City to consider all options for saving Hamilton’s bike share

City staff will be examining all options for the continuation of Hamilton’s bike share program.

General Manager of Planning and Economic Development Jason Thorne says he’ll prepare a report for a virtual meeting of city council on May 27.

Thorne, during a hastily prepared update on Wednesday morning, indicated one possibility is to find another third party operator to run bike share after June 1, when Social Bicycles LLC, which is owned by Uber, has announced that it will pull out of a contract that doesn’t expire until February 2021.

In a letter sent to the city last Friday, Social Bicycles LLC stated that it was shutting down all remaining bike and scooter operations, including in the City of Hamilton, because of “challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Thorne says staff are still in discussions with Uber and “reminding them of their contractual obligations to the city.”

Many Hamilton city councillors are voicing optimism that Hamilton’s bike share can be saved.

Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann says it’s a service many people need to get to work, especially during the pandemic, while Mayor Fred Eisenberger adds that “I don’t want to cast this off” calling it a valuable resource.

Several other councillors, however, say they will not be willing the consider subsidizing the service on the backs of taxpayers at an estimated cost of $50,000-$65,000 per month.

Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla says this is going to have to be saved by the private sector or through a not-for-profit scenario since “public money is off the table.”

Ward 14 Coun. Terry Whitehead agrees, adding that “it’s not on the city’s table to put more money that we don’t have”, in light of financial challenges created by the COVID 19 pandemic.

The 900 bikes and 130 rental stations that make up Hamilton’s bike share are owned by the city, as a result of a $1.6 million Metrolinx “quick wins” grant several years ago.

Thorne’s report will also look at finding a temporary storage space for them, if necessary, until a new third party operator is found.

Hamilton’s bike share program has 26,000 registered users.

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