The Toronto Star is reporting that the City is considering starting up a new bike sharing program, similar to the Velib system in Paris.
"It will be announced sometime in the late fall and launched in the summer of 2009," Councillor Adrian Heaps said.
Heaps said Toronto plans to emulate the best aspects of programs in other jurisdictions and would include automated stations, with swipe-card access, with a subscription that would give access to a uniform style of bicycle "that is tried and proven around the world."
Do you think this will happen? Do you like the idea? Or should the city do something to bring back CBN's Bike Share program?
Andrae Griffith (not verified)
This sounds like a greatThu, 08/21/2008 - 11:45
This sounds like a great idea to me, and I'm eager to see the announcement. Some people don't want to spend $500 on a bike they only plan on using occasionally, and with the used bike market sadly losing a fair bit of credibility, this program will really help people who fit in that niche.
While a swipe card is probably the best solution in the interim, I would hope the bike stations can be made compatible with the Presto card since this fits in quite well with its purpose.
Mixed feelingsThu, 08/21/2008 - 12:45
I confess my first reaction to this news is mixed -- the accompanying photo evoking Toronto's last attempt is not calculated to allay apprehension.
Given that Council's ingrained stance on underwriting the most modest of cycling initiatives in Toronto ranges from antipathy to indifference, it's incongruous that Heaps would entertain a bike sharing program of the scope of Velib. And, if anything, the lesson of bikeShare is that such a venture should aim to go big or go home; a bare bones outfit operating on the exceptional efforts, goodwill and self-sacrifice of a few ain't gonna cut it.
We can't get a contiguous waterfront trail, the Bike Plan is years behind, council won't entertain another kilometer's worth of paint to Bloor and Avenue Rd. and Heaps is heading in this direction?! Perhaps he's just ahead of his time. Sure.
If it's worth doing it's worth doing right: I'm not against a bike sharing program, I'm against it being done poorly. A successful bike sharing program requires a few prerequisites; in my opinion, the following:
a) Funding. And I mean substantial outlay guaranteed for, let's say, at the very least 5 years. Whether it's a public/private enterprise the program should have at least several million per annum behind it;
b) The program cannot operate in a vacuum; it must be convenient. To wit there must be extensive integration with other multi-modal transportation options; this will entail outlay and/or cooperation from TTC, GO, and Green P parking facilities;
c) Very important this: there must be a supportive cultural and infrastructural system. Our current so called "network" of bike lanes isn't coherent, that is to say, it's not a network at all. The culture of our streets is obviously biased toward motorists (being diplomatic here), and a cyclist, though not necessarily imperilled, is often subject to open hostility from motorists, or intimidated by the intensity of traffic.
Hostility and hazard figure in the calculus of convenience: if that's the price that clients of bike sharing must pay then, as a hundred thousand(?) Torontonians with two-wheelers of their own moldering in garages already demonstrate everyday, they will pass. Who wants more stress? It will take years if not a generation to significantly change the cultural and physical velo-scape of our city.
So before one proposes to emulate European bike sharing programs, how about seeking to emulate the conditions in which these initiatives flourish? Forget about bike sharing for the time being. One must ask: Does our city remotely resemble those of Europe (where bike sharing abounds) in its scale of bike use and associated infrastructure? We already know the answer. Rectifying that disparity will go a long way to ensuring the success of a sharing scheme.
If you build it will they come? Possibly. But I'd rather that answer be more certain. I'd hate to see the folding of another bike share program used as a vindication that there's no support for such initiatives in Toronto, it's good money after bad, etc. Success requires that a bike sharing scheme's benefits must be seen to extend beyond Toronto's cycling community otherwise it'll be interpreted, accurately in my estimation, as another concession to 'special interests' by a dysfunctional council.
clear some misconceptions of bikesharingMon, 08/25/2008 - 03:23
Luke let me clear up some of your misconceptions.
I completely disagree with this so-called incremental approach: "first let's get all the bike lanes connected and then we can try fancy bikesharing". Fact is, we can work on all this stuff at the same time: bikeway network, bikesharing, cycling education.
