After Dropbike’s departure, Kelowna expects next bike sharing programs will be electric

Dropbikes won't be returning to the streets for Summer 2019 and it's unclear if a new bike share operator will move in.
Dropbikes won't be returning to the streets for Summer 2019 and it's unclear if a new bike share operator will move in. Jules Knox / Global News

Dropbike’s pilot project in Kelowna was expected to run until the fall of 2019, so residents thought they would be able to enjoy another summer with the bike-sharing system.

However, after Dropbike announced it would be cutting the program short last week, the future of bike sharing in Kelowna is uncertain.

The city’s point person on the file, Matt Worona, believes it is likely the city will see another program in place this summer.

READ MORE: City, Dropbike defend decision to recycle lightly-used bikes

If city council approves a new bike-share permit program, the city could start accepting applications from new bike-sharing program operators next week.

“We’ve had interest from multiple different operators,” Worona said.

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“We’ve also tried to formulate the permit program in such a way that it is amenable to a variety of different delivery models for bike share and different organizing tactics, so it works for as many firms as possible.”

Worona said the city expects to be able to process the applications quickly but ultimately the timing of any new bike-sharing programs will depend on how quickly, operators are able to set up a fleet in Kelowna.

READ MORE: Kelowna bike share nearly ready to roll out

The proposed program would allow multiple bike-sharing companies to operate in the city at once.

Worona expects to see applications for electric-bike sharing and electric-scooter sharing rather than traditional pedal bikes.

“The likelihood is that we would see electrified vehicles just because that is generally where the industry seems to be moving,” Worona said.

“It is a better business model for a lot of the operators and the difference in cost between a pedal bike and an electric bike is pretty small nowadays.”

WATCH BELOW (Aired Sept. 12, 2018): How has the bike share program in Kelowna fared this summer?

Click to play video 'How has the bike share program in Kelowna fared this summer?' How has the bike share program in Kelowna fared this summer?
How has the bike share program in Kelowna fared this summer? – Sep 12, 2018

In cutting short its Kelowna bike-sharing program, Drop Mobility was critical of Kelowna’s proposed new permitting process.

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“What the city of Kelowna administration has done — including instituting its open-permitting framework and by eliminating the concept of havens and not making bike lock-to requirements mandatory — will disincentivize bike-share operators from working towards creating a mobility system that is sustainable and doesn’t lead to mess and chaos on the streets,” Drop Mobility wrote in a statement.

“While cities across the world are navigating away from a completely free-floating model because it has consistently failed, the City of Kelowna has decided to permit it.”

However, the city is defending its approach to bike sharing, arguing flexibility is important to allow many different types of systems in a quickly changing industry.

“Regulations that restrict operations to technology or delivery models would greatly restrict which companies would be able to operate within our market,” the city said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday.

READ MORE: Kelowna bullish on bike-sharing after successful first summer

“Shared mobility companies have many different methods for ensuring their vehicles are used appropriately and end up in the right location. The city’s focus is on maximizing value for residents by remaining flexible to different ways of delivering service.”

The city said that last summer, more than 300 bikes in Dropbike’s Kelowna fleet were used over 33,000 times.

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Dropbike’s 18-month pilot program in Kelowna started in early 2018 and had been expected to wrap up this fall.

However, the city said the company hasn’t had bikes in operation on Kelowna streets since last November.