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Hamilton’s bike share breakdown

The City of Hamilton had all the right sentimental reasons to create a bike share program.

On the surface the idea seems as progressive as drinking fruit-flavoured smoothies and eating quinoa in aiding the city’s quest for a healthy community image.

Bike share programs have been adopted in various cities in the United States such as New York City, Orlando, Hoboken, Buffalo, Boise, and Phoenix, all overseen by Social Bicycles.

So when councillors — some reluctantly — agreed to spend $1.6 million of Metrolinx’s money to fund a bike sharing program it was Sobi that had won the tender.

But so far the program has seen more obstacles and produced more excuses than cycling activity.

Initially, Sobi, was expected to have the bike locations installed and the program rolling prior to this summer. Delays then forced the company to say the program would be rolled out starting in mid-July. Now the program, say Sobi officials, won’t be ready until September.

Organizers blamed the city for delaying the program until the spring. Then city officials blamed border issues that had delayed the release of their Chinese-made bikes.

But the sense of confusion from organizers has continued. First the locations were expected to be only within the downtown area, with some locations on the mountain. Then organizers said with the limited resources available to them, they couldn’t install bike racks on the Mountain. But just this week, organizers said they changed their minds again and will search out Mountain locations after all.

There are also questions about how many members have signed up. According to the city’s own business plan, to be successful the bike share program needs 4,300 yearly memberships, and 15,000 casual members, a tall order for Hamilton’s cycling community.

And there is still the pertinent question of whether a bike sharing program will be successful in the city. Cycling enthusiasts don’t need the system because they quite likely already have bikes of their own. Are there that many Hamiltonians without bikes that would use the program?

And what about those other bike share programs? In Hoboken, the program has been suspended, while in Phoenix, the program has been delayed until after the summer. In Buffalo, the program is confined to a limited area in the downtown area, while bike share programs in Montreal and Toronto, albeit run by different organizations, have been a financial black hole for those municipalities.

Hamilton’s program would seem to be off to an inauspicious start for what should be a trendy, productive program that would give Hamilton the progressive street cred that many so desperately thinks it deserves.

Do you plan to join Hamilton’s bike share program?

  • No (67%, 41 Votes)
  • Yes (33%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 61

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