Tag Archives: bike sharing

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.

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 in Montreal

Biking is a Breeze
After spending 3 days cycling through Montreal, I have to admit they are years ahead of Vancouver.

Montreal BIXIFor only $15, I picked up a 3-day BIXI pass and used it to zoom around the city. I was impressed with how quickly the bikes turned over. Bikes were constantly being taken out and returned by users – a lot of them locals judging by how quickly they unlocked the bikes and pedalled away. The bikes are heavy and slow, but still way faster than walking and more interesting than taking the metro.

Montreal Separated Bike Lane Bike Lanes at Dusk
The separated bike lanes downtown are good (especially around the universities), but the real highlight was the network of separated lanes along commercial streets in the neighbourhoods around downtown, like the Plateau (think Commercial Drive in Vancouver).

There is also a good network of bike routes on quiet streets, salmon lanes against the traffic on 1-way streets, and trails along parks and train tracks. They even have cleaners ensuring the bike routes are free of glass and debris.
Bike Salmon Lane Route Vert Bike Trail Bike Lane Cleaner

Vancouver has some catching up to do.

Helmets are the Kryptonite of Bike Share

Bixi Chic
Helmets are the kryptonite of bike share systems. Nothing puts a damper on the fun, spontaneous travel that bike share facilitates like a foam lid designed to prevent brain damage in the most severe accidents. Shared helmets are gross and carting your own helmet is not convenient. It’s no surprise then that bike share users are less likely to wear helmets then cyclists who ride their own bike.

So what happens when you flood city streets with casual cyclists (many of them tourists) who have no desire to wear helmets? Many pundits predict carnage but time has proven them wrong. Bike share systems around the world have outstanding safety records. Even in busy New York City, where Citi Bikes are being used for bar hopping, it’s a safe way to travel.

Emergency room and city officials say they have not seen a notable spike in bike-related accidents since the 6,000 Citi Bikes were unleashed on the city streets in May. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs no obvious sign that there have been more bike injuries,‚ÄĚ said Dr. Marc Stoller, the associate chairman of the emergency department at Beth Israel Medical Center, which serves much of Lower Manhattan.

Meanwhile, personal injury lawyers are on standby. Daniel Flanzig, a lawyer who focuses on New York-area bike accidents, said last month that he was ‚Äúabsolutely amazed‚ÄĚ that he had not had a single case involving the bike-share program. ‚ÄúMy phone rings three or four times a week with a private bike crash, but nothing involving Citi Bike,‚ÄĚ he said.

Bike helmet vending machine for Melbourne bike share.Riding a bike share bike without a helmet is statistically safe, but in some cities it’s strictly illegal. So how do you introduce bike sharing in cities with helmet laws? Melbourne offers taxpayer subsidized bike helmets at vending machines and convenience stores, but uptake has been slow. Now they’re leaving free helmets on the handlebars of the bikes, but it isn’t working. Riders continue to shun the system and the Mayor of London openly mocked the helmet law when he visited Melbourne last week. Mexico City and Israel took alternative approaches when they opened their bike share systems. They simply scrapped the helmet laws and watched their bike share systems thrive.

Unfortunately, after years of delay and study, Vancouver has chosen to follow Melbourne’s flailing lead. Hamstrung by a provincial helmet law, Vancouver is getting a bike share system with an integrated helmet share system. I think it’s a bad idea for a number of reasons.
1) It’s expensive. The City won’t reveal exactly how much is being spent on helmet vending machines, but think millions of dollars. That’s money that could have been spent on buying more bikes and extending the area bike share covers (initially limited to the central core).
2) Requiring a helmet will deter ridership. There’s a significant portion of the population who won’t ride a bike with a helmet. Some may still rent a bike and risk the fine, but many will just skip the experience all together.
helmethub-beta3) It’s a logistical nightmare waiting to happen. Balancing a bike share system is complicated enough without helmets. You need to ensure that every station has bikes available and empty spots returns. If you have a good mix of users taking a variety of trips, this will happen naturally. When it doesn’t, you need to pay people to shuffle bikes around.

With the helmet system being proposed for Vancouver, you can’t rely on even trip patterns to balance the system. Each helmet vending machine only holds 36 helmets and each helmet will only be used once before it’s cleaned and inspected. In a successful bike share system, each bike is used 5-10 times per day. There just isn’t enough capacity to store that many helmets. So a lot of time and money will be spent shuffling new helmets stations and picking up the used ones, assuming people use them at all.

I really want Vancouver’s bike share system to succeed, and the helmet law needs to be scrapped before that can happen.