A new type of bike share system could make the jump from Vancouver Island to Fort Langley.
At last week’s Langley Township council meeting, Fort Langley Business Improvement Area president Gareth Abreo and representatives of U-Bicycle pitched a bike share plan.
If it goes forward, it could see approximately 100 bikes available for on-demand rental from three locations in Fort Langley and one on the Trinity Western University campus.
Unlike bike share systems in Vancouver and other major Canadian cities, the Fort BIA is contemplating partnering with a company like U-Bicycle, which uses dockless bike share. So far, Victoria and some neighbouring Vancouver Island communities are the only places where such a system is in use in B.C.
“The technology is in the bikes themselves, not in racks,” said Abreo.
A dockless bike share allows users with the appropriate app on their phone to find a nearby bike using GPS, unlock it, and ride it until they are finished their trip or errands. They can then lock the bike again and walk away. U-Bicycle advertises that they charge about $1 for a 30 minute trip.
Some dockless bike systems, such as those in Seattle, allow users to leave the bikes essentially anywhere, although they are not supposed to leave them across driveways or on sidewalks.
Abreo said the Fort BIA is proposing using an alternative model, of “virtual zones” where bikes can be picked up and left, thus preventing them from being scattered around town.
“Fort Langley is not considering a traditional ‘dockless’ model, rather a system that does include some sort of docking system or designated return areas,” Abreo told the Langley Advance. “It will likely be a hybrid. We are in active discussions with Township staff to figure out the model that would work best for our community.”
TWU might have a virtual zone, or choose to allow riders to leave the bikes anywhere on campus, Abreo said.
U-Bicycle re-balances its bikes at night, with contractors moving them back to areas of high demand.
Abreo noted that the BIA is in talks with two bike share providers.
He estimated that a system could be set up with 100 bicycles for as little as $30,000.
The only contribution being asked of the Township right now is to possibly install some bike racks around the Fort, which could be used by regular cyclists as well as a bike share system.
“As soon as the Fort Langley BIA and TOL [Township of Langley] decide on a provider to consider as a partner in a pilot, we will be able to provide more information,” Abreo said. “Currently, we do not have a timeline, but discussions are going well, and we’re looking forward to having an operational program soon.”
If the pilot goes well, he believes it could be expanded with bike share hubs at areas like the Langley Events Centre and the Carvolth Transit Exchange.
Township council was receptive to the idea, and a staff report is underway.
Dockless bike share is relatively new to Canada, but is extremely common in large Chinese cities, where tens of thousands of bikes are deployed by multiple bike share companies.