By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton councillors have given the green light to launch a bike share program for the downtown area.
“I don’t look at this as a ward 1, 2, 3, 4 project,” said Glanbrook councillor Brenda Johnson. “It will benefit residents in my own area. It’s another mode of transportation.”
Politicians in February referred the proposal to spend $1.6 million to purchase 350 bikes and create 40 stations within the core, to staff for further study. The delay by councillors prompted an upsurge of support for the program from within the city. Neighbourhood associations endorsed the idea, and a Facebook page was created to also support it.
Bike sharing programs have been established in over 300 communities’ world wide, including Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto.
Don Hull, director of transit, said this project isn’t just for the downtown area, but it’s a service that will be accessed by all Hamiltonians.
“The people using this will come from any place in the city,” he said.
Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark urged his colleagues to back the idea, arguing it will provide a mode of transportation for people unable to afford a vehicle or a bus pass. He was upset that someHamiltonresidents objected to the idea of spending money to assist people living in poverty. He said spending tax dollars on such a program will benefit not just individuals, but the entire community.
“It will make a tremendous difference,” said Clark.
Still, some suburban residents objected to the city spending money on a bike share program. They have stated that the city is promoting a downtown program while seemingly ignoring improving public transit on the mountain, said Ward 8 councillor Terry Whitehead.
“It’s about how do we prioritize our expenditures,” said Whitehead, who did vote for the program. “We have to improve our transportation system.”
He also urged transit officials to install more bus shelters in his Ward 8 area where there are few locations to get on a bus.
Dundas councillor Russ Powers has used bike sharing programs in Ottawa, Toronto, and Amsterdam, where bikes there also have a GPS attached.
“They are well used by a wide diversity of people,” said Powers. “This moves us closer to a better city.”
Added Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor, who has backed the bike sharing idea, “I’m full of optimism on this project. There are all kinds of potential.”
Councillors passed the recommendation unanimously at their March 20 government issues committee meeting. Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson was absent. Politicians are scheduled to vote on it at their March 27 council meeting.
The city will use $1.6 million from Metrolinx to purchase the bikes and establish the bike stations.Hamiltonis allowed to use the money from Metrolinx only for capital projects within the A and B line corridors, within the area of King and Main streets, McMaster University, John Street, the waterfront andAberdeen Avenue. The operation of the pilot program will be done by a private business. Any liability cost will be the responsibly of the private business. The idea is people would pay to take a bike from one location to another. People can either pay the cost through a membership, or on a need basis.
“The city will not incur any costs,” said Hull.