1500 Shareable Bikes Coming to Vancouver: $6 million bike share approved

Bikes similar to these will soon be coming to Vancouver.  Photo credit: adminspotter | Flickr

Bikes similar to these will soon be coming to Vancouver. Photo credit: adminspotter | Flickr

Watch out New York, bike sharing is coming to Vancouver.

On the heels of Manhattan’s new Citi Bike program, Vancouver city council has formally approved a bike sharing plan.  The $6 million initiative will see up to 1,500 brand-new, shareable bikes hitting the streets by 2014.  In addition to its initial investment, the city will also pay $500,000 annually to keep the operation running.

The approval marks the end of a long and sometimes contentious planning process.  The first calls for a Vancouver bike share program began five years ago.  Along the way, pro-bike mayor Gregor Robertson and his staff have had to contend with everything from concerns about helmet laws to the relatively lukewarm reception of bike sharing in other cities.

While Vancouver’s new bike share program doesn’t yet have an official name, some details have already been ironed out.In order to use the system, you’ll need to purchase either a daily, weekly or annual membership. (The annual membership fee is $95, according to the Vancouver Sun.)  This will entitle you to unlimited trips of up to 30 minutes each.  If you exceed 30 minutes on any one trip, an additional fee will be assessed.

Some 1,500 seven-speed, adult-sized bikes will ultimately be docked at 125 solar-powered stations.  These stations will be spaced every two-three blocks within a zone that includes the downtown peninsula, as well as the area between Main and Arbutus Streets, north of 12th Avenue.  If Vancouver follows the example of other cities, a specialized smartphone app will display all the docking stations and even bike availability.

And how about helmets? Vancouver by-laws mandate that all riders wear bike helmets, a requirement that nearly stalled the bike share program completely.  But planners came up with the ingenious idea of installing helmet dispensers at each bike station.  For $3 per day, riders can rent helmets, which will be sanitized after each use.

Vancouver’s bike share program should hit the streets in early 2014, with an initial round of 250 bikes and 25 stations.  The program will be run by Portland-based company Alta Bike Share.

What do you think about the bike sharing plan?  Will it work in Vancouver? 

For more updates on Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.

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