The City has so far spent approximately zero dollars on bikesharing so I'm not sure how people could interpret it as "good money after bad". But I'm sure having other people repeating such rumours will ensure this becomes common knowledge. Much like the rumour that Bikeshare closed down because of vandalism. Someone even said as much in the Toronto Star article comments even after I stated it was the lack of public funding that failed Bikeshare. I'm just asking for people to take my statement at face value: "Bikeshare closed down because they couldn't get enough funding." It got some government grants, some private grants, but nothing like a commitment from any level of government for a stable source of funding.
statMon, 08/25/2008 - 11:54
The statistic we use at Take The Tooker is $25000 / kilometer. I am not sure of the source; my guess would be Hamish looked it up. I am not trying to detract from your point. The city never spends the yearly cycling budget anyway.
Re: clear some misconceptions of bikesharingMon, 08/25/2008 - 18:51
Ok, I'll accept your assertion that bikeShare attracted pedallers in droves but I'll be frank: from my experience encountering one of the yellow bikes actually in action was a rarity indeed. In all fairness I suspect bikeShare's humble scope severely constrained its use.
And, again, that those riders were not deterred by the antagonistic traffic conditions of downtown contradicts what I hear from casual/novice cyclists when they elaborate on the chief obstacles to their taking to the road more often. Sure, "Paris didn't wait to start Velib until after they had improved their bike infrastructure" but Paris, indeed all of France, benefits by a culture heavily steeped in a cycling tradition. Starting conditions are everything; the two cities differ greatly. (e.g., bike lanes a la the City of Light have door zones clearly demarcated -- yes Virginia, that ain't Bloor St.!)
I'm arguing from a perspective where political will and funding are finite, and that resources directed toward a lending program would be siphoned from other cycling initiatives so we should pick and choose carefully how to best exploit limited assets. But if Heaps -- the good councillor's suspect cred notwithstanding -- develops new revenue streams, private partnerships and, possibly, political alliances dedicated solely to this enterprise, my concerns are unwarranted.
That a successful sharing scheme will tend toward a virtuous circle, contributing more riders and demand for infrastructure is a foregone conclusion -- I agree absolutely. I'd love to see this scenario materialize.
Which brings us to the nitty gritty: money. Let's disregard Velib for the time being: with its $100+ million start up cost and initial allotment of 10,000 bikes it's too much too soon. I expect an operation similar to Lyon's or Montreal's (still emerging) with 3000 bikes and 300 hubs -- still 20 times that of bikeShare! -- to be a realistic starting scope.
I mentioned extensive, prolonged funding as well as a supportive culture as two essential ingredients of success. France has cultural wherewithal to appeal to the likes of JCDecaux to fully underwrite such ventures (who then profits by a marketing medium); not so Montreal.
I seem to remember that the start up costs for Montreal's program was on the order of $12 - 15 million. Toronto's requirements should be similar. I'm curious to know how Heaps' "self-financing" program will find this type of money. Contrary to my usual position I urge patience: wait a couple of years until Montreal's program is fully implemented then learn from the results.
financing real cruxWed, 08/27/2008 - 17:45
(FYI, It's Bikeshare or BikeShare, not bikeShare, Luke.)
I saw the yellow bikes get used all the time. At any one time most of them were being used. We've sold 20 to Bikechain at U of T and after two months they have a desperate need for more bikes. They're popular now and they were popular then. They're lucky that they get a levy (aka tax) paid for by the students whether the individual students use the bikes or not (To use them they only put down a deposit).
In program after program it comes down to financing in my opinion. I don't believe Heaps' will find a self-financing scheme, unless he thinks allowing companies to put up more billboards is self-financing. It will be interesting to see how Montreal plans to finance their scheme since they told me that they aren't collecting any ad revenue, at least at first.
There has to be some kind of subsidy since few would pay up to $1000 a year for the convenience of having a bike at the ready in any part of the city.
