Is Calgary ready for a bike-share program?

Posted by on Friday, January 22nd, 2016 at 2:09pm.

With the success of Car2Go, a car-share program so successful that Calgary is creating special parking just for the tiny cars, is bike-sharing next?

Some experts believe that Calgary is falling behind when it comes to anything related to bicycle raiding, bicycle commuting or even sharing.

Bike-sharing operates on a similar principle as Car2Go with a dedicated user base that lives in the inner-city. Bikes are available for short-term rentals and those wanting to hire a bike are provided with a key or combination or unlock code. Unlike cars, which can be parked almost anywhere and locked at a touch of a button, bikes are more portable and need to be locked up in a specific place such as a docking station.  A bit more infrastructure is required to get the program going and perhaps more enthusiasm as well.

If you check Google, there is a map of the world that illustrates cities with bike sharing.  There are about 977 cities, and Calgary isn’t one of them.   Currently, there is a department at City Hall which is overseeing bicycling in Calgary from bike lanes to safety, and a bike-sharing program is on the docket.  A bike plan was approved in 2011 which outlines the City of Calgary’ strategic plan for bike infrastructure and a bike-share program is one of 50 action items as part of that plan.

So far, a feasibility study has been done and a plan sketched out which outlines how the program would be implemented.  The only thing missing is money.

Calgary city council has estimated that a bike-sharing program owned and operated by the municipality, will cost between $2 million and $3 million to get off the ground.

The brakes are on bike sharing unless a private enterprise steps forward to either create the program as private/public partnership or provide sponsorship, similar to other North American cities.  In Toronto, TD bank sponsors the program and has naming rights to it.  In New York City, it’s Citygroup.  In both cases, there is some investment provided by the city.

Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal are so far the only Canadian cities

For now, Calgary has been focused on improving bike infrastructure on the street with dedicated bike lanes and cycle tracks.  The current pilot project is due to continue throughout 2016 and will be evaluated at the beginning of next year.  Downtown, there are new lanes of 5 St SW and 12 St SW as well as 8 Ave SW and 9 Ave SW.   A lane on 7 St SW was the first in place in downtown Calgary.

Anything the city has done to improve the safety and efficiency of bike transport in Calgary has met with public resistance, condemnation and scrutiny.  Changes will have to be made after the pilot is complete to make further improvements.  Calgary may still be a long ways away from having a bike-share program in our city.

When it is ready to roll out, the strategic plan as currently construed outlines 40 bike docking stations, each housing 10 bikes for a total of 400 bikes available for hire.  The plan initially calls for a roll out in Calgary’s inner-city only, with docking stations close to transit hubs and the LRT.   In other urban centres, bike-share programs work best when they’re connected with the transit system.

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