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North Shore e-bike sharing program to become permanent

Have you tried out the North Shore’s e-bike share yet? It’s likely here to stay
West Vancouver community relations liaison Natalie Roizman checks out the Lime Bike grove at the entrance to Ambleside Park, July 25, 2022. Paul McGrath / North Shore News

E-biking sharing on the North Shore is most likely here to stay.

City of North Vancouver council voted Monday to extend the e-bike share program, currently contracted to Lime, for another year, with an eye to making the micro-mobility service permanent.

Council members had mostly only praise for how the pilot has run since the first Lime bikes hit the streets in 2021.

The vote followed a stat-laden presentation by staff showing growing demand for the e-bike share program. Since its launch, roughly 35,000 unique users have completed 156,000 trips across North Vancouver and West Vancouver for a total of 319,000 kilometres ridden. According to staff, 60 per cent of the total trips were made by just 11 per cent of the users, indicating a loyal customer base.

The median distance covered and time spent was two kilometres and 12 minutes.

The fleet grew from 200 e-bikes at the beginning to more than 400 at the summertime peak.

A survey of users found one in three said their e-bike trip would otherwise have been made in a personal vehicle.

All told, the city estimates the e-bike share kept 25 tonnes of carbon from being emitted into the atmosphere.

“That’s just huge in terms of reducing our GHGs for these shorter trips,” said Coun. Angela Girard. “It’s certainly meeting our climate target goals as well as our mobility strategy goals.”

Since the program began, there have been no serious injuries reported to Lime or to the municipalities, staff noted, although a survey found less than half of riders wear helmets while on one of Lime’s bikes.

The biggest impediments to more people using the service, the survey found, was the cost, which is 35 cents per minute, the availability of parking for the bikes, and the lack of safe cycling infrastructure more broadly.

Over the next year, staff will look into expanding the e-bike sharing borders, both on the North Shore and over the two main bridges into Vancouver, as well as increasing the size of the fleet and parking in high-demand areas.

Although the program itself is likely to live on, Lime’s continued involvement is by no means guaranteed. Leadership in the transportation departments of all three municipalities have advised that the partnership should make the contract for the next term of the e-bike sharing project subject to bids on the open market among all potential e-bike providers.

Other cities have two or more competing bike share services on their streets, noted Coun. Tony Valente, who said he’d also like to see e-bikes with child seats and e-cargo bikes added to the fleet.

Council's vote to extend the program for another year and direct staff to prepare for its being made permanent was unanimous.

“Overall, I think, we want to make sure that people are moving safely and efficiently through or from the city, or across the North Shore, seamlessly. I think the data shows that that’s happening. For a long time, we haven’t been able to give people that service and so we haven’t been really able to understand why people weren’t choosing different modes,” said Mayor Linda Buchanan. “The data speaks for itself. That’s a lot of trips. That’s a lot of kilometres.”

Buchanan said the number of people who choose to ride will only go up if local governments follow through on creating more safe cycling infrastructure.

“Imagine what [ridership] would be if we actually did,” she said. “So, we have some work to do in that regard.”

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