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Future unclear for Hamilton’s bike share program as private operator backs out

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger believes the city must find a way to keep its bike share program going, after the private operator opts out of its contract.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger believes the city must find a way to keep its bike share program going, after the private operator opts out of its contract. Tourism Hamilton

These are uncertain times for Hamilton’s popular SoBi bike share program.

The city received a letter on Friday afternoon from Social Bicycles, which is owned by Uber, saying that it plans to stop operating the local bike share service on June 1.

It’s not clear why the company wants out of its contract, but the announcement could affect 17,000 rental users of the service.

READ MORE: SoBi Hamilton celebrates successful year

General Manager of Planning and Economic Development Jason Thorne indicates that staff will be responding to Social Bicycles and Uber and reminding them of their contractual obligations.

Thorne notes that the City of Hamilton owns the bikes and stations, and has an agreement with Social Bicycles to operate the system at no cost to the city. The contract is not due to expire until Feb. 19, 2021.

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Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger says he thinks “we need to find a way or keeping this very valuable, I think, and very important service going in our community.”

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Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr agrees that it’s an incredibly successful program, but he adds that this is the “worst time to be debating extra monies toward anything” , as the city deals with “a wall of fiscal challenges” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City of Hamilton owns the distinctive blue and white SoBi bikes and rental hubs as a result of a $1.6 million grant from Metrolinx.

Social Bicycles has run the system since 2015 through subcontracted operators who collect memberships, advertising and rental fees.

Click to play video: 'Everything you need to know about Bike Share Toronto' Everything you need to know about Bike Share Toronto
Everything you need to know about Bike Share Toronto – Jun 21, 2019

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