Bike sharing may be coming to Edmonton this spring

Edmonton’s bike network is set to expand this year as the city considers introducing a bike sharing program.

Demand has been around for about a decade, cyclist says

Edmonton is one of the last major Canadian cities to introduce a bike share. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Edmonton's bike network is set to expand this year and it will likely include a new bike sharing program that could launch this spring. 

Hire-a-bike programs exist in many places in North America and Edmonton is one of the last major Canadian cities to introduce one, said city Coun. Andrew Knack.

City council's urban planning committee is scheduled to discuss three options at a meeting on Tuesday, outlined in a city report released Thursday.

Knack favours a free-enterprise system where several companies can operate a bike share.

"Let how they provide their service be the determining factor of who's going to be — which company is going to be  —  the most heavily adopted because ultimately the customers will decide."

The city would require a permit fee from the operator but would have little else to do with the program.

The second option is to use an exclusive service provider.

The third option is a city-operated system, which would require the city to buy the equipment and pay to operate and maintain the network.

Knack said a city-operated program wouldn't be ideal. 
Edmond Chui lives in downtown Edmonton and spends a lot of the year one of his bikes. (Edmond Chui)

"I think that would be probably a terrible idea for us," he told CBC News. "I think for us to do it ourselves in an incredibly onerous. And on top of all that, I think it would take us much longer to start implementing anything."

Edmond Chui, who lives downtown and bikes on a regular basis, thinks having several companies operate bike sharing services would be the best option.

"Not that it's a competition thing necessarily but just more resources in general and more expertise in general."

He said the demand for a bike share isn't new but just recently the technology came online to make the system easy to use.

"Now is the time for every to have a bike share. The demand has been there, I would argue, even ten years ago."

Good for tourism and business

Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, said a bike share program in Edmonton would benefit shoppers and visitors as well as students at the University of Alberta

"Especially in an area like Strathcona and this area with one of the highest bike commuter populations in the city," she said.

Klassen believes that more bikes means more business.

"The slower people move through your commercial district, the more money they actually spend," she said. "So more walkable, more bike friendly is definitely something that we would want to support because it's good for our economy as well."

Klassen tried a bike share when she was in Kelowna last year. She said it was $1 an hour to use the bike share.

"It was very simple for someone coming from out of town — download the app, you scan it, hop on the bike and you go."

Docked vs dockless

The city studied four cities with bike share programs: Kelowna, B.C., Seattle,  Dallas and Kingston,Ont. 

Kingston was one of the first Canadian cities to adopt a dockless bike share, the report says. Calgary's been piloting a program for several months. 

Edmonton will likely opt for a dockless scheme — similar to car-sharing programs — in which riders can pick up and drop off bikes anywhere. A docked system requires bikes to be locked up on a collective rack.

Users pay for it through a smart phone app. 

Chui explained that in the dockless system, there's no designated parking lot and each bike has a GPS system.

"That's way more convenient than docked bike share because you could park in front of the restaurant that you're eating and you don't have to walk from the dock station or find where the dock station is."

Knack supports electric scooters and electric bikes joining the program. However, permitting electric scooters would require changing the provincial Traffic Safety Act and amending the city's parkland bylaw.

Knack is hopeful a program will be up and running by the spring.

The urban planning committee is also scheduled to discuss a report outlining ways to improve bike parking in Edmonton.

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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