Public bike program still needs your support

The public bike program will be up for approval at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday, April 20th and to City Council on May 11-12 (somewhere on the agenda to be determined).

The bike union and myself are asking you to take action so the public bike program wins support to launch next year and joins the ranks of cities like Montreal, Paris, Boston, London and even Minneapolis.

Back in February the public bikesharing program was practically dead. A good letter campaign in February got a positive response from Mayor Miller, effectively bringing it back to life. The new version is a smaller version of 1000 bikes and is delayed to next year, but at least it will happen. And it would be super if everyone would send another letter or email to councillors on the public works committee.

Email your support by Monday April 19th at Noon for the Public Bike Share staff report and proposal that is being presented on April 20th at the PWIC meeting to the PWIC Clerk, your Councillor, and Mayor Miller.

Subject: Item PW32.8 - Proposed Public Bicycle Program, Staff Report (you can change the subject just make sure to include the item number)
TO: PWIC Clerk - "Candy Davidovits", “Mayor David Miller”, and your local Councillor.
Check here to find your Councillor’s contact info:
CC: Toronto Cyclists Union

Please support the proposed Public Bike System. It is coming at next to no cost to the City. The payback is big as it will encourage more people to bike, get healthy and reduce the impact on the environment. Going by bike is cheap, efficient and enjoyable.

Public bikes allow more people to choose cycling as a healthy option. help catalyze the long awaited bike infrastructure we've been requesting, and dramatically improve our city,

Please help to make this a legacy for future generations.

You can read more about it in the staff report.

Please make your emails unique and personal!

Bixi back from the dead - launch hoped for spring 2011

Imagined Bixi Toronto bike

Some last minute campaigning by I Bike T.O., The Urban Country and the Toronto Cyclists Union helped to push city hall to bring Bixi bikesharing back from the dead. Over three hundred letters were received by the mayor and councillors, asking politicians to keep Bixi alive. The mayor promised to make it a priority for staff to come up with an agreement. It appears as if the pressure had the intended purpose.

The next step is for the Bixi Toronto report to go to public works (PWIC) April 20 where approval is likely. After that is City Council where things are looking good that there will be approval. There are certain conditions placed on the contract that need to be met in order for the city to provide a loan guarantee.

Once all the ducks are in order, Bixi Toronto will be launched in Spring 2011 with 1000 bikes at 80 locations. It's not as impressive as the original starting point, but it's definitely a lot better than nothing, which was what we were looking at only a week ago.

Bikesharing: effective tool for encouraging citizens to cycle

In a recent email discussion on Bixi and bikesharing in Toronto, Mikael Colville-Andersen
of, made some good points about bikesharing: 1) bikesharing, to be successful, is aimed at citizens, not tourists, 2) bikesharing needs to be ubiquitous within the launch area, 3) the sudden surge of bikes makes it an effective tool for change and triggering better bike infrastructure. Just to clarify, Mikael is responding to some other comments that bikesharing was meant only for tourists, and it's not to imply that City staff were ever focusing on such a narrow demographic, quite the contrary.

Read his comments below:

Interesting following the discussion from the sidelines.

One thing that is worrying is the focus on tourists.

Every successful bike share programme in the world is not aimed at tourists, but rather the locals. There are 26 cities in France alone with successful bike share programmes and the local population is the focus. In fact, there are cities that make it difficult for tourists to rent them. In Seville, in Spain, your application takes a week to process. The main reason is to discourage tourists from using it. Otherwise it'll just end up as a gimmick.

Another thing is that visitors to a city won't use a bike share system if they don't see locals riding around on the bike share bikes or private bikes. Especially without sufficient infrastructure. So it's unlikely that tourists will be the main users in Toronto.

Public bike program not abandoned: Mayor Miller

I got an email from the Mayor this morning (as did James at Urban Country). Mayor Miller isn't abandoning public bikes and is directing staff to look for other funding options. He mentions Bikeshare, which was run by the Community Bicycle Network and had a hard time getting enough funding from the city to sustain itself too:

Thank you for your email letter.

We appreciate you taking the time to write.

Until 2006 Toronto was home to the innovative and award-winning Bikeshare community bicycle-lending program. Following its collapse the City began developing a business case for a public bike program.

The City considered launching such a program using the Vienna business model (which is also used in Lyons and Paris) where it is provided free to the City and affordable to users because it is supported by revenue from billboards on the bike stations. After much deliberation it was decided not to increase the number of billboards on the street and launched a competitive process to find a company to provide a non-ad-supported version.

