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Bike share numbers surprisingly strong despite frigid temperatures

Mobi averaged 400 to 500 rides per day between mid-November and the first week of January
Despite sub-zero temperatures, some cyclists are taking advantage of bikes from the Mobi bike share program. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Recent statistics from the city’s Mobi bike share program suggest Vancouverites need not be fodder for fair-weather folly or derision in other parts of Canada.

Despite weeks of sub-zero temperatures, numbers provided to the Courier point to an average of 400 to 500 daily rides between mid-November and the first week of January.

By way of comparison, the bike share service was seeing an average of 850 rides in October.

“Very impressive given the cold weather,” is how those numbers were characterized by Phil Doty, Mobi’s operations manager.

That said, the last few months have presented challenges. The gear shifting mechanism has frozen on some bikes, which Doty said wasn’t out of the ordinary when temperatures hover around the freezing mark.  

Mobi crews have tried to stay ahead of the weather patterns by shovelling and putting salt down around the stations. Mechanics are also taking proactive measures by removing moisture from gear cables and housing, and lubricating parts to mitigate issues associated with freezing temperatures.

Doty said no issues of widespread damage to bikes, helmets, locks or stations have been reported in recent months.

As well, no incidents of injuries or collisions were reported to the Courier. The user agreement upon signing up for the bike-share service states, “If a bike is damaged during rider’s use of the bike, beyond regular wear and tear, as a result of negligent or intentional conduct on the part of rider, rider shall be charged a fee that is equal to the cost of repairing such damage.” 

The use of helmets is mandatory as part of the service.

When launched in August 2016, reps from the city and Mobi suggested the program would roll out in full — 150 stations and 1,500 bikes — by the end of last summer.

Those timelines are nowhere near being met.

As of Jan. 13, 94 stations were in operation along with 1,000 bikes. No explanation was given for the prolonged delay.

“Looking ahead for the first part of 2017 and into spring, our focus will be to reach 150 stations going live, with the number of bikes increasing to 1,500 by the summer,” Doty said.

The program’s catchment area, which includes the downtown peninsula, bounded by Arbutus Street, 16th Avenue, and Main Street, does not appear to be expanding any time soon either.

“At this time there are no immediate plans to expand beyond the current geographic boundary,” Doty said.

A similar bike share program in Seattle is slated to end in March, just over two years after its inception. Lower than expected ridership and financial pressures are among the contributing factors.

Some milestones have been met, however. In late October, Mobi recorded its 100,000 ride, a metric that took anywhere from two to nine months for cities with similar sized bike share systems.


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