Vancouver will launch a subsidized public bike system for commuters next year for people who don’t want to use buses, taxis or their own vehicles.
The program, which will cost Vancouver taxpayers about $1.9 million a year, is being modelled after similar public bike rental programs taking hold in major cities around the world, including Paris, Montreal, London, Washington and Toronto.
On Wednesday Vancouver council was told the city had narrowed down a list of potential operators to a single company, Alta Bicycle Share of Portland, Oregon, which plans to install 1,500 bikes at 125 self-service stations throughout the downtown and along the Broadway corridor. The company will use special gear-driven hard rubber-tired bicycles built by BIXI Public Bicycles System Co. of Quebec. The companies will also have to provide various-sized helmets to meet provincial helmet laws.
The program, which is expected to be launched by the spring of 2013, would allow people to buy daily, weekly, monthly or yearly memberships from Alta. They would then be able to pick up a bike at any of the locations and would be billed based on how long they use it.
Jerry Dobrovolny, Vancouver’s director of transportation, said the concept is aimed at commuters who would use the bikes for a few blocks and then return them to any of the stations in the area. “This is to provide another transit option within the city,” he said, adding it’s aimed at both commuters and tourists.
“The learnings we’ve had from other cities is that it has transformed some car trips into some cycling, walking and transit trips. We know that it provides opportunity for people who are already in the downtown to get around.”
He said Vancouver has opted to use a system operated by a third party such as Alta, similar to models used in Toronto, Paris, Minneapolis and New York. It looked at city-owned programs like those used in Washington, D.C. and Barcelona, Spain, and concluded there were too many financial risks.
Under the proposed model, each of Alta’s stations would hold up to 20 bikes at a time and largely be located in public metered parking areas. Dobrovolny said the city is still in negotiations and isn’t disclosing the entire subsidy it would have to offer Alta to make the program work, But he said a portion of costs would be in the form of foregone parking meter revenues.
There are no public bike systems in
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