Special Report: Cycling

Hamilton Bike Share Coming this Summer

Social Bicycles launches this summer with 750 bicycles across 80 stations.

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 14, 2014

this article has been updated

A new Bike Share is rolling into Hamilton. With a new website and a local non-profit organization to administer the program locally, work is underway to launch the service this year.

According to a City news release, the new service will launch in "early summer" with 750 bicycles and 80 stations. That is actually higher than the 650 bikes and 65 stations specified in the proposal submitted to the City by Social Bicycles, the company behind the program.

A preliminary station map has proposed station locations ranging from Dundas to Wentworth Street and from the North End to the Escarpment.

Phase 1 map (Click the image to view fullsize)
Phase 1 map (Click the image to view fullsize)

Organizers are still soliciting feedback on proposed station locations. You can suggest a location using SoBi's Social Cyclist smartphone app, available on Android and iPhone. Alternately, you can submit ideas by email at info@hamiltonbikeshare.ca or by phone at 905-546-2424 x2553.

How it Works

SoBi has been able to provide more bikes than the City initially expected due to their lower-cost bike share technology, which avoids the necessity for expensive 'smart' docking stations. Each bike includes an integrated U-lock connected to a GPS-enabled on-board computer to track the bike's location, who has signed it out and when/where it is locked and released.

The system also tracks bike locations in real-time. Using the Social Cyclist app on a web browser or mobile device, you will be able to see where the nearest bike is located, how many bikes are available in each station, and so on, and even make a reservation.

After reserving a bike, you can unlock it with your PIN code and ride to your destination. Once you arrive, just lock your bike at the nearest bike corral and the bike is released from your account.

Because the technology to operate the share is self-contained in the bikes themselves, this approach saves the cost of dedicated share management stations and makes the system more flexible, while reducing the capital cost barrier to expanding the network with more bikes. It also means the bikes will be harder to steal.

The user fee structure is as follows: a 30 day membership is $15 or a 12 month membership is $85. Membership includes up to 60 minutes of daily free usage, with $5 an hour for use beyond an hour, pro-rated to the second.

Alternately, for a $3 initiation fee you can sign up for a pay-as-you-go account. In that case, you pay $6 an hour when you use a bike, again pro-rated to the second.

If you don't return the bike to a dedicated station, you have to pay a $3 "locking out of hub" fee. On the other hand, if you pick up a bike from outside a station, you get a $3 redistribution credit.

Background

Last spring, Council approved a staff motion to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to launch and operate a bike share program in Hamilton. The capital cost would be entirely funded by Metrolinx through their Quick Wins fund, and the operating costs would be self-financed by the share itself.

Last November, City staff released a report that SoBi had been selected as the successful proponent of the City's RFP.

Council approved the bid in December and work commenced on putting the plan into action.

SoBi is providing the bicycles and user technology, but the day-to-day operation of the program in Hamilton will be managed by a local non-profit organization.

The non-profit is looking for an Executive Director (you can view the job posting [PDF]), a community manager and a redistribution and maintenance staffer.


Update: - updated to clarify that pay-as-you-go does not include a free hour. You can jump to the changed paragraph .

Update 2: - updated further to get the correct pricing for pay-as-you-go. You can jump to the added paragraph. RTH regrets the error.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

42 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By Sara (registered) | Posted February 14, 2014 at 16:41:15

People can also vote and comment on station location via the website: my.socialcyclist.com

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2014 at 18:10:07

Having just looked at it briefly, I am impressed with the locations.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Chris Killam (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2014 at 19:24:11

Wow - totally impressed. Especially when compared with Bixi Toronto - same number of stations and 75% the number of bikes, plus more extensive coverage!

Permalink | Context

By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 11:00:27 in reply to Comment 97627

If only Bixi had comparable scale...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2014 at 20:42:42

Wished we had some stations more east, around Eastgate Square, Glendale high school.

Lawrence Rd has a nice long bike lane I've been using for over 20 years!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Stinson (registered) | Posted February 14, 2014 at 20:44:59

Anyone else having a problem registering to vote? A key location could really make this work for me to and from work daily.

Permalink | Context

By SocialCyclistSupport (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2014 at 07:54:15 in reply to Comment 97629

Stinson, We've received reports of a few users of Internet Explorer experiencing issues when trying to vote. If you could submit a ticket through the following link we would greatly appreciate it.

http://help.socialcyclist.com/hc/en-us/r...

Thanks!

Permalink | Context

By Stinson (registered) | Posted February 14, 2014 at 21:10:57 in reply to Comment 97629

Update: wouldnt let me register via OSX Safari switched to firefox and worked.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By MattM (registered) | Posted February 15, 2014 at 11:38:03

Unfortunately the app (at least for Anroid) is incredibly buggy and clunky. I hope they improve upon that by the time the bikes roll out.

