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Lime Calgary ridership pedals past expectations in bike share pilot

Coun. Evan Woolley turned out to be prophetic: At least oneof the Calgary bike share cycles would end up in the Bow River.

It’s only been one. And it took until week four.

Despite a handful of other hiccups along the way, Calgarianshave embraced the Lime bikes being offered at the halfway point the first phasein Calgary’s bike share pilot project.

Nathan Carswell, bike share pilot project manager with theCity of Calgary, said the number of riders so far has surpassed expectations,with nearly 28,000 rides logged since the start of the pilot Oct. 30.

There was some concern that the launch of the pilot goinginto the winter season would curtail initial adoption, but Carswell saidCalgary’s mild winter has helped.

“We definitely see a dip down (in ridership) on colder days,but overall we’ve been very happy with the uptake of it,” said Carswell.

“On Chinook days we’re seeing more than 300 trips per day –or one trip per bicycle. Going into the spring I’m really interested to see howit explodes.”

Scott Harvey, Calgary’s Lime Operations Manager, saidfriends initially asked why on Earth they would consider launching a bike sharejust before the winter.

“We really felt that we had a window ofopportunity to work with the city and get the bikes on the road,” he toldLiveWire.

“The timing couldn’t have been better because we saw some great numbers right after we launched and then certainly as the weather has been nice.”

Bike share tidbits:

– Nine total bikes have been removed from the fleet; two were stolen and seven were damaged or vandalized, Harvey said.

– City charts avg. weekly temperature and riders – says once it reaches -8C ridership drops substantially

– Wind was identified as an ongoing concern as it knocks the bikes over

– ‘Bike Angels’ are a thing: Citizens who pick up or move bikes that are improperly parked

Riders appear generally happy too, with mostwho we asked saying that they were a convenient way to get around, especiallyfor point-to-point shorter trips in the current winter service area.

“It’s come in handy for tripswhere I wouldn’t have biked before. Like finishing my run at a supermarket,buying groceries, then riding home instead of a slow walk,” Asad Chaudhary saidvia Twitter.

Concerns riders shared withLiveWire are the cost, the weight of the bikes (they are e-assist so they carrya battery and a heavier frame) and for others, the suspension. Overall, though,all agreed they were a welcome option for the Calgary commute.

Harvey said they’re getting regularfeedback from customers on the quality of the ride and they’re making tweaksalong the way – such as adding the mitts on bikes for more comfortable winterriding.

Carswell said there’s been a lotof great information collected during the first phase of the pilot project thatshould allow them to make tweaks to the permitting for bike share companies andin best practices on some of the challenges that have popped up.

“Coming into this we were a little bit concerned about wherethe bikes would end up,” he said.

“We have seen that in some cases through the 311, not asmany as I expected, citizens providing feedback.”

The primary complaint they receive is around where the bikesget left, whether that’s directly in front of a business or residence, orblocking the pedestrian walk zone. By permit, the bikes are supposed to beplaced in what’s called the Furniture Zone on sidewalks, or the outer third ofthe walkway, near the curb.

But Carswell said the number of complaints is far below whatthey’d anticipated and Lime has responded quickly to all concerns – well withinthe mandated two-hour window.

Harvey said when they do respond to complaints they use itas an opportunity to further educate both riders and those who are collaterallyaffected by the bike use.

There’s also a data component to all of this as well, Harveysaid they’ve seen patterns in ridership they didn’t expect.

“(Riders) are doing whatlargely happens in most cities – use bikes in mornings and afternoons andevenings to get to and from other transit solutions or for short trips. Maybegoing to meetings across downtown and things like that,” he said.

One of the biggest surprises, Harvey said, wasthey’ve had to allocate more resources daily to the west side of downtown, fromjust south of Kensington to 17 Avenue SW. They’ve also seen substantial uptakealong 4 Street SW.

“That certainly came as a bit of a surprise. Wewere thinking that we’d focus more on say the East Village and that side of thecity in the downtown core,” Harvey said.

“We found that while there’s an uptake inpeople using the product, it’s been the west side that’s been really, really, good.”

Harvey also noted that what’s interesting aboutit is there’s no concentration of cycling infrastructure in these areas.

Carswell said that’s where rider data helps thecity. They access the Lime rider data and they’ll also be collecting their owndata in the spring. It’s an opportunity to get high level data they haven’tbeen able to access before.

“Specifically, with the data,we’re interested in how people are getting to work and doing their day to daytrips,” said Carswell.

“If we can correlate that with potentially a missing linkoutside of the city where we see a lot of users on Lime bikes and we don’t havea bike lane or a bike path, we can use that to educate our decisions oninfrastructure decisions moving forward.”

Bike share tidbits:

At least one bike has ended up in the river, Harvey said. And they’ve had a report of a bike parked up on a CTrain platform and one used as the support for a homeless person’s lean-to.

Once June 1 rolls around phase two will move ahead and the entire city will be open to Lime bikes and another operation U-Bicycle, who indicated they’d also be a player in the market – just not this winter.

Harvey said they’re already identifying ‘hotspots’ – the term for places where multiple bikes are located (and redeployed)daily. He said it makes sense for them to be at or near all of Calgary’s post-secondaryinstitutions, and places where they expect the uptake to be swift. They’re alsotalking about a substantial increase in fleet size.

They expect by winter 2019 to be back in a reduced winter service area. But, Harvey hopes there’s some negotiating room with the city.

He said he’s heard from several residents in areas like Crescent Heights, Sunnyside, Hillhurst, West Hillhurst and Inglewood – communities not in the winter service area – that they want to be included.

(Editor’s note: A Sunnyside resident later informed us that their community is in the winter service area.)

“We have some lessons to go back to the citywith. Definitely a larger service area representative of who’s going to ridethose bikes in the winter,” Harvey said.

While there’s some minor things to iron out,both sides are thrilled with how the first half of phase one has rolled out.

“The proof is in the pudding that use is goingup,” Carswell said.