Hamilton Ready for Bike-Sharing

By Jason Leach
Published September 05, 2010

This past Tuesday afternoon, the city of Hamilton hosted two bike sharing programs to set up a display at City Hall and gauge public interest in potentially starting a program here.

Bixi and B-Cycle both made presentations before council in the afternoon and then set up a display of their product in the forecourt to allow citizens to test ride the bikes and learn how the system works.

I had the pleasure of test riding the bikes and they are great bikes for an urban environment. Both had a carrying basket over the handlebars and thick tires suitable for city riding and the inevitable potholes, sewer grates and manhole covers that urban cyclists encounter. The bikes had different gears and handled very smoothly.

The Bixi bike was especially comfortable. It was more of a Dutch cruiser style bike than the B-Cycle. The ease of unlocking the bikes with the electronic keys was remarkable and it was simply a matter of sliding the front wheel back into the bike base upon returning.

Bixi depot on display at City Hall
Bixi depot on display at City Hall

Chatting with the staff who were involved with the display was informative and I got the distinct sense that they viewed Hamilton as being ripe for this sort of program.

As we all know, despite our massive downtown freeways and flawed planning over the past 30 years, Hamilton is still remarkably compact, walkable and bike-friendly (if you're brave or know safe alternate routes).

In researching the two companies, it is clear that both present a great opportunity for Hamilton. Both have annual memberships and have done a good job at keeping their rates low. With Bixi, Montreal's annual fee is $78, and Toronto's is $95. With B-Cycle, Denver's annual fee is $65, and Des Moines is $50 - $40 for seniors and students.

In my mind there are a few important points to consider when discussing a bike sharing program.


Next to walking, bikes are the most affordable method of transportation and require the least amount of space. A simple lane next to vehicle lanes is all that is required.

Hamilton currently has a plan to criss-cross the city with bike routes for a grand total of $50 million. $50 million may sound like a lot of money, but it costs that much to resurface 14 kilometers of roadway.

This is an entire new transportation network for our city for the same cost as doing some roadwork.


It appears to me that in order to be successful, a bike share should have many stations located in convenient areas.

One great feature of these systems are that the bike stalls don't require any construction. They can be placed on a roadway in place of a couple parking spots or in any convenient location near shopping plazas, parks or transit terminals.

Montreal has done a wonderful job of filling their city with stations.


One of the ways to further bike infrastructure and take a 20 year plan and turn it into a 5 year plan is to get more people cycling now. A bike share would do this in Hamilton.

In fact, I mentioned to the staff members from Bixi that I would have loved to have a bike system to take advantage of the day there were in town. I had just returned a U-Haul on Upper Wellington near the Mountain Brow and would have much preferred to pick up a bike at Sam Lawrence Park to ride downtown and drop it off near my home at Victoria Park instead of waiting for a bus and then walking home in the brutal heat.

Transportation Options

Ultimately, more convenient transportation options are a good thing for the city. In Hamilton it is only 4.5 kilometers from McMaster University to Gore Park. It is three kilometers from St Josephs Hospital to the Williams Coffee Pub on Pier 8 at the waterfront.

Think of all the destinations that exist in this small area, and this is just one part of our city - granted, the most densely populated heart of the city.

Think of the popular parks, commercial strips, education facilities, transit terminals, cultural venues, tourist attractions, neighbourhoods and workplaces that exist in the heart of our city.

A bike sharing system would give students the option to zip downtown without having to cram onto buses like sardines or be passed by several times by full buses. Folks making the short drive to work and spending money on gas and parking could get some exercise and save some money by grabbing a bike.

I can envision a system with 20-25 stations in the Downtown/Westdale area and then several more in convenient spots on the Mountain, Dundas, central and east Hamilton.

Contact Hamilton's cycling committee for more info and to show your support for bringing a bike share to the Hammer. It's long overdue.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By cd (anonymous) | Posted September 05, 2010 at 10:15:10

Great idea, Jason

But first the bike lanes.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 05, 2010 at 11:39:27

my bike got shared on friday.

Stolen from my back yard. It was locked to my fence and they cut the fence to get it. It seems very weird and targeted because there were two functioning unlocked beaters right next to it, so it was not an opportunistic joyride theft.

Every single part of this bike was hand built or hand picked by me and very unique and noticeable. If you see anything close to this even if the colour is wrong (or easy changes like the handlebars) please let me know through the bike shop or send mail to sean (at

I built the wheels myself so the rims are matching (vuelta) but the hubs do not match. The rear is an old sachs silver torpedo hub. The front is a newer novatec generator hub. The frame has no vintage value. It was some off brand (Nova) but I removed the stickers.

The bars are Velo Orange and have a laser etched VO logo on them. The seat is also Velo Orange (different from what is pictured). I also added a silver rear rack and changed the pedals since this picture was taken.

Please keep an eye out...


My Bike Handlebars - Duomatic Rear Hub - Sachs

Comment edited by seancb on 2010-09-05 10:45:03

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 05, 2010 at 13:03:25

For really successful bike-rental programs, look at France. Paris and Lyon have been really successful at encouraging tens of thousands of riders to join. In fact, almost every city I've been to in North/Western Europe has a system like this, from some which are run entirely by credit card and satellites (Berlin) to those which worked on a chain which comes loose when you put in a coin, much like a shopping cart here (Copenhagen).

About dang time we had something like this here. It won't be a magic bullet, but like bike lanes, it's one more piece in the puzzel of making cycling accessible to a much larger percentage of the population.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted September 05, 2010 at 15:45:40

For really successful bike-rental programs, look at France. (undustrial)

One only needs look as far as Montreal. Bixi was a success in its first year (2009) and was expanded by 50% this year.