A public tender was issued and City Council gave staff authority to negotiate with BIXI, which is owned by the Montreal municipal parking authority, to develop a detailed business plan for launching and operating a Toronto public bicycle system at no cost to the City. Unfortunately, the outcome of these negotiations did not guarantee that there was no risk of costs being incurred.

Not a penny for bikesharing?

Looks like our post yesterday wrangled up some official statements and a hit in mainstream media. Gary Welsh, manager of Transportation Services told the National Post, "At this point in time we can’t seem to operate a public bike system at no cost to the city, which is contrary to what council proposed."

Mr. Welsh assures us that negotiations continue:

“This doesn’t mean the program is being abandoned, we’re still looking at the viability of the program and how we can enable it in the future,” Mr. Welsh said.

“I think it would be beneficial to the city. It’s needed by residents of Toronto and we’re just trying to develop a system that we know will work and something that will not be a significant cost to the city.”

The official line is being awefully vague: just what is going to cost more? Through the grapevine I've heard that, in fact, the staff were able to negotiate a "No Cost" deal with Bixi (but we'll take all the benefits, thank you very much), but that it required a loan guarantee, which the City Manager's office quickly squelched.

Aren't the staff supposed to produce a report for City Council? City Council and the general public should hear in more detail about what happened and this shouldn't just die and disappear within the city bureaucracy.

Toronto's Bixi may be in jeopardy

Bixi, Montreal's successful bikesharing system, is catching on like wildfire and will be expanding to Minneapolis, Melbourne, Boston and even London, UK, this year. But Toronto seems unconvinced, and it appears as if city bureaucrats are close to derailing it.

City Manager bureaucrats seem not to understand the point of bikesharing and, from what I've heard from sources, that they don't see how it would work. An acquaintance has heard from City Manager number crunchers that they don't see Bixi as viable and thought it was waste of money (I'm paraphrasing here). The City Manager's office at City Hall is key to organizing city services and has the ear of council. According to the website, it "guides the Corporation of the City of Toronto and advises Council in the management of all its fiscal, organizational and service challenges. The City Manager is accountable to Council for the policy direction and program delivery of divisions."

This same acquaintance, who is also an avid cyclist, attempted to show how, in fact, Bixi has worked elsewhere and thought it would work here. My other source shows that this attempt may not have been all that successful. The City Manager's office might not be getting behind bikesharing. If they manage to derail it this year, it may take some time for the bureaucracy to get around to doing it again.

Do you like your bikesharing yellow?

The City is coming close to a deal for a bikesharing program. I heard through the grapevine that it might even launch by July (though it would be tough). There are two main hurdles with get this up and running: financing and station locations. The program is supposedly going to operate year-round, which would be great, but which increases the difficulty of finding appropriate locations. I imagine the staff are having a hard time finding any unclaimed space, and would have to pay the Toronto Parking Authority for lost car parking revenue.

The City, I've been told, is close to figuring out the financing. Bixi will have to put forward a big chunk, which they'll recoup in usage fees. The CIty is making deals with some mysterious interests who are probably providing some cash in exchange for exposure. It's all made more difficult that the deal has to be at no cost. It's rare for a public service to have such demands on it, so it's commendable that the staff have been able to get this far. It also says something to how bikesharing has progressed and how cycling infrastructure is such a good deal: no digging, no gas bills, no ticket collectors, no operators. Cheap.

So, anyway, I'd like to bring your attention to the styling of the bikes (hence the image of the yellow bike). Maybe we could come up with a great look for the bikes and present our ideas to the City (I haven't thought it all through).

Toronto preps for public bikes: Walrus

(Photo: jonnyhunter)

The Walrus' Emily Testa investigates Toronto's plan to implement a public bikesharing system, trying to see if bikesharing will help calm the "war on cars".

Walk a block in Toronto’s downtown core on any weekday afternoon, and you’ll see the strain of cyclist-motorist relations from the belly of the beast. Drivers roll their eyes and drum their fingers, and many cyclists ignore red lights and stop signs as traffic allows. At its worst, the drama plays out with fatal consequences, as it did in late August, when a downtown road altercation involving former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant, who was driving a convertible car, caused the death of bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard. Toronto cyclists rallied for bike lanes in the wake of the incident, insisting that separate roadways guarantee safer transit, especially in regions where traffic is busiest. Drivers and business owners, however, have been less willing to accept bike lanes as the solution, citing slow commutes and limited street parking, respectively, as evidence that city roadways have already been compromised enough. So with cyclists getting killed and drivers getting angry, what’s a judicious citizen to believe? Can’t we all just get along?

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