Vancouverites eager to use the city’s bike share program will be sad to learn that Vancouver public bike share will not launch until at least 2014.
The blame for this new delay lies squarely with the provincial legislature and their adult helmet law, but may be shared with the city council, for failing to amend its own adult helmet legislation, and for failing to make the case for adult helmet choice to the province with enough force.
The benefits of public bikeshare are well documented. They supplement transit, expanding the catchment area of rapid transit routes, and getting short-trip travelers off infrequent or busy routes. They allow one-way trips, for example when it’s raining on the way to work, but dry for the commute home. And they act as a “gateway drug to citizen cycling”, reminding people who don’t think of themselves as cyclists that ‘utility’ cycling is very different, and far more accessible, than ‘sports’ cycling. By flooding the streets with these ‘non-cyclists’, the city is made safer and the political support for improved infrastructure only grows .
Planned since at least 2008, the bikeshare launch date was finally announced last year as Spring 2013 . Since then, the launch date has slipped to Summer and last week, in an interview with Vancouver Magazine published Monday, City transportation director Jerry Dobrovolny pushed the date further back: “he still hopes to see some portion of a rollout take shape before the end of 2013.” Since no city would launch a cycling initiative as Winter approaches, this means no Bixi for Vancouver until at least 2014.
With bikeshare a resounding success in over 300 cities world-wide, including many with equally or even less bike-friendly topography, weather and street designs than Vancouver, it is clear that the barrier to the Vancouver bikeshare launch is the adult helmet law. (Specifically the City’s insistence that their preferred vendor – Alta Bike Share – offer a technical ‘solution’, when the problem is clearly a legislative one.)
Cities as diverse as Chattanooga, Tulsa, Tampa Bay and Kansas City have rolled out successful bikeshare schemes, as well as famous examples like Montreal, Toronto, Washington DC, Paris, Dublin and London. In every single case, collision, injury, and helmet use rates are all significantly lower for bikeshare users than for non-bikeshare cyclists.
We have a pro-cycling Mayor who is nevertheless not tackling the key barrier to more cycling. A bike share program, with a helmet law is just not feasible.
Image and information via Situp Vancouver. For more details on Sit Up Vancouver, bikeshare and the adult helmet law, please visit http://helmetchoice.ca/