Category Archives: Cycling

Commuting with Mobi Bike Share

Mobi Bikes

In November I won a free annual membership to Vancouver’s bike share program, Mobi by Shaw Go. At the time I was working in Richmond and commuting 15 km each way on my Norco road bike. I didn’t need a bike share membership but thought it might come in handy occasionally.

Five months later and now I’m using Mobi every day for my commute, logging 175 trips and 400¬†km. What changed? In December I started a new job downtown and discovered that bike share is surprisingly the fastest way for me to get to and from work. It’s about 2 minutes faster than taking public transit and 5 minutes faster than using my own bike, because of the time it takes to store my bike in the secure bike parking rooms on each end.

The Mobi bikes are definitely heavier and slower than my road bike, but I only have a 2.5 km commute so averaging 15 km/h on a Mobi bike is only a minute or two slower than averaging 20 km/h on my road bike. And that’s only because I have a long stretch without traffic lights.

What I like about commuting with Mobi:

  • I don’t have to worry about bike lights, flat tires, or worn out brake pads.
  • The bikes all have chain guards so my pants don’t get greasy.
  • I don’t have to worry if my bike will get stolen.
  • The station density is pretty good. I have 3 stations near home and 2 close to work.

What I don’t like:

  • Now that weather is getting better, it’s sometimes hard to find a bike, especially after work.
  • I miss my panniers and the storage capacity they provided. The basket on the Mobi bikes provides some space, but nothing compared to 2 panniers.
  • The shared helmets are a little gross, although they’ve worked out better than I expected. We’ll see how sweaty they get in the summer.
  • The closest station to my work is at Granville and Georgia, but the bikes are covered in pigeon poop.

I’m guessing my summer commuting experience will be very different from the past 5 months. In the winter, I rarely had a problem finding a bike or a space to dock it when I was done. But in the past week, I’ve had 3 days where the station I normally use was out of bikes. The¬†statistics below from MountainMath¬†show that usage has really increased in the past week. I’m sure that’s due to the nice weather and Mobi’s recent expansion into East Vancouver.

mobi_usage

Overall, I’ve been happy enough with Mobi that I’ll probably renew my membership. It doesn’t completely replace owning a bike for me – I still need my own to pull my daughter’s bike trailer. But for short commutes, I’ve been surprised to find it’s actually the most convenient way to get around.

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

Southlands Heritage Farm

To celebrate Thanksgiving and the beautiful fall weather here in Vancouver, we took Astrid to Southlands Heritage Farm to visit the pumpkin patch. Southlands is a bizarre neighbourhood in the south-west corner of Vancouver, with mansions on giant acreages, horses, and active farms.

Southlands Heritage Farm

Astrid wasn’t a fan of the horses. In fact she was terrified of them, which is odd because she’s usually fearless. But we had fun in the pumpkin patch, playing in the straw pile, and watching the goats.

Southlands Heritage Farm

We rode the Skytrain most of the way there (to Langara-49th) and biked back along the Arbutus Greenway. It was our first chance to bike most of the Arbutus corridor. What a great route. Nice gentle grade and busy with cyclists, walkers, strollers, runners, and people of all ages.

Biking the Arbutus Greenway

Astrid fell asleep in the chariot and slept for most of the way home, which included a pit stop at the Kitsilano Farmers Market.

Biking the Arbutus Greenway

Emily showing off the 15 km we biked today. The Arbutus Greenway is too new to be on this bike map.

Biking the Arbutus Greenway

We ended the day walking around the Olympic Village and enjoying a beautiful sunset over False Creek.

Thanksgiving Sunset

Mobi Soft Launch Today

Mobi Bikes

Mobi is soft launching today with 23 stations (out of 150 that will be up and running by the end of the summer) for founding¬†members only. They have a new¬†website¬†with an interactive map showing how many bikes and open spots are available at each station. They’re still working on their mobile apps for Android and iOS.

Details on Mobi pricing, including daily and monthly memberships, is available here.

There is a crowd-sourced map that includes the 23 stations available today and 7 more that are partially installed and should be available soon. The initial coverage is pretty sparse and doesn’t include anything south of Broadway or west of Burrard.

