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Quadricycle brewery tours coming to Vancouver

Brew Bike Tours co-owner: ‘This is going to be great for a lot of tourists and locals’
Quadricycles like the one in this photograph will be allowed to operate in Vancouver, with applications for prospective operators open in the spring.

Quadricycle tours are coming to Vancouver.

What’s a quadricycle?

It’s sort of a huge bike with four wheels that can typically seat between eight and 16 passengers, who can pedal along with a tour operator’s driver, or — in this case — cyclist.

Vancouver city council unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday (Feb. 8) allowing operators to bring in the big bikes, which will be used to shuttle people between local breweries, coffee shops and sites of interest.

“We’re really excited to get going in the city of Vancouver,” Shane Zahar, co-owner of Brew Bike Tours, told council prior to the vote. “This is going to be great for a lot of tourists and locals.”

Similar quadricycle tours operate in the City of North Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna, where Zahar’s partner has run the big bikes for five years. Brew Bike also operated in Richmond in 2019 but shut down because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Zahar said his company plans to run two bikes in Vancouver and focus on the east side of the city and the Olympic Village area. The bikes are prohibited from operating in protected bike lanes — largely because they are too big — and will generally be restricted to minor streets and laneways.

Tour operators have to submit proposed tour routes for approval prior to using the quadricycles on any road. Passengers will not be required to wear helmets, with Sarah Hicks, the city’s chief licence inspector, telling council the bikes move at slow speeds.

Coun. Jean Swanson said she was worried about passengers’ safety and potential accidents with vehicles — to which Paul Storer, the city’s director of transportation, emphasized the bikes would be designated to streets with reduced speed limits.

Although Vancouver Coastal Health supported allowing quadricycles in the city, the health agency raised concerns about helmets and recommended they be required to be worn by the guide and passengers as part of the city’s approval process for an operator’s licence.

The health agency also pointed out those riding a quadricycle would not have the protection that someone in a car would have with seat belts, air bags, “a vehicle crumple zone” or protected passenger compartment.

“Compounding the above is that these passengers are being moved between breweries and businesses,” the agency said in its written comments to council.

“If passengers are under the influence of alcohol, risk may go up particularly while boarding or alighting, and may also be at risk of falling out of the quadricycle.”

The city staff report before council didn’t indicate whether accidents had occurred in other cities. Provincial regulations do not allow the operator or passenger of a quadricycle to consume liquor or cannabis while on the bike.

City staff noted the benefits of the tours, particularly as small businesses look to recover from pandemic-triggered restrictions that reduced hours or forced some owners to close.

“The business of operating tours via quadricycle aligns well with the city’s goals for increased active transportation and low-impact goods and services movement,” the report added.

“It also aligns with the Healthy City Strategy target for over 50 per cent of trips by foot, bicycle and public transit. The work of a quadricycle tour guide might also be counted as a new green job.”

Tour prices were not discussed at council Tuesday but Brew Bike’s web page advertises a two-hour beer tour centred in Steveston at $39 per passenger.

Quadricycles will be permitted on streets from Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Applications will open to tour operators later this spring.

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