Dockless bike share systems are coming to BC cities

Jun 23 2018, 1:58 am

First it was Vancouver. Then it was in Victoria. Now, it’s in Kelowna and soon it will also be in UBC.

Just in time for the peak summer tourist season, the third largest urban area in BC launched its pilot bike share program last week.

However, unlike Vancouver’s Mobi system and other typical bike share systems elsewhere in the world that use physical stations, Kelowna’s system is far easier and simpler to use.

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Cyclists using Dropbike in Kelowna do not need to lock up their bike at a station location. Instead, the system is dockless and stationless and users park and lock their bikes at designated zones called “havens” where bikes will be ready for the next rider. Of course, users will need to make sure they are locking it up in a legal area.

Dropbike bike share

The bike used by Dropbike bike share. (Dropbike)

The payment and tracking system for Dropbike uses advanced technology. It completely revolves around a smartphone app to find and unlock the orange-and-white coloured bikes, which are equipped with GPS and a remote locking device.

This real-time location and security equipment on the bikes are powered by a solar panel within the bike basket.

Victoria’s U-Bicycle system, which launched last September, also has a similar dockless, app-based system, but Kelowna’s potential scale is far larger with the program’s eventual expansion planned to go up to 1,500 bikes. Currently, about 170 bikes are in circulation.

The cost of using Kelowna’s system is a $50 one-time membership deposit, and the fees of actual usage after that is just $1 per hour. Bikes can be unlocked by scanning the QR code using the app.

Dropbike, based in Toronto, is just one of a growing number of bike share companies that are offering stationless systems to cities. The company is also operating pilot programs in Toronto and Montreal, and its latest pilot in Kelowna is scheduled to last for a period of 18 months.

In each city, including Kelowna, the cost of implementing Dropbike is completely free to the taxpayer.

Dropbike in Kelowna launched on Monday, June 11, and according to the city’s data it has attracted 942 total rides from 485 unique riders. Its highest ridership day was Saturday, June 16 with 348 trips. All things considered, these are good numbers for a city of 128,000 people.

“The Kelowna Bikeshare Pilotā€™s first few weeks were filled with excitement, lots of rides, and minimal amounts of the clutter,”Ā Matt Worona, the Active Transportation Coordinator for the City of Kelowna, told Daily Hive. “We can attribute this to Dropbikeā€™s operations team, clear indicators for how people should use the service as well as parking areas for bike share bikes called ‘havens’. As the network grows we hope to see more Kelowna residents integrate bike share into their daily travel.”

“Kelowna is excited to be the third Canadian city to launch this new type of bike share and with a promising launch we have lots of room to grow further into our central neighbourhoods.”

The advantages of a system likeĀ Dropbike are clear, but could it be introduced to Vancouver anytime soon?

The University of British Columbia announced last month it has selected Dropbike to conduct a 12-month-long pilot program with as many as 200 bikes, and the fleet could eventually grow to as many as 2,000 bikes throughout the pilot period. The pilot program within the West Point Grey campus will launch later this summer.

“Dropbike offers a great solution to the last-mile problem for UBC students, staff and faculty that arrive to campus by transit, or for anyone needing to get across campus quickly,” said Adam Hyslop, Transportation Planner at Campus and Community Planning for UBC.

“With this pilot we will work closely with Dropbike, our university partners, and the Neighbourhoods Association to make the most of having a bike share on campus.”

Dropbike bike share

Dropbike bike share at the University of British Columbia campus. (Dropbike)

However, a competing alternative to Mobi within Vancouver proper is extremely unlikely as the City of Vancouver has made significant investments to Mobi, which launched in 2016 as a subsidiary of Miami-based Cyclehop.

The municipal government is tied to Mobi after investing $5 million in its initial infrastructure costs in the city, plus $1 million in other startup costs and an annual $500,000 subsidy for the first five years.

In late-2016, Mobi received funding from Shaw as part of a five-year naming and branding rights agreement.

TransLink also recently provided Mobi with $1 million to help cover a portion of the costs of the bike share system’s recent expansion towards Commercial Drive.

As well, as part of the eventual plan to expand Mobi’s coverage to city-wide, the municipal government has been negotiating with developers and property owners to set aside a piece of their private lands for Mobi stations.

The municipal government says Mobi’s performance to date can be qualified as a success, with over 57,000 users completing 795,000 trips in the city to date.

There are currently 1,400 bikes in circulation and 143 bike share stations, including 116 located on street right-of-way, 11 on city-owned institutional properties, eight on private land, and eight in public parks.

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