Ottawa

VeloGO a no-show after bike rack offer ran out, NCC says

Communication with VeloGO broke down after the National Capital Commission reminded the bike-sharing company it could no longer have free use of the NCC's bike racks around Ottawa and Gatineau, the Crown corporation said Monday.

Bike rental service confirms it's not returning to Ottawa-Gatineau this summer

A VeloGO bike is seen parked on an Ottawa sidewalk on July 3, 2018. The bike-sharing service won't be back this year. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Communication with VeloGO broke down after the National Capital Commission reminded the bike-sharing company it could no longer have free use of the NCC's bike racks around Ottawa and Gatineau, the Crown corporation said Monday.

The NCC's explanation followed a tweet by VeloGO on Saturday explaining it would not be returning to the capital because its "contract with the NCC has expired."

Last week, in a brief telephone conversation with Radio-Canada, an official with CycleHop, the Miami-based company that owns and operates VeloGO, confirmed it wouldn't be operating in the capital this summer.

The official declined to explain why. On Twitter, VeloGO indicated it hopes to return to Ottawa-Gatineau next summer.

In an email on Monday, NCC spokesperson Jean Wolff wrote that in 2014, when CycleHop bought Bixi, the NCC's bike-sharing pilot project, the NCC offered to help the company get started by loaning it 25 docking stations for free. The offer was only for five years, however, and ran out in 2018.

"Last fall, the NCC gave notice to CycleHop/VeloGo that the five-year period was coming to an end and that would not be extended," Wolff wrote.

Wolff said the NCC tried to get in touch with the company this spring, but was unsuccessful. He said officials from the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau were likewise unsuccessful.

We'll hear the case from @spotmaticfan of @bikeOttawa for making it part of the city's public trasnit system 8:05

New model introduced last year

The VeloGO service launched with a brief preview in 2014, then operated in Ottawa-Gatineau for the next four summers. The company said it had about 300 bikes in the capital and had plans to increase its fleet to about 500.

It began with a "hub" model where riders rented bikes at a per-minute rate, then return them to stations scattered throughout the core.

Last year, the company switched to a different model where riders using a GPS-enabled app could pick up and drop off the bikes practically anywhere, similar to bike- and scooter-sharing services in other major cities.

It's not clear what, if anything, the NCC's decision to stop loaning its bike racks to VeloGO had on the company's decision not to return this year.

Money left on app

Some VeloGO users told Radio-Canada last week that they still had money left on their app from last year.

I was a bit surprised, and I want to know if we'll be reimbursed.- Nicolas Thibodeau

"I was a bit surprised, and I want to know if we'll be reimbursed," said Nicolas Thibodeau in French.

Daniel Varin, president of cycling advocacy group Action vélo Outaouais, said a thriving bike-sharing service can be part of a public transit network.

"They can be part of multi-modal solutions to our [traffic] problems," Varin said in French. "We want to give people different [transportation] choices."

The landlord of VeloGO's Carruthers Avenue offices told Radio-Canada he didn't know if the company is renewing its lease.

VeloGO bikes are still available in other cities including Vancouver, which signed a five-year contract with the company.

With files from Radio-Canada's Pascale Langlois

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