Dalhousie’s office of sustainability is hoping to create a Halifax-wide bike share program, similar to the Bixi program in Toronto and Montreal.
If enacted, the plan would create ten stations throughout the peninsula with nine bikes at each station. But laws and budget constraints have put the project at risk.
When Scott MacPhee first moved to Halifax from Sydney, N.S. in 2003, he entered the community through Halifax’s bike culture. Every year he sees more and more people biking along the city’s main roads.
“There is a pretty solid cycling culture in Halifax,” says MacPhee, who is the project manager at Dal’s bike centre. The centre provides Dal community with access to bikes for up to a week. Recently there has been a surge in demand for bikes, even throughout the winter.
MacPhee says there is a clear market for a bike share in Halifax—but Nova Scotia’s helmet law and budget constraints are blocking the bike share plan from becoming a reality.
Under Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act, bikers are required to wear a helmet while on wheels.
Those who don’t can be fined up to $141.16
The law added liabilities and costs for the bike share program, explains MacPhee, who sat on the original planning committee for the project.
“There has to be a good administrative system to get the helmets to people … otherwise it gets expensive to get that extra delivery system of helmets and bikes,” he says. “Thinking outside of the box is the way we have to do it here in Nova Scotia.”
The helmet issue reflects a bigger problem: costs. According to a report by Dal’s office of sustainability, it would cost the university around $414,500 to start up the proposed bike share program.
MacPhee and others looked at how other cities financed similar bike share programs. Some cities get sponsorships and place company logos on bikes, but MacPhee suggests that membership fees is one of the best ways to fund the project.
Even then, bike shares—like most metro transit systems—are not financially lucrative; they often lose money.
“Going back to some of the other programs around the country—it’s not a money maker. It’s providing a service to people,” says MacPhee.
In addition to creating an alternate form of public transit, a bike share program would boost support and safety for cyclists in the peninsula. There is strength in numbers: the more cyclists there are, the safer it is to bike in the city.
Charlotte Bondy is a student at the University of King’s College who regularly bikes to school. She echoes MacPhee’s sentiments about bicycling safety and suggests that that the city gets on board with the project.
“It should be the municipal government’s job to make sure that they are promoting cycling as a sustainable and affordable option,” says Bondy.
There is a need for an effective, alternate transportation system in Halifax. Parking is a financial burden for the university and a daily pain for those who drive to Dal. In fact, a professor quit last year over parking issues.
MacPhee says it cost around $1,000 per year, per parking spot just for the upkeep of parking.
Further, as the Halifax peninsula’s population grows so will congestion. MacPhee says the time to act on effective alternatives to driving is now.
“Ten or 20 years down the road it’s going to get harder to get around the peninsula because there will be more and more traffic,” says MacPhee.
“How do you get people out of their cars? Offer them other options to get out of their cars. And a bike share is one of those options.”