Frances Bula header image 2

Vancouver aims for unique solution to bikeshare + mandatory helmet conundrum

January 10th, 2012 · 127 Comments

The city that Vision Vancouver has tried to make as bike-friendly as possible has been trying to get a bike-share system here for two years (remember when there was talk of a trial during the Olympics, using Montreal’s Bixi’s on loan during the winter?) but still doesn’t have one.

This is going to be the year there’s a decision though. As I note in my Globe story today, Councillor Raymond Louie says there will be a decision, one year after the first request for expressions of interest went out, on what to do next. It’s not clear where next is issuing a request for proposals or simply deciding on one of the proponents.

I understand there was a meeting at the city with all of them Dec. 20 and the bidders feel as though the city has enough information from everyone to go ahead and choose someone for the contract without further ado.

And that will mean whoever wins will get to pioneer a solution for the messy problem of how to run a bikeshare program in a city (and province) with a mandatory bike-helmet law. Only two of the 480 cities that have bikeshare programs have a similar law: Melbourne and Brisbane. In the bike world, it’s well-known that their bikeshare programs are struggling, many believe as a result of the combination of the law and a failure to come up with solutions.

Locally, a consortium of non-profits and for-profit groups and companies has come up with a pitch under the name of Bikeshare BC. Their bike-and-helmet people, SandVault, have invented a helmet-rental and -sanitizing machine. Other companies apparently are coming up with their own Goldbergian solutions.

It will be fun to see what the ultimate solution is. And I’m sure we all look forward to the reasoned debates in this city about where the loading docks should be and how much sidewalk or road space they should be allocated.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Richard


    Come on, no one is saying no roads. And construction materials are typically moved by truck not car. Without roads being clogged with cars, trucks carrying construction materials could get around quicker even if there were far fewer lanes of traffic on the roads.

    Fewer trips by car means fewer collisions lowering the cost on drivers and society of collisions, injuries and death. Drivers should really be thankful that many people chose to walk, use transit and cycle instead of driver.

  • Bill

    Chris Keam #95

    “$2.7 billion = two times Translink’s entire budget for 2009, and we’re referring to a report that’s over 15 years old (1993).”

    Yes, and almost $1 billion of Translink revenues come from sources other than User fees. So this is a direct cash subsidy to transit users of $1 billion without including all those soft “external” costs like land and road maintenance that should be included if you are going to compare apples to apples.

    Now I really don’t have a problem in supporting transit since it is a real transportation alternative unlike bicycles but I am tired of you portraying car users as getting a free ride.

  • brilliant

    @Richard 101-Your post is reasonable but if you look at MBs they attempt to attribute all road costs and land use to cars. That point is easily refuted by looking at downtown’s street grid which was laid out pre-automobile.

  • “I am tired of you portraying car users as getting a free ride.”

    Didn’t say that. Said they were subsidized by the population as a whole.

  • @Mira:

    Must have come as a real shock to you that a post with ‘bike’ right in the title would be a discussion about cycling. I’m sorry our little congregation possessed your soul and made you click the link. Ford be praised our little cult doesn’t demand a human sacrifice quite so often as the dominant transportation religion.

  • Richard


    That is true but before the automobile came along, people could walk anywhere in the street. People knew back then that high speed auto traffic was really dangerous. In many cities, auto speeds were limited to 5mph. The auto lobby pushed pedestrians off the street and onto sidewalks to enable automobile travel at unsafe speeds in the city. Given that the majority of the road space in cities is now dedicated to automobiles, it is fair to associate most of the costs to them.

    Expensive traffic control systems are also only require to enable vehicles to go at unsafe speeds. If there were just pedestrians, bikes and slow speed vehicles (under 30kph) allowed on streets, we could get rid of most traffic lights. I’d be surprised if a pedestrian has ever died in a collision with another pedestrian.

    Now, if cities where to redesign streets to slow automobile traffic to safe speeds, dedicate more space to pedestrians, cyclists, transit and public space and allow pedestrians to walk and cross anywhere in the street, then moving the costs away from the automobile would be fair.

  • Bill

    “Didn’t say that. Said they were subsidized by the population as a whole.”

    And so is public transit. So what’s your point?

  • My point is you’ve once again misrepresented my position to make it more extreme to bolster your own argument. Common tactic for somebody with a weak position.

