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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Toronto's New Bike Sharing Program

CANADA - Toronto City Hall has taken another trek on the path to realizing a large-scale bike-sharing program. More than two years after the Community Bicycle Network–run BikeShare stopped operating and eight months after Councillor Adrian Heaps, chair of the Toronto Cycling Committee, first mused out loud that a new bike-sharing program would be launched this year, Toronto finally put out a Request for Expressions Of Interest (REOI) in the Toronto Public Bicycles Project late last week.

The REOI offers a peek into the potential bike sharing program that organizations will be bidding on when the Request for Proposals is released later this year. Slated to start in spring 2010 with three-thousand bikes, the project would initially see bike stations located 200–300 metres apart in the downtown area bounded by Parkside Drive, Dupont Avenue, Broadview Avenue, and Lake Ontario, with provisions for future expansion.

With stipulations both that "no advertising may be placed on sidewalks and boulevards" to support the program and that it must be provided without cost to the city, it's most likely to be funded by membership fees. Given the "no advertising" provision and that Councillor Heaps mistakenly believed that Astral Media had the right of first refusal on any bike-sharing program, it looks like Astral turned up its nose at the idea.

(For those who don't know, the last program BikeShare was an advertising fiasco and ultimately ended in most of the bicycles being stolen.)

According to the outline set forward in the REOI, bikes would be free for the first thirty minutes for users with monthly or annual membership cards, but occasional users would also be able to swipe credit cards at any of the bike stations. The system would run twenty-four hours per day year-round, allowing for unspecified off-season shrinkage. The City will also allow potential proponents to bid solely on providing the infrastructure, leaving the day-to-day operation to another organization to be selected later.

People can assume that the requirement for the operator to "share surplus benefits" from the program with the City means that whoever ends up running the program won't be able to hoard all of the healthy people, reduced car traffic, cleaner air, and general happiness of the city's inhabitants. Oh, and profits, too.

HOWEVER, just a warning from a mechanical perspective, shared bicycles are often badly in need of a tune up so if you're intending to take part in this program, its highly recommended you hone up on your mechanical skills so you can make small repairs on the bikes you use.

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