Gearing-Up for Bikes

Bixi (bike + taxi) Bike Program in Montreal

Following in the footsteps of Montreal, Paris, London, Copenhagen and Melbourne, Vancouver is gearing-up to launch a bike-share rental program in 2011. Benefitting tourists and locals alike, this program will only add to Vancouver’s lifestyle-driven culture and offer an alternate way to navigate the seaside city’s breathtaking sights and world-renown tastes.

With over 400km of bike lanes and routes extending throughout the city, the yet-to-be-named bike-hire network will undoubtedly make the city that much healthier, that much greener and that much more accessible. And who knows, maybe the bikes—or helmets—will even come with built-in umbrellas to protect against sun and rain. Time will tell.

The Details

2000 bikes are planned and will likely be developed for Vancouver’s climate, geography and rider demographics.

200 stations will receive incoming and outgoing bikes in the following Vancouver neighborhoods: Mt. Pleasant, Kits, Fairview and Downtown, with suspected docking stations in Commercial Drive and UBC.

Fees will be $78/year, plus an extra cost for trips lasting longer than half an hour. Borrowing wisdom from other cities with successful bike-sharing programs, a $5 day-use fee is highly probable.

Don’t plan on having a pouffy hair-day when riding in Vancouver, helmets are required. But don’t fret, your head is more important than your locks. To ensure helmets are worn while using the soon-to-be bike-hire system, according to The Vancouver Sun, the city will lean on Melbourne’s example and offer helmets with yearly memberships, as well as distribute them to hotels and local businesses near the docking stations.

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22 Responses to Gearing-Up for Bikes

  1. Neil

    No, no, no, no, no. Please, please tell me you’ve just made this story up. Please do not waste money on this doomed-to-fail plan. Please, please.

    The helmet law must die first. By all means tell people they’re safer with hats, like they’re safer without fast food or without commuting by car. But don’t make it illegal to eat fast food, commute by car or cycle without a helmet. Did you know 1000 over 65s were hospitalised last year due to head injuries in BC? Three times the number of cyclists involved in any accident whatsoever? Mandatory home hats for the over 65s then?

    Melbourne Helmet Law Makes a Nonsense of the Cycle Scheme

    Contrast with this lovely tour of London, and try to imagine a helmet-less woman waving a friendly hello to the police in this city: impossible. She’s an outlaw here, and allegedly a suicidal one.

    Mandatory plastic hats make accidents more likely because of risk compensation, and cut the number of cyclists, making it less safe for those who do. If Vancouver really wanted to encourage cycling it would allow cyclists to dress the same way rollerbladers do, the same way drivers of convertible cars do, the same way pedestrians do.

    Please, Vancouver, do not waste millions to follow Melbourne building an infrastructure no-one will use. Please first pass a new by-law strongly recommending all cyclists wear helmets, but not outlawing those who don’t. Then people will use van-bixi.

  2. I do not ride bikes a ton but this is a great idea, I loved it when I was in Berlin and it will be a great incentive to ride more often.

  3. Richard

    It is not working out well at all in Melbourne. Helmet laws are simply not compatible with bike sharing. People don’t want to carry around helmets and while bike sharing is popular, helmet sharing ranks up there with underwear sharing.

    Mexico City and Israel got rid of their helmet laws so they could have bike sharing systems, we should do the same.

  4. Is this a City initiative? Interested to know who/what the force is behind it. It works in Quebec, why not here?

  5. As noted in the article and by those active on cycling matters in Metro Vancouver, yes this is a city-driven initiative. It will take several months for set-up.

    For further info. in early 2011, contact the City’s Engineering Dept. They have staff dedicated to cycling infrastructure planning and issues:
    Web site:

    But stay tuned for more cycling fun information in Metro Vancouver. Just choose “cycling” from the CATEGORY box upper right hand side of Inside Vancouver blog.

  6. Good news! I think Vancouver is well suited to bike-share rental. There is much more space than in Paris so it will be easier to install the stations.

  7. Dave

    Vancouver would be a great place for bike sharing, if it weren’t for the mandatory helmet laws. These services are available in every major European city (none of which have mandatory helmet laws) and all work fantastic! This would work great in Vancouver if the cops weren’t waiting around the corner to hand every user a ticket for not wearing a helmet.

  8. AR

    The Bixi has been wildly successful in Montreal (and this, even though they pack them up for the winter), but I don’t think they have helmet laws there. Still, I think there would be enough people who used the bikes regularly, who would invest in a helmet so that could use a bixi. And if you can remember to take your purse with you when you head out, you can remember your helmet.

