The implementation of a bike-share program in the Cowichan Valley is not feasible at this time, and more study is needed.
Mairi Bosomworth, a community planner with the Municipality of North Cowichan, told council at its meeting on Sept. 5 that the bike-share industry is rapidly evolving and adapting to new technologies in the field.
She said traditional pedal bike fleets are now being replaced by electric bike fleets and scooters, and the implications of what that could mean to a local bike-share program have to be further researched.
“This is expected to better accommodate the needs and demands of our community by facilitating longer trips,” she said.
“Furthermore, in discussions with prospective bike-share companies, each indicated that North Cowichan would be required to subsidize a portion of the bike-share program, in the range of between $50,000 and $100,000, due to its small population, lack of infrastructure and lack of understanding of demand.”
Bike share is a service that makes public bicycles available for shared use to individuals on a short-term basis at a cost.
There are many models, but the most common ones involve bikes being unlocked from one station and returned to any other station in the system.
Council directed staff to prepare a feasibility study on the issue after students from Queen Margaret’s School made a presentation to council earlier this year requesting that a bike-share program be established locally.
Bosomworth said at Wednesday’s meeting that the municipality might consider allocating funds towards bicycle infrastructure to improve the overall cycling experience in the Valley.
She said North Cowichan may also consider initiating a public engagement process, including the implementation of a trail survey, in order to get a better understanding of the local demand for a bike-share program.
Council decided to direct staff to continue conversations with potential service providers and key partners, including the City of Duncan and Cowichan Tribes, and provide an update on the possibility of setting up a bike-share program that would begin in the spring of 2019.
At the suggestion of Coun. Maeve Maguire, council also decided to include the study of the possibility of using electric bikes and scooters as well in a local program.
Mayor Jon Lefebure, who is also the chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said one of the CVRD’s most challenging functions is transit.
“I think a custom-designed mobility program like this can compliment the transit services already in place,” he said.