Bike and/or scooter share program could be a bumpy road in Barrie

Staff report says investment in such a program would not measurably advance active transportation objectives

Pedal power could have difficulty gaining traction in Barrie based on findings contained in a report to City Council general committee.

Back in November, city council asked staff to investigate the feasibility of implementing a bike and/or scooter share pilot program.

A bike share program allows bicycles – pedal or electric pedal assist – to be rented for various durations. There are different ways the program can be operated, such as designated locations were bikes are picked-up and returned, a model where bicycles are left within the municipal right-of-way that does not block pedestrians or motorists, or a hybrid version with both elements.

Council general committee on Monday asked staff to monitor similar sized municipalities operating share programs that have successfully demonstrated financial multi-year program viability and to report back.

The report to councillors says bike/scooter share programs are generally operated in large urban centres including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Hamilton, and they are either operated as a municipally owned fleet or a private sector fleet.

Kelowna and Kingston both had their private bike share operator cease operations this year because of little demand for bike rentals and the pandemic.

Hamilton’s bike share program stopped in June when the private program operator chose to end the contract early. The program was halted for one month as City Council debated funding alternatives as the original program was not to be subsidized by the taxpayer. There is no word if Hamilton will continue with the program after this year.

Based on research by City staff, it’s felt a bike/scooter share program won’t do much to advance Barrie’s active transportation objectives when compared to investing in the construction of bicycle lanes or multi-use paths.

A large private sector scooter operator told staff that it would be challenging to operate a program without a loss in a mid-size City due to insufficient population size and density, which directly impacts ridership and revenue. Another challenge is Barrie’s short-riding season because of the weather.

Staff took a look at a feasibility study completed for the City of Windsor and concluded Barrie would require a fleet of 300 bicycles at a cost of $600,000 – $800,000 and fund an annual operating budget of $300,000 – $900,000. Revenue generated from rentals would help offset operational costs.

A by-law would need to be drafted to permit e-scooters on municipal roads as part of the Ministry of Transportation’s five-year e-scooter pilot that ends in January 2025.