Bike sharing could be rolling into Calgary as early as this September.
If a notice of motion put forth by Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley is approved at Calgary city council Monday, the wheels will be set in motion for a two-year pilot project that could set a graduated roll out of up to 10,000 dockless bikes in the city.
Previously, LiveWire Calgary was first to report on councillor meetings with San Francisco-based bikeshare company LimeBike. At the time, both LimeBike and Coun. Druh Farrell were reluctant to talk details on any sort of arrangement.
Still, a LimeBike job posting for a Calgary operations manager was found, leaving little doubt something may be in the works.
Woolley said since LimeBike is one of the bigger dockless bikeshare players, they’d likely be a part of the rollout, but it’s not limited to just one outfit.
“This is super exciting,” Woolley said.
“There’s zero cost to the city. I think the downside risk is mitigated by the upside opportunity and the graduated rollout of this.”
The downside Woolley refers to has been well-documented in other cities as they’ve managed the dockless bikeshare model. Several stories in San Francisco show the bikes being left in random places, sometimes clogging vehicle access or pedestrian corridors.
“The big challenge was oversupply,” Woolley said, noting that performance targets on the bike utilization will help guide their graduated expansion of the pilot project.
“One of the things we’re being super thoughtful about is managing the supply.”
Coun. Sean Chu, who has been a vocal opponent of Calgary’s bike infrastructure and strategy, said he’s behind this venture, mainly because he supports new business and because there are no tax dollars on the line.
“If the business goes bust, the city’s not on the hook,” said Chu.
“It’s innovation. It’s a new way of doing business and I think it’s great.”
Chu said the key is in the slow rollout of the plan, something he would do with any business.
Though the companies will determine where the bikes will be available, Woolley said the city will reserve the right to geo-fence certain areas they don’t want the bikes.
“We have the benefit of watching and engaging with a bunch of different cities on the upside and downside of what has worked and what hasn’t worked,” he said.
Woolley points out that 50 private sector jobs could be created out of the bikeshare pilot. He also said the companies would likely be leasing out thousands of square feet in warehouse space for bike maintenance and storage, and that it’s shown in other cities to be a huge tourism boon.
LimeBike operates e-bikes as well as e-scooters. E-scooters aren’t road legal in Alberta, but Woolley said they’d be examining changes to city bylaws in early 2019 to allow them.
The company was contacted today for comment but hadn’t yet replied. Previously they told LiveWire Calgary they were very interested in the opportunity presented by Canadian markets.