City committee puts wheels in motion for London bike share program

A picture of a New York bike-share station.
A picture of a New York bike-share station. Mike Armstrong / Global News

The Forest City is one step closer to becoming a bike-sharing city.

On Monday, London’s civic works committee voted unanimously in favour of seeking proposals for what could become the city’s first-ever bike share program.

The request for proposals process would look to obtain pricing along with a vendor to implement the program in London.

A timeline from city staff indicates that if all goes according to plan, London could launch its bike share program by spring or summer of 2020.

READ MORE: London launches ‘comprehensive’ online survey to promote city cycling

City director of environment, fleet and solid waste Jay Stanford presented a report on the matter to committee members prior to Monday’s vote.

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Stanford told councillors the program would use up to 300 shared bikes and build off the information gathered by other bike-sharing cities.

“There have been a number of locations and municipalities where the first-generation systems have not been successful,” Stanford said.

“One of the advantages of coming later in the piece, you get to learn the good things and also learn from the difficult situations that occurred in municipalities.”

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The bikes, Stanford said, may be used for a number of reasons, with the most prominent likely being commutes to and from work.

“Our transportation surveys to date have indicated that people are in the kind of five to six kilometre range for their daily trip to and from work. In that case, the bicycle would be something that would easily fill that [commuting] requirement.”

City staff say the shared bikes would likely be available to Londoners for eight months out of the year. However, Stanford added the vendor implementing the bike share program could prolong the bikes’ availability into winter months if they wanted to.


READ MORE: London city council approves bike lane projects, overturning 2 committee recommendations

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The city would also have to decide between using a docked system, which keeps shared bikes locked in a bike rack between uses, or a dockless system, in which bikes have built-in payment technology and locks that are activated by smartphone apps.

During Monday’s committee meeting, Mayor Ed Holder expressed caution over the latter system.

“There are examples of other cities that have engaged in this and bikes are just left on sidewalks… frankly, it’s a bloody mess.”

However, the city may also wind up using a hybrid system that combines dock and dockless methods.

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Ward 2 Coun. Shawn Lewis expressed support for the bike share program, but also questioned if London would be ready for its launch next year.

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“We’re making progress, but I’m concerned that we don’t have great permanent cycling infrastructure, in terms of cycling lanes, to encourage folks to take bikes,” Lewis said.

Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza also gave praise to the program for its potentially positive environmental impact.

“We’ve declared a climate emergency and certainly active transportation and the things we can do with that are very important.”

READ MORE: Colborne Street bike lanes open, but advocates want infrastructure to go farther

Full council will get the final say on the matter when they meet in late August.

If approved, city staff hope to have a full business case completed by late November or sometime in December.