Vancouver bike share program delayed until 2014

Vancouver bike share

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

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  • Chris Bruntlett

    Studies show that REAL bicycle safety comes from numbers and infrastructure, not plastic hats. Bikeshare with helmet choice would increase those numbers overnight. Imagine we started ticketing all of the unhelmeted drivers, skiers, rollerbladers, horse riders, or joggers (as statistics would suggest we need to do). What impact would that have on the health, wealth and happiness of our society?

  • Rev. James Deroux

    Worth noting

  • Emilia

    So sad to hear no Bixi for Vancouver

    I agree the helmet law does not work for bike share, I will go to Europe again to feel the brilliant bike culture they have

  • Realist

    As much as helmet laws restrict bike usage, I don’t think Gregor has anywhere near enough pull to get it removed. The law is provincial and both the liberals and the NDP have stated categorically that they won’t be opening up that law. It’s too contentious in the minds of the average citizen, even if it is misguided. 
    A previous poster mentioned Europe’s bike culture and I think the word “culture” is key. People in BC see cycling as sport and believe in helmet laws. Until you can convince the public that helmet laws are bad, they won’t be changed. So far nobody has done a good enough job of this.  That’s really all there is to helmet laws. Do a better job of convincing the public and they will be removed.

  • LTD.Edition

    Or, you know… leave the responsibility with compliance in the hands of the program users.   The city doesn’t need to provide helmets with the service.   Sheesh!  Simple solution!

  • disqus_q5a4a9RHpe

    cant the city just not enforce silly helmet law. 

  • vancouverboomer

     but a rider must have a helmet on not to get a ticket cycling.  that’s the PROVINCIAL law, so we should all be directing remarks to Ms. Clark & Co., not to Vancouver’s mayor.  Still, the delay is a shame, but hard to imagine Vancouver will get this anytime soon.  And I still think the bikes will be at great risk of vanishing overnight, sort of like shopping carts have.

  • vancouverboomer

    Don’t know where the stock photo is taken either, but as a pedestrian I really don’t want to share the sidewalk with cyclists, even benign ones like this, but especially rude, ‘cruising’, criminal-seeming ones.  Cyclists should be on the road or on a bikepath; that’s my view and that’s how I learned to ride.  Sidewalks are for pedestrians – period.  So, wherever your photo is, it probably annoys pedestrians there too.

  • Chris Bruntlett

    This photo is taken on the Hornby Bike Lane. Completely safe, and physically separated from both traffic and pedestrians. Yet from time to time, the Vancouver Police Department find it necessary to set up a road block and ticket cyclists not wearing the requisite headgear. It’s lazy and ineffective policing, and a waste of resources that could be used to punish dangerous behaviour (texting, speeding, red light running).

  • ross

    After two tickets for riding bareheaded I stopped cycling. If it is truly safety that motivates them and not ego, they should be pleased. If safety is truly the concern for helmet-law proponents, then the fewer cyclists, the better! And that is what this law achieves.

  • Let’s get real

    Right, and seatbelts don’t save lives either, correct?

  • Jack

    They can’t be compared. Seat belts do save lives and the evidence proves it. The evidence for helmets saving lives is not conclusive and hasn’t been well studied. However, helmet use in cars HAS been studied and would save lives, but the car companies block attempts to introduce car helmets because it makes driving appear dangerous and they don’t want that image out there because it could affect the numbers driving, and thus buying their product. The evidence IS there for car helmets, but no such definitive evidence supports bicycling helmet use and, in fact, more studies show that mandatory helmet laws are more of a danger to cyclists than life saving.

  • Roundeye

    Give your head a shake! Sidewalks are for everyone you idiot.