  9. This is great news!

    I was in Paris the summer Velib was launched. Awesome to see all those bikes along the Seine.

    All these systems suffer from their popularity and some thievery and vandalism, but the investment is worth it and cities that buy in continue to support the initiative.

    My only question is why Vancouver took so long.

  10. Darcy McGee

    People keep saying this without citing any sources or firm commitments. It’s nothing but a plan for now.

  11. “In the next few months, the city will put out a request for proposals from Bixi and others to build and run the system. The goal is to have the 2,000 bikes operational in 2011.”

    Read more:

  12. Darcy McGee

    Citing a source that doesn’t cite sources doesn’t really count.

    Helmet requirements will doom this plan to fail.

  13. John

    Hate the world, Darcy?

    Seems like Gregor is pretty intent on making Vancouver the “greenest” city on the planet. So if the current helmet law stunts the growth of a Vancouver Bike Sharing program I’m sure the city will do what they can to make it work. Whether that be repealing the helmet law altogether or simply a look-the-other-way unwritten rule re: bike share riders.

  14. Darcy McGee

    No, I most definitely don’t.

    When Toronto beats Vancouver to a critical piece of cycling infrastructure though, I get very concerned.

  15. No kidding, the mandatory helmet law has to go.Sure perhaps kids should be encouraged to wear helmets,albeit using educational means rather than laws,but adults please.
    Enough all ready with the laws regulating personal choices/behavior,we are adults after all.
    Let’s also not forget that one is more likely to sustain a head injury in a car rather than on a bicycle,indeed the statistics bear this out .
    Can you imagine if the busy-bodies proposed helmets laws for car drivers and passengers !

  16. Neil

    John, re “look-the-other-way”. Allowing laws that no-one respects undermines respect for all laws, including good ones.

    (I have similar misgivings about the de facto law that says it’s ok to mix your triple-vodka Manhattans at home in a thermos and bring that with your picnic to the beach, but don’t dare enjoy a beer and a sunset with your wife.)

    I see a lot of headphones & helmets around town (banned and mandated respectively in the same by-law). Those cyclists are choosing to break the wrong law in my opinion. They’re choosing to be more protected (maybe, jury’s out) in the event of an accident, rather than choosing to reduce the likelihood of having an accident.

    These laws are daft. Lets have one law against “dangerous cycling” (if need be, defined as upsetting pedestrians and traffic, jumping reds, going at more than 20 kph etc.) – have that strictly enforced, and do away with all the others.

    (Ditto change the violation from “drinking on the beach” to “drunk and disorderly” and zero tolerance littering fines.)

  17. KentC

    Hell, I even agree with helmet laws, but there’s no way a bike share system will work unless you either:

    a) Provide a helmet with every bike


    b) don’t require helmets

    Bike share systems are great because they enable unplanned cycling (like, if you’re out and decide you want to head back and grab a bike, or if you’re a tourist out to see the city and notice bikes next to the seawall). Require people to wear a helmet and you lose that spontaneity. Instead they just become a rental system for Vancouverites who don’t want to own their own bike.

  18. In fact, wearing a helmet isn’t mandatory in BC: an exception is made where this would interfere with an essential religious practice.

    Members of the Church of Sit-Up cycling prefer preventative safety measures (cycling tall, slowly, predictably, on designated lanes) over padding.

    Read more here:

  19. Nathan

    Rev. Twowheeler… I think you’re on to something…

    The law was set up to accommodate Sikh’s, but in doing so basically allowed for complete religious freedom. Religious freedom is the point. And that there’s no strict definition of ‘religious freedom’.

    Sounds quite clever that you and your church have brainstormed on this loophole as a way to avoid the helmet law… and in the same manner, give our purported bicycle share program a legitimate chance at success.

    As a man of faith I don’t find this blasphemous but rather a clever way to sidestep bureaucracy.

  20. Nathan, thanks for the positive comment. We have absolutely not set out to upset any other religions, simply to point out the absurdity of dutch tourists (for example) who have been cycling all their lives, having to helmet up for a jaunt around the seawall. Treating all cycling like an adventure sport serves to undermine normalcy in cycling.

    Please do add a note to our discussions page: I’d like to get any potential issues like this covered as transparently as possible.

    Also, do you know any other Canadian laws that attribute different freedoms to different religions?

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