A Calgary city council committee is expected this week to consider a new strategy to entice companies to bring bike share options back to the city.
A report to the standing policy committee on transportation and transit proposes Calgary allow companies to exceed established caps on the size of their electric scooter fleets if they offer a bike-share program in the city.
While e-scooters have taken off in Calgary in recent years, with council recently approving their year-round return following a successful two-year pilot, bike shares have not seen the same uptake.
That’s in part because bike share and e-bike programs are less profitable than e-scooters for private companies. In addition to scooters, Lime brought e-bikes to Calgary in 2018 and 2019.
Though not as popular as their scooters, Lime’s bikes saw 40,000 unique users and 168,000 trips, compared to 200,000 unique users across all e-scooters in the city. The bikes saw fewer 311 complaints than scooters, according to the city report.
Calgary will approve two companies to bring e-scooters to the city this spring or summer, permitted to have 750 shared scooters. They could be allowed to bring in even more of the vehicles, as long as they offer a bike share and address a handful of other concerns surrounding parking and accessibility.
The idea is an example of “progressive thinking” by city administrators, said Bike Calgary president Peter Spearing, who said he hopes the councillors get on board with the idea.
“It’s a means of transportation, not just for recreation or sport but for utility. It actually gives people an option other than scooters, for people who might not feel safe to jump on a scooter to go from A to B,” Spearing said.
“Offering both solutions makes it financially viable for (e-scooter companies), at no cost to the taxpayer. So I think everybody wins.”
Currently, bike share programs exist in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, with each city subsidizing their operations. That option is unavailable to Calgary, due to a council decision not to spend public money on shared bicycles.
The report states the city engaged bike-share companies, which signalled support for the proposal. A spokesperson with Lime concurred, saying Calgary’s proposal is a feasible one.
“City staff have proposed a smart, proven approach to bringing e-bike share to Calgary, significantly, at no cost to the city,” Jonathan Hopkins, Lime’s director of government relations.
“This step will provide residents with valuable transportation options that have cost other Canadian cities millions.”
For Bike Calgary, which has a partnership with Lime in which riders can round up the cost of their rides to support the local non-profit, the proposal has the opportunity to introduce more Calgarians to cycling.
“There’s a shortage of bikes, too. Bike shops are struggling to meet demand. It would give people a chance to try cycling from a leisure perspective that may bring them to go buy a bike and use it more often,” Spearing said.
“There’s a number of synergies there, with helping local businesses.”
The council transportation committee will receive the report from city administration Wednesday.