Talk·Point of View

Hamilton Bike Share: a user review from cost to seat comfort

Ryan McGreal is a local advocate of transit, cycling and complete streets. He's been using Hamilton Bike Share for three months. Not suprisingly, he's a fan. Here's his review.

Hamilton Bike Share launched on Friday. Ryan McGreal, a local complete streets advocate, gives a rundown.

SoBi Hamilton officially launched Friday with a gathering at Gore Park. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Ryan McGreal is the editor of Raise the Hammer, a local civic affairs website. He lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant.

In January, Hamilton Bike Share released the first 100 bicycles into its network of 100 hub stations between the North End and Concession Street, Dundas and Gage Park. The Bike Share officially launches this weekend with a full fleet of 750 bikes, but early members were allowed to use the service for free the past two months.

I rode to one event wearing dress pants and a blazer and arrived looking clean and (mostly) respectable.- Ryan McGreal

I took my first ride on Jan. 18 and immediately fell in love. As of this writing, I have taken 56 trips covering a total of 112 kilometres and burned 2,750 calories. Compared to driving, I have saved $45 in gas and reduced my carbon emissions by 32 kilograms.

The entire system is a delight to use. They got just about everything right, from the intuitive user interface and placement of stations right through the design of the bikes themselves.

You can reserve a bike using the website or mobile application (the Android version is a tad clunky but I'm told the iPhone version works great), or you can just walk up to a hub station and sign a bike out. Within the service area, you're almost never more than 300 metres from a station, and the app features a map with all the stations and the number of available bikes at each station.

Ryan McGreal

The bikes are a joy to ride. They're upright Dutch-style, very comfortable and easy on the back. The cushy seats are adjustable with a quick release, and the handlebars are nice and high so you don't have to hunch over.

The three-speed shifter is shaft-driven, so there's no fear of your pants getting greased or chewed in a chain. The thick tires have wide, full-coverage mud guards so you won't get splashed, even through big puddles. I rode to one event wearing dress pants and a blazer and arrived looking clean and (mostly) respectable.

The bikes are bottom-heavy like weeble-wobbles: they really want to stay upright. I rode right through February's brutal deluge and the bikes held up an awful lot better than my own bike. The trade-off is that they don't go very fast, but a commuter bike is made for convenience, not speed.

This new service has the potential to be a game-changer for active transportation in Hamilton.- Ryan McGreal

The bikes are completely street legal with automatic headlights and taillights, reflectors and a working bell (it sounds like a toaster oven timer!). They also have a front basket big enough to hold $30 to 40 worth of groceries.

Unlike the macho recreation bikes most North Americans are used to, these bikes are specifically designed for riding in the city. You can ride to work, go to a meeting or run an errand without getting sweaty and disheveled.

Pricing is impressive. A monthly pass is $15 and lets you ride up to 60 minutes a day. A pass for a whole year is $85 – cheaper than a monthly bus pas. (Soon you will also be able to do pay-as-you-go for $4 an hour.)

I've been a year-round cyclist for my adult life and bought my membership more out of philosophical support than an expectation of day-to-day use, but I've ridden my own bike only twice since the bike share bikes became available.

Between ease, comfort, flexibility and not having to worry about theft, I find myself choosing bike share over my own bike.

This new service has the potential to be a game-changer for active transportation in Hamilton. If you’re at all interested, invest the $15 and try it out for a month. It might just change how you get around.

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