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West Van council hops on e-bike sharing pilot

Council already concerned about crowds on Spirit Trail
ebike mayor Buchanan web
City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan shows of a new Lime e-bike, soon to be deployed across North Vancouver, May 17, 2021. District of West Vancouver council has now voted to join the program.

All three North Shore municipalities are now plugged into an e-bike sharing program, due to launch in the coming weeks.

District of West Vancouver council voted Monday night to join their North Vancouver neighbours in a two-year pilot with Lime e-bikes, the firm recently awarded the contract by the City of North Vancouver.

Once the program is up and running, people may go for an e-boosted spin across most of the North Shore. Lime customers will be able to pick up and leave their rented DC-powered steeds in one of dozens of “share zones.”

People wanting to go for a spin can expect to pay about $1.15 to “unlock” a bike and then about 35 cents per minute for the ride. The rates are designed to undercut ride hailing and be competitive with car-share rentals.

West Van council members’ support for joining the pilot was unanimous but not before they had some critical questions about safety and liability, especially if it means faster cycling on the Spirit Trail and Centennial Seawalk, which are already prone to conflicts.

The bikes will have a maximum speed of 24 kilometres per hour, which the municipality can have lowered within certain geographic areas like the Spirit Trail, thanks to the GPS systems on board the bikes, according to staff.

For HUB Cycling, it wasn’t a question of whether West Van should join the pilot but rather if there would be anywhere safe to ride.

“I have to worry a lot about the ability of West Van’s cycling network, such as it is, to accommodate this service,” said HUB North Shore member Paul Stott, adding that council has an obligation to start developing cycling infrastructure. “The Spirit Trail is the only arterial connection across the North Shore. The Spirit trail was designed with good intentions many years ago, but it is an obsolete technology. It is too narrow and does not serve its purpose.”

After an hour-and-a-half of staff presentations, and questions and debate by council, Coun. Craig Cameron urged elected members to get on with it.

“It's not like we're admitting spaceships to West Vancouver or some radical technology,” he said, adding that the max speeds of the Lime bikes is slower than many cycling commuters already go – including himself, donning a suit and tie and riding a cruiser bike. “These are just bikes that are a little bit easier to ride uphill. They're not meant to make you go much faster. They're just meant to make it easier to go. And this is, quite frankly, no big deal.”

The program will run at no cost to the municipalities and Lime will pay the district a small amount for permits and use of public space for the share zones.

The exact locations of e-bike share zones is still being worked out, but Coun. Sharon Thompson worried aloud they wouldn’t extend west of Dundarave.

“I'm quite excited about embracing this program and I'm sure we will work out all the valid concerns that were raised tonight,” she said.

Mayor Mary-Ann Booth said she hoped many West Van residents would take their first of what could be many e-bike rides on one of Lime’s bikes.

“I think this is going to be a huge step for the community,” she said.