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Mobi bike share launches amid concerns

Last Updated Jul 20, 2016 at 2:54 pm PST

(Kayla Butler, NEWS 1130, Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver’s new bike share program is up and running for members, but its long-term sustainability depends on sponsorship and how many people sign up to peddle the program forward.

Today’s Mobi soft launch gives members 250 bikes at 23 stations in the downtown and immediate surrounding areas, with the plan to expand to 1,500 bikes at 150 stations in a wider area by the end of the summer.

A founding membership rate, which ends July 31, is available for $99 for one year and includes unlimited free rides of a half hour or less.

CEO Mia Kohout says they already have 1,300 members, but concerns about the Mobi’s programs long-term feasibility linger, including worries about how the program will be financed.

The City of Vancouver promised a $5 million subsidy over five years, but like any business, Mobi’s ultimate success will depend on riders and sponsors.

“I don’t believe we’ve crunched the numbers on base rate for membership, but we are expecting to see 10,000 members in the first year,” Kohout says. “Sponsorship will pay a large piece of that as well and we are actively seeking sponsors.

Kohout expects Vancouver’s bike culture and population density will be big factors in the program’s success.

The program was initially supposed to launch with more bikes, but challenges and delivery delays quashed those plans.

As bike vandalism and theft continue to spike across Metro Vancouver, Kohout says their bikes have anti-vandalism coatings and that bike manufacturer Smoove has never had a theft. Maintenance workers will inspect bikes on a regular basis and check for damage or flat tires.

Provided helmets, to comply with the city’s mandatory policy, will be cleaned everyday and hair nets will be available.

The shiny new bikes are a concern for rental shops who worry they will take tourist business away from them.

Mayor Gregor Robertson says Mobi stations are placed 50 metres from shops.

“The whole focus of the pricing systems are for short term use. This is to fill a gap in the transportation system, so people can go from A to B. The incentive really is to ride for less than half an hour,” he says.

Keeping a bike for more than half an hour will result in additional charges, but users will still be able to return bikes within a half hour and take out a new one without charge.