Permalink | Context

By SocialCyclistSupport (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2014 at 07:55:24 in reply to Comment 97633

MattM, We'd love to get your feedback on the app and learn more about what device you are using. Could you let us know more using this link? http://help.socialcyclist.com/hc/en-us/r...

Thanks!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Steve (registered) | Posted February 15, 2014 at 18:44:40

So, do you need a smart phone to participate in accessing the bikes?

Permalink | Context

By Sara (registered) | Posted February 15, 2014 at 19:55:51 in reply to Comment 97637

At meeting last week, SoBi explained that there will be multiple ways to use the bike share system. 25 stations will have kiosk to sign up and get code (most kiosks will be in nearby businesses). Users can also sign up from any computer and reserve bike 15 minutes in advance. Users can also get membership card to swipe and take any bike without reserving.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By nukie (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2014 at 04:35:44

cool, but i dont see any stations on the mountain ! >: [

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2014 at 14:51:35 in reply to Comment 97640

The map that was released in December when council approved the program showed some service on the mountain. I have a meeting on Tuesday with some of the bike share organizers, and I intend to ask why the current phase 1 map does not show any mountain coverage.

Permalink | Context

By Skully2001 (registered) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 15:00:43 in reply to Comment 97644

The map also doesn't show a single station in the east end? Nothing past Wentworth??? Is this right? No station location in Gage Park???

Permalink | Context

By Sara (registered) | Posted February 16, 2014 at 23:18:24 in reply to Comment 97644

City staff made that map before detailed planning and before the comprehensive global bike sharing analysis report, available here: http://www.treehugger.com/bikes/why-do-s... The ITDP report spells out 5 critical conditions for success, the first two are: -minimum station density of max 300m between stations -10-30 bikes per 1,000 residents in the service area. With only 80 stations, going in the mountain in the first year would jeopardize the success of the program because the minimum criteria would not be met. The current plan has a much better chance of being very successful in year 1, and bring in enough revenue to expand with new stations and more bikes on the Mountain in year 2.

Permalink | Context

By Ms Me (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2014 at 14:05:03 in reply to Comment 97640

@ Nukie...That's because this was an initiative by Ward 1 Councillor who doesn't recognize the mountain as part of Hamilton. We will let him know that in October.

Permalink | Context

By Evidence! (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2014 at 15:02:25 in reply to Comment 97643

A link? A quote? Examples of some kind?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By RecType (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2014 at 23:34:05

Cool, but as a new Hamilton resident, I would be afraid to bike along my main commute route of Main/King. Are there any changes coming for something like a dedicated bike lane?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2014 at 15:21:59

The ratio for subscriber to bikes is 10 to 1, or the system will need 7,500 yearly subscriptions. I hope they start subscription drive soon, that a lot of money up front, about $637,000. Interesting report mentioned above. A good read.

Permalink | Context

By Sara (registered) | Posted February 17, 2014 at 16:29:29 in reply to Comment 97651

Smaller systems don't have to hit that mark to be successful (it's not one of the 5 critical indicators of success from that report). The most similar to Hamilton is Nice Ride in Minneapolis: started with 750 bikes in 2010. By 2012, they had 4,000 members and increased the number of bikes to 1,300. They are profitable, adding bikes every year, with a total of 1,550 in 2013.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2014 at 18:36:46

How do you define success Sara, as the study is extensive. Unless a deep-pocketed sponsor is found, subscriptions are all that will provide operating money, to pay wages, ect. This is a non-profit model.

Permalink | Context

By WAM (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2014 at 20:34:01 in reply to Comment 97654

Non profit just means surplus income is reinvested instead of paid out. It doesn't mean the system isn't allowed to grow. It's almost like you don't WANT bike share to be successful...

Permalink | Context

By mee-maw (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 09:32:19 in reply to Comment 97655

He doesn't want it to be successful. He's the most vocal anti-hamilton squelching troll in the city. Fighting for transparency is great. Obsessing over transparency as a means to prevent any and every project from moving forward is psychosis. This project is dirt cheap in the big picture of Hamilton's transportation budget, it has the potential to transform the city, it is accessible to all income levels, and it was paid for with money from metrolinx that would have gone elsewhere if we didn't take it. I'd like to know man's definition of responsible spending...