  • Bill

    “misrepresented my position to make it more extreme”

    I am delighted that you acknowledge that your position is extreme. It wasn’t my intention to make it appear more extreme.

  • Oh good one Bill. Slapping my thigh big time. Well done. But you should spend less time coming up with semantic asides and more time building a better argument for your position that bicycles cannot be used for transportation and people should have fewer choices for getting around town.



  • Bill

    “But you should spend less time…”

    It didn’t take any time at all.

  • C’mon Bill, defend your position. Why aren’t bikes a useful form of transportation? Am I describing your opinion accurately. Tell us why. Unless of course you can’t, and your entire position is just one of ignorance with a sprinkle of irrational distaste to top the Silly Sundae.

  • boohoo


    He can’t/won’t. When push comes to shove guys like Bill and others here always fall silent. Give it up my friend!

  • Bill

    First, I am not anti bike – I do not advocate licensing, insurance or even mandatory helmets although it would seem prudent to wear one in many situations. I have no problem with investing in bike paths like on the seawall or even marked lanes on streets – they are rarely occupied so pose no impediment to traffic. In fact, the only criticism I have is when bicycle policies are as much a tool to make driving less desireable, such as the segregated bike lanes downtown, as it is about promoting bicycles. While you may not be motivated by anti car sentiment, the same cannot be said for advocates such as Bobby Bees (who comes across like Stephen King’s Christine is non-fiction).

    I never said that bikes were not a useful form of transportation, just very limited in the number of people that can or will use them either due to physical limitations, weather conditions or the need to go longer distances or the need to carry more than a backpacks worth of goods.

    A policy that tries to increase utilization of a limited means of transportation at the expense of another which has broad usage and functionality seems to be driven more by ideology driven than by pragmatism.

  • Max

    @Bill #114

    The city is going over the applications to sit on this year’s VACC board.

    You should thow your hat in the ring.

  • It’s not the VACC board Max. Do your homework.

    “A policy that tries to increase utilization of a limited means of transportation at the expense of another which has broad usage and functionality”

    By that argument we SHOULD be limiting cars, not bikes, as bicycles have a broader reach of potential users due to the lack of age limitations, economic factors, and the fact they have better health outcomes compared to the sedentary nature of automobiles. As for the separated lanes downtown, they don’t impede traffic. I’ve driven downtown along Dunsmuir a number of times recently during rush hour and the only thing slowing traffic was the traffic lights, which are necessary to prevent automobiles from colliding or running over pedestrians.

  • MB

    @ brilliant 99 + 103, you seem to have poor reading skills.

    No one proposed to eradicate roads.

    Yours seems to be an overly prescriptive, black and white and ultimately simplistic view within a libertarian bubble.

    I hope you and Bill find the following outline and link to a piece by Jeff Kenworthy and Peter Newman informative. They spend a lot more time than any of us analyzing this stuff.


    1. Wealth. Automobile dependence is an inevitable consequence of wealth. People will always buy cars and larger amounts of private urban space, thus alternative urban forms and transportation will inevitably die out as people get richer.

    2. Climate. Automobile dependence is inevitably induced by warm climates where people can enjoy low density suburban lifestyles, whereas compact, transit-oriented cities are mostly in cold climates.

    3. Space. Automobile dependence is inevitably part of countries that are very spacious, whilst those with little space have compact cities.

    4. Age. Automobile dependence is an inevitable feature of modern life and thus new cities developed predominantly after 1945 show it more than old cities.

    5. Health and Social Problems. Automobile dependence is inevitably created by the reaction to density and its health and social problems.

    6. Rural Lifestyles. Automobile dependence is inevitably created by the attraction of rural lifestyles in the suburbs with their associated promise of withdrawal from the evils of city lifestyles.

    7. Road Lobby. Automobile dependence is inevitably created by the powerful combination of road interests.

    8. Land Developers. Automobile dependence is inevitably created by the powerful interests of land speculators and developers and planning is powerless to stop it.

    9. Traffic Engineering. Automobile dependence is an inevitable outcome of the standard processes of transportation planning and traffic engineering.

    10. Town Planning. Automobile dependence is inevitably regulated into cities by local town planning.

  • Bill

    Chris, it is pointless to carry on this discussion with you as you just ignore inconvenient facts. To suggest just because there are no legal restrictions on the age of bicycle riders, they are cheap and may provide a health benefit they have broader usage and functionality than the car (which permits passengers, cargo, comfortable in wet weather, and allows you to arrive at your destination without needing a shower) is absurd.