Here is the official Mobi launch map.

Mobi founding member launch map

Mobi – Vancouver’s Bike Share

Mobi Bikes
Vancouver’s Mobi Bike Share has been slowly rolling out across the city. It looks like they are a month behind their original mid-June launch date, but progress is being made. I’ve seen partial bike share stations installed under the Cambie Bridge (south-side) and near the Creekside Community Centre.

Mobi Bike Station

In the next few weeks, 100 stations will be distributed throughout Vancouver’s core. The initial service area is¬†east of Arbutus, west of Main, and north of 16th including Stanley Park (green area below).

Vancouver Bike Share Map

Update: Map of the initial stations is available here.

Here are the pricing options. First, you need to buy a membership (varying in length from 24 hours to 1 year). Most memberships come with free unlimited trips under 30 or 60 minutes. For longer trips, you pay an overage cost per half hour period. Currently, the only memberships for sale are the 1-year Founding Member ones.

Membership Length Signup Cost Free Trip Overage Cost
(per half hour)
Founder 1 1 year $99 30 min $2 (30-60 min)
$3 (>60 min)
Founder Plus 1 1 year $129 60 min $3
Monthly Basic 2 1 month $10 None $2
Monthly Standard 2 1 month $15 30 min $2 (30-60 min)
$3 (>60 min)
Monthly Plus 2 1 month $20 60 min $3
Day Pass 24 hours $7.50 30 min $3

1 – Founder prices only until June 30 (will likely be extended)
2 Р3 month minimum for monthly plans

Mobi Assembly Yard

From what I’ve been told from Mobi staff, bikes must be returned to a bike share station to end your trip. Each bike comes with a cable lock that extends from¬†the right handlebar to the fork¬†that can be used¬†if you want to make a quick stop without ending your rental. As an extra security measure, the handlebars can’t be turned when the bike is locked (like an immobilizer). Helmets will be provided with each bike (left on the cable lock).

Mobi’s full Terms and Conditions¬† (Archived Doc).

Bike Share (Finally) Coming to Vancouver

Hubway
Vancouver is finally getting a bike share system. Fingers crossed, bikes should be on the ground and ready to roll mid-June.

It’s been a long road. The City of Vancouver first started exploring bike share systems in 2008, and signed an initial contract to deliver one in 2013 (but that fell through when BIXI went bankrupt).

The biggest hurdle¬†has been our BC-wide,¬†all-ages, mandatory helmet law (which I’ve written about before). There still doesn’t seem to be a good solution. When¬†bike share was announced in 2013, the plan was to put yet-to-be-invented helmet vending machines at every station. 3 years later, that technology still doesn’t exist. Now the¬†plan is to just leave helmets with the bikes and periodically clean them.

Ignoring the helmet problems, I think Vancouver’s done a great job choosing a bike share vendor and picking the initial service area.¬†For bikes and stations, the provider will be¬†Smoove. The main difference between Smoove and BIXI (which other¬†Canadian cities have and most people are familiar with) is the Smoove bikes are smart and have minimal station requirements, while BIXI bikes are simple and the have the smarts. This means Smoove bikes have GPS tracking and¬†can be locked anywhere (although there will still be dedicated stations), a system more like Car2Go.

Vancouver Bike Share Map
The initial service area will be east of Arbutus, north of 16th Ave, and west of Main street (including Stanley Park). There will be 1000 bikes and 100 stations at launch, expanding to 1500 bicycles at 150 stations by the end of 2016. If all goes well, the first expansion will move west to Macdonald (including Kitsilano) and east to Commercial Drive (the blue areas on the map above).

The initial area includes Vancouver’s¬†densest neighbourhoods, the business district,¬†11 km of uninterrupted Seawall, the most¬†popular¬†tourist attractions in the city (Stanley Park, Granville Island, Vancouver Art Gallery, and Science World),¬†plus¬†separated¬†bike lanes and bike routes with only modest hills. With 150 stations¬†in the initial area, that would give Vancouver a station density close to New York. Imagine¬†stations every 2 blocks in most areas (see this example¬†by UBC’s Carter Xin for an idea of station location).