Permalink | Context

By Definition (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2014 at 17:08:51 in reply to Comment 97659

His attention to where dollars are going seemed to be very silent when we were handing over our bank account to his favourite football team.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By beancounter (registered) | Posted February 17, 2014 at 22:39:01

Those statistics from Minneapolis are very impressive, considering that's a very cold climate for riding a bike in the winter. Was it that city, or its twin, St. Paul, that constructed overhead enclosed walkways downtown because it was considered too cold to use open air sidewalks?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 12:43:03

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By Steve (registered) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 22:35:40 in reply to Comment 97664

I can't help but agree and I say that likely as one of the few (very few) on this site who has a Toronto Bixi fob on his key ring. Here in Hamilton, I just ride my 2nd hand $120 bike around town.

Permalink | Context

By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2014 at 16:31:15 in reply to Comment 97664

A few things.

First, the money spent came from Metrolinx, not the City. It's earmarked for "quick wins" with regards to transportation options. So for the $1.6 Million in Metrolinx money we received, we could choose between either a bike share system or 2 new buses. The difference is that the Bike Share system requires NO ADDITIONAL INPUT of city revenue. Let me repeat that for you, because I know that sometimes you can be a bit slow.

The city has no further legal or financial obligations to the bike share program. Not one. Not a dime, nothing. Clear? Good.

The system will be up and running this year, and will likely result in the creation of between 9-12 jobs. Add it up, and try to come up with a way that $1.6 Million in investment by the City creates 9-12 jobs for 5 years spending that money somewhere else.

Now you, like many complete idiots that don't actually do their homework, are equating Bixi (the parent company) to Bixi Toronto (the operation in Toronto). The fact of the matter is that Toronto's bike share system, much like many of Bixi's other systems, was doing just fine. It was operating consistently at or above expected levels, was generating revenue and was providing people with convenient, cheap transportation options. Where Bixi (the parent company) failed was in growing too fast too quickly, spreading themselves too thin, losing control of their software model and generally making several poor decisions at the top that impacted their ability to deliver what they had promised in a timely manner. Bixi Toronto, would it have had the same investment model as we have here in Hamilton (where the capital costs are paid for, not loaned like was done in Toronto), then they would have consistently been turning a profit year after year. The system in Toronto was, and is, so successful, in fact, that there was a minor bidding war by firms vying to take over the system. So please, explain to me how it has been a failure?

Finally, Bike Share is the fastest growing form of transportation in the entire world, growing at a rate of 3-400% per year. Your vague speculation that "nobody will use it" has been repeated by countless other moronic trolls who can't see beyond the dashboard of their car to realize that just because you love wasting money in gas, insurance, parking and maintenance, many people are looking for a way to do more travel without relying on a car. And in every single place where these systems have been installed, and where the municipality has taken steps to ensure that riding is easy, safe and convenient, they've succeeded. Find me one example of where it didn't, and then we can perhaps engage in an adult conversation about this, instead of you just stomping your feet and saying "NO!" over and over again, which is generally your MO.

Permalink | Context

By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2014 at 12:51:58 in reply to Comment 97673

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted February 22, 2014 at 23:07:29 in reply to Comment 97797

good luck selling that logic. Roads/highways are the most heavily subsidized public pieces of infrastructure ever. Are we supposed to get rid of those too??

Permalink | Context

By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted February 22, 2014 at 23:00:33 in reply to Comment 97797

Public Transit costs the taxpayer. Water, sewers, garbage dumps, police, schools, hospitals and roads also cost the taxpayer. So since those don't come in at a net-zero cost, according to your logic, we should just get rid of them. Sounds good.

Bike Share is a form of Transit. It's a first and last mile solution designed to give people more options to get around. And if you'd do any research, you'd find that the "mathematical nonsense" you talk about, and the small sample size claim you make, could not be further from the truth. By the end of 2014, there will be more than 37,000 bike share bikes on the ground in North America alone. Around the world, that number is closer to 800,000. The number of bike share systems across North America is exploding in cities because cities recognize the value in taking cars off the road for short trips (50% of car trips are 5 km or less). In Ontario, about 1/3 of people commute less than 5 km to their work every day - that's a lot of extra stress on our roads, a public expenditure that absolutely dwarfs the amount we're spending on Bike Share or on building and maintaining cycling infrastructure. So if you want to talk about economic benefit and trying to do more with fewer taxpayer dollars spent, you'd be hard pressed to make a case AGAINST promoting cycling. But I'd love to hear you try.

And the reason why you always see bikes at the Bixi Station is because that's how the system SHOULD work. It's not Bike Rental - you don't take the bike, ride it around all day then return it. You take it for short trips, from one place to another. The system is designed so that there are always lots of bikes in the racks, so that they're always available where people need them.

