For a city that is touted as one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world, it’s surprising to many that Vancouver has yet to introduce a public bike share program. These programs have been extremely popular in all but a few cities that have such systems. The only cities that haven’t seen a successful public bike share system are Melbourne and Brisbane, both have failed due to mandatory helmet laws. Turns out, Vancouver also has a mandatory helmet law and that explains the delay in introducing a BIXI Vancouver program.
Many critics and politicians have stated that in order for a public bike share program to thrive in Vancouver, it has to first rid of the mandatory helmet law. Perhaps, follow New York City’s model and make it mandatory only for children under a certain age. In Canada, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa operate bike share programs and do so without helmets. If Vancouver is indeed ready to launch a public bike share program (a formal announcement hasn’t been made however, a lot of chatter is going on behind the scenes in the lead up to the annual Velo-City Global Conference) can it thrive under the current laws? Former NPA city councillor and former Vancouver mayoral candidate Peter Ladner doesn’t think so as he stated in a recent article in Business in Vancouver.
He’s right, no one (okay most people) will want to put on a helmet that hasn’t been sanitized. Others won’t want to put on a helmet due to helmet hair. This may sound like a silly reason but many people subscribe to it.
Presently the City of Vancouver is not pushing the province to change the mandatory helmet law. If that is the case and a public bike share program is introduced in Vancouver it will more than likely fail, unless the police turn a blind eye to the helmetless riders as they already sort of do.
If introduced here is what Vancouver’s bike share program may look like:
The Bixi system is a city-wide public bike-sharing program, which allows a person to pick up a bike at any one of the stations around the city, ride around and drop them off at another station when they are done. To be part of the program requires a fee, plus fees for trips lasting more than a half hour. The program will have around 200 stations in the nieghbourhoods Mt. Pleasant, Kits, Fairview, UBC, Commercial Drive and downtown. There may be some restrictions of using the BIXI bikes along the seawall to protect the interest of the bicycle rental companies.
I think the introduction of bike share program would be welcome. However, it will be a financial disaster if it’s introduced with the mandatory helmet law intact.
Image by Cherish Bryck Photography