Vancouver’s bike share program still a go

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You might be wandering the West End, Mt Pleasant or Olympic Village some sunny day, and think, “I’d love to have my bike right now.”

Cycling opens up the possibilities of a day. And a bike is a great way to keep cab expenses (and your waistline) down.

In July, 2013, Vancouver council approved a bike share program with a projected summer 2014 launch date, which would bring short-term, automated bike rental facilities to 150 locations across the city.

Bike sharing would transform this city, as it has in more than 500 cities all over the world. Some studies show over half a million bikes in programs worldwide; when fully operational, the Vancouver bike share program would make 1,500 bikes available for a small fee.

But while Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto contracted directly with Bixi, the bike supplier that recently went into bankruptcy protection, Vancouver chose to partner with an organization experienced in the planning and design of successful bike share programs.

Boston’s bike share program, with HelmetHub, a solar-powered helmet dispenser.

Portland-based firm Alta Bicycle Share is the one responsible for delivering a functioning public bike share system. Meaning, City of Vancouver planners aren’t dealing with a financial mess before the program even launches.

“We’re anticipating that we’ll be following through with a late summer, 2014 launch, but it could be spring 2015 depending on when the city signs the contract,” says Alta principal Steve Durrant, suggesting that Bixi’s reorganization could actually be a good thing; the hope is that Bixi’s parent corporation can emerge with its fiscal house in order, and get back to the business of supplying bikes to its many global partners.

If it can’t? The other good news is that there are options out there, clearly something Alta is exploring in pursuit of a launch in Vancouver.

Durrant also tells me that Alta just renewed the bicycle sharing contract in Boston, including a helmet vending solution by HelmetHub, a Boston company hatched from an MIT mechanical engineering class. The challenge was to include optional helmets with bike share rentals, all as part of the automated services. The result is a solar-powered bike helmet dispenser.

Although the launch of HelmetHub was delayed a few months by computer problems, all problems were ironed out, with dispensers in three locations in the city, and plans for expansion.

“We’re looking at HelmetHub as a possible supplier in Seattle,” says Durrant, referring one of Alta’s other 2014 launches.

One can’t help but think that, if they were to make their way to the Pacific Northwest, HelmetHub’s nifty dispensers could one day come to Vancouver and be a natural fit with our program. All we need are bikes.

Vancouverites, be patient. Bike share is still on the way; though, as is the case with all good things, we must wait.

Written by Colin Stein, Director of Marketing & Communications for HUB: Your Cycling Connection, and a Columnist at Vancity Buzz.

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HUB: Your Cycling Connection We are HUB. We make cycling better through education, action and events. More cycling means healthier, happier, more connected communities. We’re leading the way in making cycling an attractive choice for everyone.
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