation.”

The city’s agreement also calls for Vancouver Bike Share Inc. to begin paying the city up to $400,000 per year next year to offset lost parking revenue. If the loss is greater than $400,000, the city has agreed to pick up that cost.

But Edwards told the Courier the city was “well below” the original $800,000 loss in estimated parking revenue, saying it was “significantly less” than $400,000.

He pointed out the city already gives up parking spots for parklets, bus stops and loading zones that don’t see money returned to the city.

“There’s lots of different public services to provide mobility and access to the adjacent land use that have no recovery associated with them,” Edwards said. “So this was seen as a good trade-off.”

In his presentation to council, Edwards said the city’s research showed there is a higher turnover of people using bikes at a station than had the location of the station remained a parking spot for a motorist.

He said the ratio was, on average, greater than five interactions of cyclists versus one interaction by a motorist to the same spot. In fact, he added, some stations in the West End have seen a ratio of “more than 20 times the mobility being served by that one spot as compared to a car.”

Mayor Gregor Robertson praised the bike share system and wants to see it expand to other neighbourhoods. The mayor said the number one complaint he hears about the system is that it is not available across the city.

“Where [the bikes] are available, I think the service has been really fantastic and an important step for the city’s improving transportation networks,” Robertson said.

Other highlights in the city’s report include:

• About 70 per cent of bike share cyclists wear a helmet, 53 per cent of whom choosing the operator-provided helmet and 17 per cent use their own helmet.

• Sixty-nine per cent of users own one or multiple bikes, yet still use the bike share system.

• Sixty-two per cent of users ride one-way or are “multi-modal,” meaning they use a combination of walking or transit in making a trip.

• Despite a common conclusion that fewer people use the bike share system in the rain, the city’s research showed temperature influences ridership more than precipitation.

• Another misconception, the city said, is people wouldn’t use the system because of Vancouver’s hilly geography. Research showed 43 per cent of all trips gained elevation.

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