Sooner or later public bikes will return to Toronto. What type of public bike program would people like to see for Toronto?
CBN's Bikeshare closed down all its hubs at the end of 2006, but the requests haven't died out. Since joining the board, I've answered a number of emails from people wanting to start up a bike sharing program in their community or university campus. For example, a college in Philadelphia, university in Tel Aviv, are all getting into the community bike sharing game.
Bike sharing is also becoming big business (also good for manufacturers). JCDecaux was the first company to tie advertising revenue with a public bike program. The advertising multinational made a contract with first Lyon and then Paris to provide thousands of bikes in exchange for an advertising revenue contract with the cities. Over 10 years JCDecaux will receive 600 million euros in return for running the Vélib system with its soon to be 1451 rental stations and 20,600 bikes. The Vélib is free for the first half hour and quickly climbs in cost after that. Other European cities such as Barcelona, Denmark, Vienna and on and on have also gotten into bike sharing - see the entire list on the Bike-sharing blog. In the U.S.A. Clear Channel just won a contract to supply San Francisco with public bikes in exchange for transit shelter ad revenue, though the numbers are vague on the number of bikes.
JCDecaux and OYBIke, a London, UK company that provides infrastructure for a smaller bike sharing program that is funded through user fees charged by cellphone, are still interested in entering the Toronto market even though the city has already offered away it's advertising revenue in exchange for a street furniture package that excludes a public bike program. It's unclear at this time how they expect to recoup their costs, but perhaps Toronto should take a page from Montreal who is starting up a large scale public bike program this year without an ad company.
Montreal will likely be rolling out their own bike sharing program this year. The company that manages the city's parking lots has a contract with the city of Montreal to invest $15 million and offer 2000 bikes and infrastructure for a possible 2008 launch.
Michel Bedard, of City of Montreal's transportation division, told me that the City of Montreal's executive committee commissioned:
Stationnement de Montréal, a subsidiary of the Board of Trade of
Metropolitan Montreal, to implement a Self-serve bicycle rental system in Montreal.
This project makes use of Stationnement de Montréal's major strengths, including the ability to handle real-time wireless transactions and manage logistics.
Stationnement de Montréal plan to integrate the Self-served bicycle management system with his existing parking terminal technology, and renting a bike will be a easy as renting a parking space.
Meanwhile, we still get calls from people hoping for a more grassroots revival of bike sharing in Toronto. Various proposals have been made on how to revive Bikeshare and to make it financially sustainable. If you are interested in helping with this visioning you can contact CBN.