The notoriously imposing hills in the District of North Vancouver are about to become a bit flatter.
Council voted unanimously Feb. 8 to join the City of North Vancouver’s e-bike sharing pilot project, which could start operations as early as this spring.
Electric assist bicycles are increasingly popular because they help riders power through steep and, for some, unpalatable routes. Getting more people out of their cars and onto e-bikes would be a big step towards reducing the district’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than half of which come from transportation, according to staff.
Coun. Megan Curren expressed optimism the e-bike pilot would be a catalyst for more people adopting them as their primary mode of transportation.
“This will hopefully build support for completing a lot of our cycling infrastructure because it does open cycling to such a wider audience and I think that's exciting,” she said.
Coun. Jordan Back, who commutes several times a week from Lynn Valley to Burnaby and back on an e-bike, said he is a living example of that.
“I think this is going to be a really positive thing for our community,” he said. “I can attest to their transformative nature when it comes to transportation on the North Shore.”
It’s still an open question whether the pilot will get off the ground. The city made a similar attempt in 2019 and no viable bids on the project came in from the market. They later retooled the request for proposals and sought out contractors for this year. The current tendering process is scheduled to close on Feb. 24.
The exact details of how the program will run, including how much users will have to pay and where the bikes may be parked and picked up, will depend on proposals from businesses that bid on the contract, but there would be a minimum of 120 e-bikes available during the peak season of May-September.
One thing that is certain, the e-bikes would not be allowed on mountain trails, staff said. District CAO Dave Stewart said the municipality will likely be seeking more formal regulations related to e-bikes on trails later in the spring.
Council members discussed the issue for 45 minutes, mostly dealing with logistical questions and what-if scenarios. While the city is leading the project, district council will have sway over certain aspects like safety, operations, parking and staging, data sharing, and liability obligations. Such a program was recommended in the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project, or INSTPP, which all three North Shore councils endorsed, although West Vancouver council has opted not to join e-bike sharing for the time being.
“They're just wanting for us to work out all the bumps and then, when it's good, they'll hop on board,” Coun Lisa Muri chided.
In an interview, city Mayor Linda Buchanan welcomed her North Van neighbours into the program.
"The options for shorter trips between our two municipalities would be fantastic, so that's great news," she said.
Buchanan said there has been a lot of interest from potential vendors and she is looking forward to seeing both the benefits and challenges that will become apparent as the pilot rolls out.