It not only won me over as a cheap/easy/enjoyable/practical way to get around town on my first ride, but pushed to finally swap my hybrid for a proper upright city bike with fewer gears, covered chain and step-through frame.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-09-05 14:46:50

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted September 05, 2010 at 16:09:16

Jason, was there any indication of how many and where the initial stations would be? I currently don't ride my bike downtown if I need to leave it anywhere I can't see it because I'm afraid of it being stolen. I could see the bike-share as an option if there were useful stations outside of the downtown core.

It will be a fine balance to get broad enough coverage of the city to get people to where they want to go conveniently while keeping rates low enough to attract members.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 05, 2010 at 17:04:52

I don't know if the city has plans yet for station locations. Perhaps emailing them with suggestions would be helpful. I'm most familiar with downtown, west Hamilton and central Hamilton and would hope that places like Westdale Village, Fortino's locations at Dundurn and Rifle Range, University Plaza, Mac Student Centre/Mac Hospital entrance etc.... would be the sorts of places that they would locate stations. I realize the highest density would be between Mac and Wellington Street, but I can see stations at similar busy malls/plazas/parks/hospitals/school zones on the Mountain and elsewhere throughout the city.

To be honest, I see no correlation between the number of stations and cost of an annual pass. Montreal has a ton of stations with a very reasonable annual rate. Chicago has barely any stations with a similarly reasonable rate.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-09-05 16:05:43

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted September 05, 2010 at 18:59:36

The best part of this event was when one of the gentlemen from Bixi took one of their bikes out onto Main St. A passing motorist yelled "GET OFF THE ROAD!" and the fellow from Bixi asked me whether it was illegal for cyclists to be on the road. "Maybe the law is different in Ontario?" he said.

Comment edited by transitstudent on 2010-09-05 17:59:53

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By Jason (registered) | Posted September 05, 2010 at 22:44:27

Lol. It might as well be illegal on streets like Main. It's defacto illegal.

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By Biker (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2010 at 09:47:52

For really successful bike-rental programs, look at France

I think Don is right...I have been to France and their system is easy, inexpensive and reliable.

That's my concern here..they will go half assed and cause confusion which will only discourage people. Do it well or don't do it.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 06, 2010 at 11:29:43

Big investors with a new inspirational and green opportunity for Hamilton show up and still get screamed at by drivers. Perhaps now City Hall will realise that this is a real problem.

One wonders how cops would treat cyclists tomorrow if I decided to threaten a little "U-Lock Justice" on a visiting delegate from Ford Motors.

I must say, though, that things are definitely getting better. I had a guy (looking for a parking space, apparently) swerve in front of me yesterday, and it ended up in a very pleasant chat. Until the last year or so, I'd almost never heard an apology, and now it's more common than not. It's amazing what buck-a-litre gas will do for the perception of bicycles.

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By Just My Thoughts (anonymous) | Posted September 06, 2010 at 13:55:12

A big difference in Paris is that traffic is not usually able, allowed or encouraged to travel at 50-60kmh in the City, making short-hop bike use more compatible with how others are using the roads. As much as I'd love to see this sort of system here, I have to suggest we need to have the infrastructure in place to allow safe cycling in the urban core first. This is especially true since users of systems like these are not often equipped with helmets, etc.
Please, bring on the bike lanes!!!
Just my thoughts.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 06, 2010 at 21:02:36

I want to see more bike lanes and the city is veeeerrrryy slowly adding some, although none of them connect to each other, but I'm now of the opinion that we need things like a bike share to put more pressure on city hall to actually give us a bike lane network. Waiting for a bike lane network before we do bike sharing will result in us never getting a bike share.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 06, 2010 at 23:01:12

Hamilton NEEDS more bike lanes. But that isn't something we can just go out and DO.

That is, unless, of course, you just went out and did it.

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By mikeyj (registered) | Posted September 08, 2010 at 11:22:26

After going to Paris and Lyon this summer on trip through Europe, I have to say I was pretty disappointed with their bike-shares.

Our first attempt in Paris wasn't too aggravating, we thought we were set with a Velib depot around the corner from our apartment, but were disappointed that they didn't except foreign credit cards after being redirected a second depot.

In Lyon, the Velo'V was much worse, we were able to get a day card with my credit card, but it was extremely difficult to release the bikes from the rack. Trying to tap your card, enter your pin and run to a random bike and pull before someone else did the same, nobody knowing who tapped first. Several locals attempted to help us and told us we need to press the brake as you pull it off, all to no avail because by then all the functioning bikes were gone. After walking to our third depot we gave up the dream after realizing all of the bikes on working racks were in severe disrepair anyways.

So from a traveller's standpoint and as more of a note to Canadians who read about these Bike-Shares and expect to be able to easily use them: We recommend using rental shops for better maintained bikes and far less hassle (especially if you're in Beaune, France with their beautiful Veloroute through the hill towns and vineyards of Burgundy).

I hope our bike-shares (if we got them) would be more inclusive to travellers than Paris' Velib's and kept in a better state than what I witnessed in Lyon. Both the demo systems seem to have a far simpler way of releasing the bikes than the Velo'V's, which was disappointingly clumsy and non-intuitive.

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2010 at 23:22:12

We need to get rid of 1 lane on each of Main and King and put in shared bike/bus lanes. If it slows down traffic too much for people they can take the LINC instead.

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By Jeronimo (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2010 at 16:59:58

I think this is great idea for people who don't have bikes. I've been riding my bike from for years now. But this is a great idea :)

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