But instead of privatizing public service to an ad company (why would we think that an ad company could run a bicycle service more efficiently than the city?) why not just put a special levy on the citizens and give it to a bikesharing program? Of course, that's dreaming outside of the political will. But just maybe if U of T students can say yes in a referendum to putting a levy on themselves in return for a bikesharing program that the citizens of Toronto would also have the vision to say yes to a bikesharing levy. We used to our taxes used for public roads and transit. Doesn't this fit the bill?
Keep this on the top of your mind and we can discuss it all on September 18, 7:30pm at Innis Town Hall when the Public Bike Sharing Forum takes place. I'm helping to organize it. We've got some great speakers - Estacionnement of Montreal, Humana and OYBikes will be speaking. We might have a short film about bikesharing in Toronto and elsewhere.
See i disagree with you ifSat, 08/30/2008 - 21:49
See i disagree with you if they want to get Bikeshare started again i'm all for it the more cyclists we get on the road the more pressure that will be placed on politicians to get the bike lanes put in as people that rarely cycle will discover just how bad it is personally i think some of the people around here should try cycling in newmarket or aurora where bike lanes are non existent and tractor trailors wizz by you on highway 9 the only time i use bike lanes in toronto is when i have my daughter in the trailor but then thats my personal opinion but i'm all for more bike lanes it it will get more cyclists on the road and i can feel safely about letting my daughter go off and ride on the roads which at this time i don't .
Todd Tyrtle (not verified)
Failure as a political toolSun, 08/31/2008 - 06:33
I'm not sure I agree, Andrew. If the city sponsors a program like this and it doesn't catch on because everyone's afraid to get out on the road, politicians (and anti-bike citizens) have another program fail.
Build a bike lane to nowhere that nobody uses, or a bike share program that much of its target market is afraid to use, and they become arguments as to why we shouldn't put money into infrastructure. After all: "Nobody uses what we already gave them!"
Possible Winter BikeThu, 08/21/2008 - 14:14
I refuse to ride my bikes through sand, slush and salt. If they are prepared to let these go through that kind of abuse, I'd be happy to ride more often in the winter (and save $0.75 off a TTC fare per trip).
If these bikes are being used year round in temperate places like Paris (where they probably put more salt on their food than on the roads), they might be in for a surprise when these bikes all need to be overhauled in the spring.
Re: Possible Winter BikeThu, 08/21/2008 - 15:09
I expect that our winters will be easier on bicycles as those employed by Velib than your typical North American model. With full fenders, internal cable routing, brakes and transmission as well as a semi-enclosed drivetrain, a bike a la Velib, has its most vulnerable parts sheltered from the elements. In contrast to its rider who's definitely overexposed -- cheeky ;-)
After years of winter riding my experience is that the typical seasonal toll is confined to the drivetrain (chain, cassette, small chainring), brake pads and cables. This past winter, the worst I can remember, amounted to about $100 in parts for about 2K worth of riding ('01 Jamis Nova) and a solid afternoon's worth of TLC -- repacking hubs, disassembling and lubing derailleurs! On my fixed gear the damage done by old man winter requires about half the $ and time to rectify. Now that's a bargain!
Sand, slush and salt abuse? They constitute use. Sure, clear skies and tail winds on every ride is preferable, but a little sloppiness shouldn't retire the bike for the season. Get out there Ben!
dash (not verified)
I just can't see itThu, 08/21/2008 - 14:36
I just can't see it happening. I want it to happen, but I can't see the city putting out that kind of money. This will stay in the planning stages for years. YEARS.
Money shouldn't be necessaryThu, 08/21/2008 - 14:58
If the City decides to go with a Velib-like sharing model, they wouldn't have to pay any money for it. The cash would mostly come from advertising, in addition to the fees paid by the users.
But that's probably its biggest fault too. Are people willing to put up with more advertising? What about the huge street furniture / advertising contract that the City just got itself into?
I would use itThu, 08/21/2008 - 14:45
I like the idea of having a widespread bike sharing program. If it's anything like Velib, I would likely sign up and use it, even though I have my own bikes.