  • MB

    @ Mira 98: “…Chris Keam at the drums, MB playing the organ, Augustin at the tuba, spartikus is the choir…”

    Hey, we may disagree on issues, but I appreciate the great analogy! Actually, I did play a mean guitar until arthritis and UBC got in the way.

  • Bill Lee

    I am hoping that they go for the the VeloDi model with cheap rents, and with bikes with : Shaft drive rather than chains. Mudguards. Skirt guard. Front basket. Front LED light with standlight. Rear red LED generator driven light with standlight. Upright bars. Quick release seatpost for quick adjustment, but with a positive stop so you could not steal the seatpost. Special locked hubnuts. cable lock integral to the basket, with a key.
    Rental kiosks are mulilingual, essential in Vancouver where few users speak English.
    At you can also see that there is a longer term rental (in months) Le VeloDivia at

    And of course, Madame Bula of this salon will have to suffer the food indignaties 😉 of Dijon area of Burgundy with only a scant 23 starred restaurants in the area.

    But she will astound Vancouverois by going to the village of Bonnay just south of Dijon for buying a 21 speed Guilliverte [ ] “(pédalier avec 21 vitesses, freins à disques, suspension, compteur kilométrique, lecteur MP3, remorque pour les bagages, GPS…)” for tootling around Vancouver and region to cover DeRoche and Hatzic Lake town meetings.

  • fabula bike threads never die…
    At some point Brilliant was observing what could be an everyday scene in Copenhagen, but here is his judgement:

    I’d call the father on Main Street trying to get his two young children on their bikes at an unsignalled intersection this morning criminal”

    That reminds me one my old post on this great cultural divide:

    BTW, guess which city has the bets safety record, Vancouver or Copenhagen ?

  • Max

    @Bill #114

    Now that I have had a moment to look back (you see, unlike some that spend endless hours on all things bikes- I have a job and tap in during rare breaks)….
    It is the BAC that is taking applications – according to city hall spokesperson Alex Russell for the 12 person commitee. The deadline is Jan. 22.
    Some of the applicants (from what I have read) are trying to lend a voice for pedestrians – and their allowance back onto the east side of the Burrard Street Bridge.

  • @Bill
    “To suggest (bicycles) have broader usage and functionality than the car (which permits passengers, cargo, comfortable in wet weather, and allows you to arrive at your destination without needing a shower) is absurd.

    Not so. If it were absurd, then the jurisdictions which improve cycling facilities should see little or no increase in cycling mode share, yet everywhere that puts in good bike lanes and other bike-friendly design features sees a measurable increase in ridership. What’s absurd is treating every trip from your home as though it will include passengers, parcels, a sweaty sprint finish, and heavy weather. Using the appropriate mode for your circumstances means there will be times when different choices make more sense. Offering people the facilities to be able to make those choices is a sign of a healthy democracy that’s catering to voters, not vehicles.

  • Bill

    @Max #122

    As a pedestrian the bike lanes on the bridge are an improvement because it eliminates the brain dead cyclists who were acting out their Tour de France fantasies on the bridge. As a driver not so much.

    Thanks for the suggestion about the Advisory Council but I suspect Vision already knows where they are going on the issue.

    @Chris Keam #123

    Good to see you’re back – I guess you took yesterday off since your primary source, Wikipedia, was black.

    Re read my posts at 114 and 118 – I never said that bicycles were never appropriate or that only cars could satisfy every transportation need. But cars can satisfy more transportation needs than bicycles. Please stop misrepresenting my position.

  • “Good to see you’re back”

    Thanks, great to be here, try the bike lanes, they’re delicious.

    You said: “since it is a real transportation alternative unlike bicycles” in post #102.

    One assumes by this statement you didn’t consider bicycles a transportation alternative. Glad to hear that’s not the case.

  • Bill

    Skateboards, roller blades, horses, camels etc are all transportation alternatives but have their limitations that makes them unsuitable to having any significant role in moving the masses.

  • Linking to the dozens of bicycle rush hour videos seemed too easy. Instead let’s watch a ‘mass’ of roller bladers, but not the kind that needs crackers and fruit juice (unless you’re hungry or thirsty).