City, Dropbike defend decision to recycle lightly-used bikes

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Dozens of drop bikes were found in a dumpster in Kingston over the weekend, which has got some residents questioning the city's commitment to sustainability – Apr 23, 2019

A Toronto-based bike-sharing service is defending its decision to send dozens of bicycles to the scrap heap in Kingston.

Images of the orange bikes in a dumpster have generated plenty of debate online, some claiming the disposal of the vehicles is wasteful in a city that prides itself on being sustainable.

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But both the city and Dropbike, the company that owns the bikes, have a different take, saying these bikes are no longer suitable for local roads.

Over the weekend, pictures of dozens of bicycles piled in a dumpster outside the Cook Brothers Youth Centre made some question the city’s dedication to sustainability.

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“Of course we would have preferred [if] they could have found a reuse for some of these bikes,” said Paul McLatchy, environment director at the City of Kingston. “That would have been perfect.”

The Dropbike bicycles were originally used in a pilot project in Kingston during the summer of 2017. They were supposed to be used again in 2018 but the bikes were never brought out.

According to Matthew Lumsden, operations manager for Dropbike, the reason so many nearly-new bikes were sent for recycling was because they simply weren’t up to snuff.

“The safety and quality of those bikes, in our opinion, were not up to the standards that were necessary for the services we’d like to provide to Kingstonians.”

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Others have wondered why the bikes couldn’t be re-purposed in some way.

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“We understand they did some work to find a home for them or reuse some of them. They were not successful in that and they’ve and they made the decision to recycle them,” said McLatchy.

Lumsden says that due to the company’s original design, the bikes are made of non-standard parts, which he says makes it impossible for portions of the bikes to be used for another bike.

They are working with an outside contractor to recycle the bikes, he said, but didn’t answer if the company was being paid for the material.

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“The metal is taken to a scrapping yard and used for other things,” Lumsden said. “The rubber is also reused. The entire bicycle, to my knowledge, is completely recyclable.”

City officials say they didn’t know the life cycle of the original bikes would be so short, but added that they asked for improved bikes when they requested new ones in early 2018.

“We asked for things like a lighter bike, more gears, better-quality build, those sort of things,” said McLatchy.

Two hundred of the new bicycles are already being stored somewhere in the city, and according to both McLatchy and Dropbike, the new and improved fleet is expected to last two and a half years to three years.

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“I would say we are at a point now that we are confident where we can source and produce much better quality bicycles that reflect the standards we now have as a company in 2019,” said Lumsden.

McLatchy says having the new bikes available in the city is an important step in the city’s climate change commitment to get people out of cars and onto bikes.

The new bikes will start popping up at 50 stations around Kingston in the beginning of May.

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