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Calgary bike share supply, demand dwindling

The Calgary bike share pilot program has, well, back-pedalled a bit.

The vision of thousands of e-assist bikes cruising Calgary streets during phase two of the city’s dockless bike share pilot program just hasn’t come to fruition. According to the city, Lime had requested – and was approved for – up to 525 bike licenses.

Phase two of the Calgary bike share program began June 1. At that time, it was supposed to welcome more operators and as many as 1,500 bikes per operator – up to a total of 10,000.

Lime is the only provider in Calgary. No other operators applied for phase two, the City said. Previously, other bike operators, such as U-bicycle, expressed their interest in opening up in Calgary, but that hasn’t materialized. U-bicycle was contacted for this story but didn’t respond.

Calgarians are regularly seen on social media lamenting the scarcity of Lime bikes around the city.

Scooters, price affecting bike share demand

There are around 8,000 trips per day on E-scooters. (LIVEWIRE FILE PHOTO)

Coun. Evan Woolley, who helped steer bike sharing to Calgary, said he believes there’s a couple reasons why it’s stuck in low gear.

Woolley said the introduction of e-scooters has certainly put a damper on the use of e-bikes in Calgary. The uptake of e-scooters and how it overtook the use of e-bikes has been widely reported in the city.

“Obviously I’d love to see more bikes on the road,” Woolley said.

“But, from what I’ve heard on the street is that the Lime bike are much harder to maintain, and the scooters are much more popular.”

The ward 8 councillor also said that the city set bike share up to be a system where private companies operate based on market demand. The number of permitted bikes on the street is based on that demand.

A Lime spokesperson told LiveWire Calgary they follow that demand and right now it’s on the scooters.

“We are seeing more people using scooters than bikes,” the spokesperson said.

According to the June 2019 What We Heard report produced by city administration on the first phase of the city’s dockless bike share pilot program, the expense of using bike share was identified as the most common – or second – barrier in at least three survey questions.

That could have a substantial impact on demand.

What We Heard Dockless Bike Share 2019 by Darren Krause on Scribd

Successful programs are subsidized, Woolley said

The city’s full, market-based approach to bike share might be something they’d need to re-examine should there be a desire to continue with the program past the 2020 pilot program end, said Woolley.

“Frankly, in cities where they are operating a little more successfully, they’re being subsidized,” Woolley said.

“I have been made aware, and this will be in conversations with our companies, that support in terms of resources, in order for this to be successful, might be required.”

He didn’t currently have a position on potential additional support for providers.

These are discussions that will come up once Calgary’s final bike share report is delivered in December 2020, Woolley said.

Earlier this year, the city’s transportation bylaw changed, allowing e-bikes on Calgary Transit during non-peak hours.  Lime said their data shows that while people are using the bikes in the traditional commuter areas downtown, they have seen more traffic in transit nodes around the city.  

Lime will continue with e-bike service in Calgary through the winter if the conditions are safe. That would be weather dependent, they said.