Here's why VeloGo bikes are parked in random places
Changes this year include making it easier, cheaper to park bikes outside of hubs
Have you seen newly painted blue VeloGo bikes standing tall and parked in random places around Ottawa over the past couple of weeks?
That's the point of this year's expanded service: scattering its bikes across a wider area instead of trying to cluster them at stations as it has for the last three years.
Bike riders use an app to find the closest VeloGo bike. After they have signed it out using the app, they can take it for a ride and leave it almost anywhere for another rider to find.
Riders no longer have to pay more to leave a bike outside a hub, which general manager Josh Holzman said offers more freedom and flexibility.
"[The old way] kind of limited where people could ride the bikes and how much additional walking they were doing before and after. This targets that first and last kilometre of travel," he said.
VeloGo suggested in a late-June post on its website that out-of-hub fees could eventually return as more hubs are installed.
When CBC News downloaded the new app and took a tour of Centretown, Sandy Hill, Lowertown and the ByWard Market earlier this week, it found VeloGo bikes parked at hubs and some "locked" — if you don't activate a bike using the app, its wheels won't turn — alongside bikes secured with more traditional chains.
There were also bikes left in an alleyway between two homes, leaned up against a lamppost in a private parking lot and, seemingly, somewhere inside a highrise apartment building.
VeloGo rules say riders are not allowed to park bikes in private areas such as inside a home, in bus shelters, on street corners and bikes can't block paths, driveways or loading zones. Riders face a $20 fine for breaking these rules.
Holzman said they can track their bikes using GPS and people can also report bikes parked where they're not supposed to be.
"[We can] look into the ride history and reach out to the rider through the app … we can educate them if it wasn't a safe or appropriate place to lock a bike," he said.
"If there are continued problems, members can be locked out of the system and have their privileges revoked."
200 more bikes
This year VeloGo launched weeks later than it had the previous year and has an app that's only available on Apple products for now.
It's ramping up to an expanded fleet of 500 bikes, up from approximately 300 in 2017, and has an expanded service area stretching roughly from Broadview Avenue in the west to the southern edge of the Central Experimental Farm to the Beechwood Cemetery in the east and Lac Leamy Park in Gatineau.
It now costs a dollar to start a ride at 16 cents a minute or $15 for a monthly pass of up to 100 half-hour rides.
A student monthly pass is $5 cheaper.