Despite international accolades and growing popularity, it may be the end of the road for Toronto's bicycle lending program.

Since BikeShare began in 2000, the number of its conspicuous yellow bicycles dotting city streets has multiplied.

But the program, run by a network that supports Toronto-based bike programs, is short $80,000 to cover next year's costs.

Membership fees cover about 10 per cent of the group's operating costs, with the remainder coming mostly from corporate sponsorship.

Companies such as Ontario Power Generation have sponsored the group in the past, but no one has come forward yet with the thousands needed.

"I'm still very optimistic that a funder will come through," said Maogosha Pyjor, manager of BikeShare. "But if in December we don't have that money, these bikes are all going into storage."

Adding to operating costs is a spate of vandalism this spring that organizers believe systematically targeted the easily identifiable bikes.

Users grow by 500 annually

With a monthly TTC Metropass hovering just under $100 a month, Lynda Solowinski doesn't have the money to always ride public transit.

"I live in the west end of Toronto and most of the places I go to are downtown or in the east end," she said.

When she heard of the BikeShare program and its annual fee of $50, she decided to jump on board.

Now, she's one of 2,000 members who have access to one of the program's 234 retro single-speed bikes for up to three days at a time. Members pick up thebikes at 16 hubs around the city.

Organizers claim the program has been growing by nearly 500 new members every year.

International, national, local awards

The program's popularity has not gone unnoticed abroad.

Other groups from across North America have contacted organizers for information about how it operates.

Two years after its inception, the program was nominated for a Stockholm Award for Sustainable Development.

The City of Toronto has also recognized the program over the years, with the latest award as recent as last week.Transport Canada has also sung its praises.

BikeShare claims it's Canada's longest-running and largest community bike lending initiative.