Bike share companies have had their opportunity to review the rules and submit their application for Calgary’s upcoming two-year pilot program.
Now the time has come to see who’s going to be pedalling into town. Applications are due Sept. 14. It’s expected decisions will be made shortly, with proprietors’ bikes likely on Calgary streets before the end of the month.
Previously, Calgary cycling coordinator Tom Thivener said as many as 15 companies expressed varying levels of interest in launching their programs in Calgary.
Several companies are players in the urban dockless biking realm: Jump, Mobike, Uber, Ofo, Spin and others are expected to apply. California-based Lime (formerly LimeBike) and Victoria, B.C.-based U-Bicycle have confirmed their applications to LiveWire Calgary.
Requests to speak with representatives from Jump, Mobike, Uber, U-Bicycle and Lime about possible Calgary expansion were put in, but only U-Bicycle and Lime responded.
U-Bicycle marketing director Mia Zhang said they were finalizing their application and would speak more once the process was complete. Lime’s Director of Strategic Development, Gabriel Scheer, told LiveWire that while each city is slightly different in some of the fine details of their agreements, he said Calgary wasn’t out of whack on any of the rules outlined in their 45-page application package.
“Calgary’s taken a very standard approach, but they’ve also made it very local. They’ve done a very thorough job,” Scheer said.
Should their application be accepted,Lime isn’t sure how many bikes they’ll launch in Calgary’s first phase, but Scheer said the company is very data driven and they make bikes available – or pull them off the streets – based on usage data. He said they’ve learned from past launches in other North American cities on the proper deployment of their fleet in order to maximize use and minimize the number of unused bikes littering city streets.
He spoke directly to the cease and desist orders bike share companies dealt with in San Francisco early on, and he said it was largely due to a relatively unregulated environment in terms of bike numbers on city streets. Scheer said Calgary has that covered with a cap on the number of bikes and a phased in approach.
“We operate in more than 80 markets across the US and we’ve definitely learned a lot,” Scheer said, noting they try to work closely with city administrations and politicians to overcome issues that arise.
One issue they won’t be able to control is Calgary winters. Scheer said they’ve launched in other ‘northern’ markets, like Minneapolis, Minnesota, but they haven’t hit anything like the potential winters in Calgary.
Generally speaking, the bikes do well, Scheer said. He did say if they find the bikes can’t be operated safely in the winter, they would alter their operations to suit the particular weather at that time. Or even cease operations if that’s necessary.
“I can’t imagine people riding bikes in some crazy weather, but if we get that we’ll pull back to protect riders, protect our team and protect the vehicles,” he said.
So far, they haven’t made any modification to bikes, like fat or studded tires, but Scheer admits they haven’t gone through the type of intense winters we can get in the northern climate. They’ll assess things as they experience a winter season in Calgary, he said.
One thing you can expect, should Lime launch bikes in Calgary, is they’re going to test certain areas with their bike share service, Scheer said.
“It may be that some parts of the city are more ready than others, and that’s where you start trying things and let people see what’s possible and let the city learn from that,” he said.
And what about those problem bikes? The city’s rules state very clearly that any bike share company operating in Calgary must adhere to a two-hour compliance time should a problem be reported.
If the situation isn’t addressed in that time, the city reserves the right to remove the bike and charge back the operator for time and any impounding costs. Scheer said that policy is pretty standard across most markets. And he said while most problems can be adequately solved in an hour, traffic or other conditions (let’s say weather…) may make it tougher to meet that window.
While Lime hasn’t yet been approved for service, they did meet with city councillors back in July and it appears they have a reasonable shot at acceptance into the market.
Should they be accepted, how soon will Calgary see Lime bikes?
“As fast as we can get there,” Scheer said.