Bike Share in Hamilton!

Lately there’s been a big hype about more efficient travel in Hamilton and the GTA…but for some reason I’ve heard a lot less about bicycle options than I have about Rapid Transit. On the topic of reducing environmental impact, taking the bus or train might be better than driving, but riding a bicycle might be even more effective – and can serve as a great form of exercise. An avid PTB reader would know that I post fairly frequently about cycling in Hamilton, so you might imagine how excited I am about the prospect of a bike share.

There was definitely some resistance to the idea when the vote was passed by Hamilton City Council in December to invest $1.6 million on this program. The funding came as a grant from Metrolinx, but it is still taxpayer money that could have potentially been spent elsewhere – for example, to improve the public transit system on the mountain. Nevertheless, the Bike Share project is now in full swing, and is set to be implemented mid-July.

The system will be operated by SoBi Hamilton, a local non-profit that is using technology from a New York based firm called Social Bicycles.  They’ve come up with some fun graphics to explain how it works:


So how will this play out in Hamilton? The $1.6 million investment goes towards the purchase of a fleet of 750 bicycles and 80 stations, but operating costs will be covered by membership fees and sponsorship. Speaking of fees, I’m very conflicted. Here are the costs:

One-year, 60 minutes per day: $85
One-year, 90 minutes per day: $149
One-month, 60 minutes per day: $15
One hour: $6 + $3 initial set-up fee

On the one hand, $85 per year is very inexpensive in comparison to the $87 HSR monthly pass. On the other hand, you can purchase a brand new bicycle from Canadian Tire for just over $100. Is there a quality difference? Quite possibly. And by buying into the system, it would avoid the need to maintain your bike. The other neat thing about the bike share is that you don’t have to worry about bringing your bike everywhere you go – you can jump off the bus, grab a bike, leave it at a station near your destination and then get a car ride home if you wanted. And because the lock comes along with the SoBi bikes, you can even leave your bike at a regular bike rack instead of a designated station (although that incurs a small extra fee). Further, if you don’t have a place to store a bike at home, it might be more convenient to take part in the bike share program than to purchase your own. Regardless, it’s worth considering whether this program will be an effective addition to our public transit system.

How accessible will it be? Are the stations appropriately located? Are Hamilton’s roads bike-friendly enough? What kind of audience does the Bike Share target? The questions could go on, and the answers would vary – but there might not be any real way of knowing until we can observe for ourselves. So look out for what’s to come!