City to discuss bike share initiative

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Copenhagen. New York. Toronto. Washington.

What do these four cities have in common? All participate in bike sharing programs.

And if Sihan Miskin, the director of marketing and public relations for Grand River Public Bike Share, has his way, Waterloo will soon be joining them.

Miskin presented his plan to Waterloo City Council at the May 28 meeting. He was looking for endorsement from the city to move forward with the ambitious project.

“We really want to make this region and city really eco-friendly, and boost its image, and make it an international destination,” he said, explaining the non-profit’s mission statement.

Miskin demonstrated public support for the project, indicating that a bike share petition had acquired over 1,500 signatures, while an ongoing student survey has thus far provided positive feedback.

Laura Kirk, the coordinator of the Wilfrid Laurier University Eco Hawks, also contributed to the presentation briefly. “The Laurier community is very excited for it, at least I know my volunteers are very enthused.… Wilfrid Laurier seems to be very interested,” she said.

The pilot program would include 100 bikes spread out between ten locations between Waterloo and downtown Kitchener. Several stations would be in the university area.

“There are some unique characteristics to our city, so that’s why we are proposing that it is limited,” Miskin explained. “Learn from it and then see how we can expand it city wide, and then region wide.”

There are a number of positive expectations associated with public bike share, from decreasing traffic congestion to the health benefits associated with physical activity.

Environmental benefits are also a big draw. One of the unique features of the bike share is that docking stations will be solar powered. This makes the placement of them more flexible than those which would be tied to power sources.

“I think we can make it work,” commented councillor Angela Vieth. “I’m happy to support it.”

The capital cost of the project is estimated at $550,000, with annual operating costs between $150,000 and $200,000.

It will be funded through member subscriptions, usage fees and corporate sponsorships and grants. They will also be putting advertisements on the bikes.
“I’m so happy that it’s going to be a non-profit organization that will run it with the support of all the different governments, rather than any one government running it,” said Mark Whaley, the councillor for ward five. “That’s a better model.”

Whaley put forward a direction motion to have the project further examined by city staff. This will allow more dialogue to take place about the details of the cost and legal liability of the program, among other issues. Staff will report back in September.

In the meantime, the organization intends to communicate with the two universities and other municipalities.

“We are really looking for your endorsement here so we can get out there and look for corporate sponsors and secure that funding,” Miskin concluded. “And then we can go ahead with the agreements with the city, mobilize vendors and then see how fast we can launch this program.”

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