There is absolutely no reason bike share shouldn’t succeed in Vancouver, except for helmets.¬†The most recent city that has tried to launch a bike share system with a mandatory helmet law, is Seattle (which also happens to have similar weather and topology). The results have been¬†disappointing and many people blame the city’s helmet law. When Seattle launched their bike share system in 2014, they¬†were planning on using the same helmet vending technology that Vancouver was considering. It wasn’t ready at launch so they decided to just leave bins of helmets at each station. 2 years alter, that temporary solution is still in place and Seattle’s Pronto system is paying $85,000 a year to maintain its helmets (in a system with only 1000 bikes), and the vending machine solution is still nowhere in sight.

All that to say, I’m looking forward to Vancouver’s bike share system. I happen to live and work in the initial area, and even though I own my own bike I plan on getting a membership and adding bike share to my transportation options. I just wish someone in provincial politics would have the courage to¬†admit what research has been showing for some time – that our mandatory bike helmet law isn’t saving lives¬†and is a hindrance to increased rates of cycling.

 

 

Cycling to Steveston

West Dyke Trail
Emily and I celebrated BC Day with a lovely bike ride to Steveston. It was our first time biking there and I was really impressed. I never knew Richmond had a good network of greenways, trails, and bike lanes. Obviously other people did, because Steveston was packed with cyclists.

Middle Arm Trail
We took the SkyTrain to Aberdeen and then biked along the Middle Arm Trail, past the Olympic Oval and across from the airport, where we had great views of planes taking off from YVR and float planes landing on the river.

Richmond West Dyke Trail
We continued down the West Dyke Trail, past marshy tidal flats and a farm with grazing cows.

Steveston Wild Salmon Fish and Chips
In Steveston, we wandered around town, checked out the pier, and ate deep-fried oysters, wild salmon, and chips (bad vegans, I know). I was surprised how many tourists in Steveston were there to check out Storybrooke, the fictional town Steveston becomes when Once Upon a Time is filming.

Railway Greenway
Our return trip was a quick zip down the Railway Greenway, a paved and separated route running the length of Richmond. The greenway follows the old Interurban train line and the former stops are marked with timetables painted on the ground – a clever way to highlight the history of the route.

All-in-all, it was a great, relaxing bike ride and a fun day. The route is completely flat and mostly separated from automobile traffic. Steveston is a perfect destination, with a popular pier, restaurants, and fish market. A perfect day trip.

Steveston Bike Ride Map
Our route there was a scenic 11.4 km and took us 1 hour.
The route back was 9.4 km and took us only 38 minutes.

More photos on Flickr.

Opposition to Upgrading Vancouver’s Seawall

I appear to have kicked off an internet storm when I reposted Green Parks Board candidate Stuart Mackinnon’s reply to my question about bike paths in parks.
https://twitter.com/betterparks/status/529073112030380032

better_parks

It’s lead to 3 blog posts on Gordon Price’s blog and more than 175 comments.

At issue, the enhancement of the Seawall, Vancouver’s gem and my favourite running route. As much as I love the seawall, there are sections that could do with some improvements. For much of its length, the Seawall has separated pedestrian and cyclist paths that ensure everyone has enough space.
Running along the Seawall Coopers Park and the Seawall Sunflower Seawall Seawall

But it is inconsistent. In Jericho Park, the seawall is a gravel path. Through Kitsilano Beach, Hadden Park, and Charleson Park the seawall is frequently congested as pedestrians and cyclists share a narrow path.
Charleson Park Seawall Vanier Park Seawall Hadden Park Seawall Kits Seawall

I’d love to see it all upgraded to the same standard, but there is a vocal group opposing any change. They think any new pavement would destroy our parks.

It’s a bizarre view, but they’re welcome to it. However, it bothers me that politicians like Green Party candidate Stuart Mackinnon appears to agree with them. Only Vision and COPE parks board candidates answered the HUB survey asking if they would support separated bike lanes in parks. Mackinnon’s only response was to complain about the question on twitter.
https://twitter.com/betterparks/status/524630627778187264

I wish Stuart Mackinnon would realize there is more to being green than maintaining grass.