Dal bike sharing program hits speed bump

Program may take a while to hit the road — and it's expensive

BIXI bikes in Gatineau, Quebec. Photo: Simon Villeneuve

Dalhousie has its sights set on a bike sharing program.

But hopeful students may have to wait a while before seeing it on campus.

The bike sharing program – spearheaded by the office of sustainability – would differ from the established bike loan program, where students can borrow a bike from residences or the campus bike centre.

“Bike share is a more interactive system, where you can pick up a bike conveniently at a location and drop it off at another location,” says Rochelle Owen, director of the university’s office of sustainability.

The university looked at three different models for a bike sharing program. The model they are leaning towards is similar to the BIXI program in Montreal, where bike stations are set up around the city and users – with a subscription to the service or who have purchased short term access – can take out a bike and drop it off at any other bike station.

However, a BIXI-like program at Dal can be quite costly. 

A report from the office of sustainability estimates a startup cost of $414,500, which includes 10 stations – each with nine bikes – with operations and maintenance for one year.

“We don’t have money for it. There’s a lot of interest, but if we had a budget for it we’d still be a year out,” says Owen.

But if the program were to go city-wide, the possibility of splitting the cost with other businesses and institutions remains an option to ease the cost.

“There’s no sense in setting up a bike share to fail,” says Owen.

Helmet law in Nova Scotia could be another obstacle for a potential bike sharing program.

Under the Motor Vehicles Act, anyone who uses a bike, roller skaters, scooter, or skateboard is required to wear a helmet.

Anyone caught without a helmet may receive a fine of up to $128.75.

Owen believes the law may force proponents of the program to come up with creative solutions for helmets.

She points to Australia as an example – some bike sharing locations are also equipped with helmet vending machines. She also says students and faculty may have to bring their own helmets.

But convincing people to carry around helmets may not be easy.

“If there was one I wouldn’t do it because they would force you to wear a helmet,”  says Adrian Faucher, a second-year commerce student. “It would be too much of a hassle.”

Matthew Oxford, a Dal student, believes the service could be popular on campus.

“I don’t own a bike, I could see myself using it a lot,” he says.

In the meantime though, Dal is looking at adding up to 100 additional bike parking spots within the next year, to bring the total around 850 spots on its campuses.