I'd use it on those days where I ride to many different places, stopping between destinations, etc. E.g.:
Pick up a bike at Bloor and Lansdowne, ride to Chinatown for lunch. Make a quick stop at my LBS, MEC, and a few other places. Go to Kensington for PS. Meet up later in the evening with friends in a different part of town....then ride home at night. I'd love it if I didn't have to worry about locking up and leaving my bike between those stops.
Or maybe the days when I have to get downtown after work, but can't make it there on time by bike so I take transit. Then grab a bike and do the rest of the evening's travel by pedal-power.
Of if I'm heading out of town, I could ride a borrowed bike down to Union Station, avoiding the TTC. :)
The winter bike angle is something I had never thought about before too. That would be awesome. I have my doubts that they'd make those bike available in the winter, but I'd be pleasantly surprised if they did.
Fin (not verified)
Not the best use of resourcesThu, 08/21/2008 - 20:39
I'm not happy to see this. I'd much rather see the city improve conditions for the hundreds of thousands of us who already own bikes. There are all sorts of basic improvements that need to be made before devoting resources (managerial OR financial) to this idea. Such as: proper bike lanes city-wide, intersections designed to make cyclists feel safe, more bike parking at busy locations, and more secure bike parking in general.
Plus, the bike sharing program will only have a chance at success if it launches on a large enough scale (1000+ bikes all over the city) that the network effects are there to make it useful and popular.
I'm disappointed and I think the city is only doing this because of the media attention Paris and others have received. Not for strategically sound reasons.
That said: I wish Heaps et al well. I'll enthusiastically eat my words if the whole thing is a success.
Original SponsorFri, 08/22/2008 - 10:49
As an original sponsor (Bell Canada) of the Bike Share program years ago under Maogosha Pyjor's time ,I fully support resurrecting that program. The foundation was very strong. I don't see a need to start with only a plan and build up from there. However, the City will most likely want to do this on their own and flub it up as they usally do.
Bring Back Bike Share!
bike rental areaFri, 08/22/2008 - 10:49
I really hope this happens. As more people ride bikes, more will be sympathetic to our concerns and help drive the changes we need.
I hope they include more than the downtown core in this. It might be complicated to figure out where to put a bike station in a sea of houses, but if it was successful, it could make transit more attractive. Ride to the subway instead of waiting for the local bus.
I bet it'll be most popular with people taking the GO train, like Vic said. If you work near Union station but too far to walk, this can save the cost of a metro pass every month.
Heaps in the GlobeFri, 08/22/2008 - 12:47
Now I see this quote in the Globe:
I'm not sure if this is a mistake by the Globe, unclear information from Heaps or a misunderstanding on my part. Wouldn't "underwriting the costs" be very different from "running" the operations? Unless it's somehow a profitable operation.
If the advertising is "modest", where does the private company get its revenue? Paying a higher price for the bike rental would make it a very different program from other successful programs around the world.
It's still very unclear.
Martin Reis (not verified)
Heaps credibilityFri, 08/22/2008 - 13:24
I caution all to take anything Heaps claims with extreme caution .... He consistently bragged about bing 27-30 km of bike lanes going in last year. In the end, it was 7,7km.
He's bragged about 50km going in this year. Unlikely given the current pace of less than 10km completed thus far ...etc.
I have no doubt some type of bike rental program will eventually appear on our streets but whatever the case I prefer a yellow bike any day.
hamish (not verified)
keep talking folks pleaseFri, 08/22/2008 - 23:55
this is an interesting thread and topic.
Nous ne sommes pas Paris.
They even paint the door zone in their bike lanes - and as Pat said to me, in Toronto - that is the bike lane.
CredibilitySat, 08/23/2008 - 08:05
I strongly agree with Tino. Thing is it is for us to hold them accountable when they do not deliver. Something we fail at year after year.
Renaissance (not verified)
"The world is moving so fastWed, 08/27/2008 - 13:32
"The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it cant be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it"