As for why Bixi needed a bailout in Toronto, read my article about the difference between Bixi (Toronto) and Bixi (The parent company) posted earlier this week. Bixi Toronto didn't need a bailout - what it needed was for the City to take ownership over the physical infrastructure of the system (the bikes, stations etc), and that's exactly what happened, and what is happening here. So yes, it might cost some money to set it up, but it's also creating several jobs in the city, has the potential to increase transit ridership and reduce congestion, and, if other bike share systems are any indication, will create significant economic benefits to the local economy: http://mobilitylab.org/2012/06/18/2011-c...

If you want to argue economics with regards to cycling and bike share, I'm happy to engage. I look forward to you showing me evidence where promoting cycling and investing in active transportation infrastructure didn't pay off.

Permalink | Context

By lefty (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 13:06:05 in reply to Comment 97664

I've bookmarked this comment. I'm going to come back here a year after the bike share launches and reply again to check in on how the bike share is doing.

Will you be willing to do the same? And if you're wrong will you be willing to admit it?

Permalink | Context

By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2014 at 12:56:14 in reply to Comment 97665


Yes. Will you? This failure will get sufficient media attention like in Toronto in the next couple of years. But I doubt RTH will report it. Kindof like they do not report on how oil prices are not at $200 per barrel as predicted by RTH.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 21, 2014 at 14:10:51 in reply to Comment 97799

Except we have written about it, and I've directly replied to you more than once when you have made this claim. As I've already pointed out more than once, my mistake was believing that our economy is resilient enough to handle oil prices that high.

It turns out that the economy crashes hard before the price even hits $150/barrel, let alone $200.

You're a Capitalist, so you probably know some rudimentary economics, right? Remember when you studied price elasticity? Here is a scatter chart of the price elasticity of the global oil supply, using data from the Energy Information Agency.

Elasticity of global oil supply

It's from this November 2010 article.

As you can see, the price of oil follows a classic elastic supply curve up to around 83 million barrels per day, but becomes persistently inelastic when production rises above that rate.

Again, my mistake was not overestimating the constraints of peak oil but underestimating just how devastating high oil prices are to the economy.

You were pretty pleased to point out that the price of oil collapsed in the end of 2008. Are you as quick to acknowledge that the oil price collapse happened in the context of a global economic crash that destroyed millions of barrels a day in demand, or that the oil price had already recovered to $80 a barrel by mid-2009, or that oil has been trading for around $100 a barrel since 2011, despite the developed world being caught in an extended period of economic stagnation?

So I challenge you: next time you are tempted to accuse me of hiding my track record on peak oil, will you instead have the integrity to be honest about it?

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-02-21 14:12:02

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2014 at 14:29:53

Nice Ride Minnesota has filed a notice of material breach of the purchase agreement. http://www.montrealgazette.com/technolog...

Permalink | Context

By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2014 at 16:33:11 in reply to Comment 97667

Much Like my post to Capitalist above, don't confuse one Bike Share company with another. Bixi is an old model that was not well managed. They tried to grow too big too fast, without having the kinks in their software or their delivery worked out, and that's why they failed. So until you can find an example of someone having a problem with the suppliers that will be working with our City, I recommend you stop trying to obfuscate things.

Permalink | Context

By WAM (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 14:43:09 in reply to Comment 97667

So did you run around warning Ford owners when Toyotas started having acceleration malfunctions?

Permalink | Context

By so what... (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 14:37:58 in reply to Comment 97667

...Hamilton is working with a different hardware supplier.

Why do you hate this city?

Why don't you fill us in on your progressive vision for Hamilton?

Permalink | Context

By WAM (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 14:47:58 in reply to Comment 97668

And different hardware, and different software, and different management model, and different financial model, but who cares? Easier to scare people than inform them.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Matt (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 18:04:42

I have to say that it doesn't make any sense having a bike share when Hamilton streets do not have the infrastructure to support it. This city is a mess with speeding downtown traffic and way to many one way streets. Get the roads in order then introduced the bike share. We are going to have more bikes on the road with this dated one way infrastructure from the 50's. More people getting hurt. Wake up Hamilton your city is changing for the better!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Steve (registered) | Posted February 19, 2014 at 10:19:25

I think the biggest flaw in the bike share model is the lack of ability to use my local membership in other cities (portability of membership).

Ideally each workday, I'd like to grab a bike from a local station, ride it to GO Centre take the bus or train to Toronto and grab another bike outside of Union Station to ride to my work destination.

I can't do that without maintaining both a local bike membership and a Toronto Bixi membership. This makes the bike share program broken to me in many respects.

Also, the ability to use the share program when traveling for pleasure, or business, would be another value add, i.e. in Ottawa for a meeting ride a bike around town, in Montreal for a vacation ride a bike, etc.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds