Kelowna bike share program could be electric this summer | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna bike share program could be electric this summer

Despite the success of Dropbike in Kelowna last year, it looks like e-bikes are the wave of the future.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
May 06, 2019 - 4:34 PM

KELOWNA - The bicycle share program that’s expected to get off the ground in the next few weeks in Kelowna will most likely to be powered by electricity rather than by peddling.

“In North America, we see a lot of pedal bike operators folding,” active transportation coordinator Matt Worona told city council today, May 6.

His boss, integrated transportation manager Rafael Villarreal, noted that e-bikes offer a better rate of return for operators and increase the distance people are able to commute, and they are likely to cost about the same as pedal bikes to rent.

Last year Dropbike Inc. offered pedal bikes in the downtown area for $1 per hour and attracted 35,000 riders but it was more of a tourist attraction or as a novelty. E-bikes and e-scooters — if the province approves their use on roadways — can become commuter vehicles.

Some day, technology may allow a common pass so someone could ride a bus part way to work then take a bike the last few blocks.

City staff, therefore, created a new permitting system that opens the door for e-bikes in Kelowna this summer. In the meantime, Dropbike is not planning to return to the city.

Mayor Colin Basran asked staff about the timing of the new rules.

“It appears, legitimate or not, that Dropbike is using this as an excuse not to come back to our community,” he said. “Could we have, potentially, held off and had a successful Dropbike summer?”

Not at all, replied Villarreal, who explained that Dropbike had an 18-month agreement with the City that included some expectation that they try operating into the winter. Instead, all the bikes were removed from Kelowna by Nov. 11.

“The fact is there are no bikes on the ground right now,” Villarreal said. “There were no bikes on the ground in March. We were expecting some testing over the winter. In the spring there were no bikes here and we were expecting to have some bikes.”

Worona, therefore, drafted the permit process for new operators. He has talked and met with a number of potential bike providers who are keen to work with the City this summer.

Council approved the new permitting process, which will be finalized next week and permits could be issued shortly afterward. How quickly bicycles will be on the ground depends on whether operators have stock on hand versus having to order them from overseas.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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