After many delayed attempts at bringing bike share to Vancouver, British Columbia, Mobi Bikes finally launched in July of 2016, with 1,500 bikes and 150 planned stations. Vancouver is the 5th city in Canada to embrace bike-sharing, and Mobi is the second largest bike sharing program in the country, only behind Montreal's Bixi. Does this have a significant impact on Vancouver’s pursuit of being the Greenest city by 2020?
One of the 10 goal areas of the Greenest City targets is green transportation, where Vancouver aims to make moving on foot or bike safe, convenient and enjoyable. This goal is shared among many large world-class cities around the world, aiming for sustainability and healthy communities, such as London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and New York. These cities all have established and successful bike share programs, and with Mobi Bikes, Vancouver may be one step closer to its sustainability goals. In many ways, Mobi Bikes is already making biking convenient and enjoyable for many.
Mobi’s bike stations are currently scattered around downtown and into the Kitsilano and Mount Pleasant area, connecting densely populated areas of the cities to business and shopping districts. The time limit of 30 – 60 minutes is usually enough time to complete a commuting or shopping trip, and with stations only a few blocks apart from one other, it's not hard for a rider to return a bike to a docking station. Within three months since opening day, Mobi Bikes has already logged 100,000 trips, averaging roughly 1,000 trips a day. The bike usage didn’t seem to be affected by the heavy rain in October 2016 either, despite it being the wettest month in Vancouver in the last 31 years. This is optimistic news for Vancouver, signaling bicyclist resiliency in the face of changing weather conditions. It's not hard to spot an almost empty Mobi Bike dock in the downtown area during rush hours.
Many users also prefer using Mobi to their own bikes, owing to the convenience and secure docking facilities. One frequent rider, Simon M., uses Mobi Bikes to commute to work in the downtown business district. He says it's actually faster to use bike sharing than his own, because of the inconvenient bike storage location in his apartment building. Mobi Bikes are readily available on the streets, whereas many apartment buildings have bike lockers in the parking lot, requiring residents to pass through many doors or gates to access. Some stations are placed on the sidewalk, blending into the pedestrian zones with the public benches and other amenities. Others are closer to vehicular traffic to catch the attention of drivers, increasing exposure to potential bike share members. The tasteful solar panel and the name of the station are clearly displayed with reflective bollards for safety.
Mobi Bikes still has a lot of room to grow. Currently, each bike is used twice a day on average, which has been steady; but expected to increase when the weather is better. And whether or not bike share will help increase biking mode share is still hard to answer at this point. Vancouver recently celebrated reaching a 7% biking mode share, but will Mobi Bikes convince more people to pedal more? And how will bike share work with other parts of the transportation infrastructure, such as connectivity to major train and bus stations? Recent studies show that bike share is a substitute for public transportation, walking, and driving, and has a positive effect on physical activity. Major cities in the world have realized the benefits of having a public bike share system, and Vancouver has finally joined the 600+ cities in the world who are reaching towards sustainable transportation systems. However, the lack of pricing structure for low-income point of entry is an issue, especially considering there are several stations in the poorer areas of the city. The cost for Mobi is currently $7.50 a day or $129-$159/year, which is quite costly for lower income earners.
Does your city have a bike sharing system? Do you use it? What barriers do you believe some people face when considering using bike sharing? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Images by Amy Do. Data linked to sources.