Bike sharing is at long last coming to Vancouver.
By June 15, 1,000 sharable bikes should be ready to roll on city streets, with 500 more to potentially follow by end of summer. And commuters looking for a cheap and convenient two-wheeled way to zip across town will finally have an option.
It’s all part of a five-year, $5 million agreement just signed by the city with CycleHop Corp., which operates bike share programs in more than a dozen cities around the world. The snazzy new bikes, supplied by bicycle vendor Smoove, come with a seven-gear grip shift, oversized storage basket and front and rear lights. They’re also equipped with a “control box” on the handlebars, which will enable riders to pay with smart cards or even their phones, in addition to paying at standard terminals. Helmets will also be provided.
So how much do they cost? After a one-time $5 sign-up fee, bikes are $2.50 for a standard 30-minute trip. Alternately, you can pay $20 a month for unlimited 30-minute rides. (Prices are still being finalized and are approximate.)
The bikes will be dispersed at more than 150 stations spaced every couple blocks throughout the core of the city. Initially, the area of operation will be confined to 16th Avenue to Burrard Inlet and Main Street to Arbutus Street. Eventually, the program may expand to include more than 2,500 bikes at stations all the way from Commercial Drive to MacDonald Street.
Interestingly, it looks like riders won’t necessarily have to return their rides to designated stations. Bicycles come equipped with internal cable locks, allowing cyclists to chain them up if they end their journey away from a rental station.
The agreement with CycleHop would appear to end a convoluted, eight-year saga to bring bike sharing to Vancouver. City councillors first proposed the idea in 2008. After a lengthy procurement process, the city signed a $6-million deal with a company called Alta Bicycle Share and its supplier Bixi Bikes in 2013. Then Bixi went bankrupt and Alta needed a bailout … killing the deal.
As per the terms of the latest deal, Vancouver will ultimately pay $5 million for 1,500 bikes. Extra costs include $1 million for signage, staffing and other expenses, and $500,000 in annual recurring costs. In return for the use of city curbs and other spaces for docking stations, CycleHop will pay Vancouver $400,000 per year.