Update – 2;01 p.m.
The head of Dropbike, one of North America’s leading micro-mobility organizations, says the partnership with Kelowna on a pilot project for a new bike share program in the city could be the start of what the company calls “a micro-mobility future.”
“With this partnership with the City of Kelowna, we want to ensure that bike share is made as accessible and affordable as possible to all residents,” said Qiming Weng, CEO of Dropbike. “This program will not only provide a fun and flexible way to move across the city, but it will also serve as a stepping stone to what we call a ‘micro-mobility’ future.”
“Our goal here is to ensure that our program is organized, reliable, and convenient,” said Weng. Dropbikes can be parked at specially marked “havens”, or anywhere you would park your own bike with their lock-to technology. Designated parking spots are marked in the app as well as physically.
Dropbike is also offering businesses the opportunity to engage in several different forms of partnership, from providing employees with a bike-share option to get to and from work to bulk memberships and private Haven location.
“Dropbike offers a great solution for our city — they are helping further propel environmental stewardship and they are giving residents and businesses across the city a good reason to embrace an active lifestyle,” said Matt Worona of the City of Kelowna.
“The city is looking forward to continuing a strong working partnership with Dropbike and towards an exciting multi-modal future for our residents.”
It’s only been up and running for two weeks, but Kelowna’s new bicycle share program is off to a roaring success, says the city.
According to project lead Matt Worona, the city’s active transportation manager, the Dropbike dockless bike share program, with 180 distinctive orange and white bikes, saw 1,000 rides by 500 individual riders in the first week alone.
He said 1,000 people have downloaded the smart phone app that enables users to unlock and rent the bikes.
The 18-month pilot program is expected to see a ramp up to 500 bikes over the next few months.
The system, which does not use a central docking stand, but instead features the smartphone app that unlocks the back wheel, is currently centred in downtown Kelowna.
Worona said as the city learns more about the program and the desires of users, additional technology will be built into the system. For instance, the ability to allow users to lock and hold their bikes between trips is currently being worked on. That would allow for return journeys.
Currently the system allows for one-way trips but does not give the rider the ability to keep a bike from being taken by another rider with the app who can unlock it.
“But the aim of the program is to never be to far from another bike,” said Worona, not as is the case in other areas with dockless bike share systems, riders should not expect to return on the same bike they used to start their journey if they stop along the way for any length of time.
As for the roll-out of the program, he said it has been smooth, with only one instance of damage—minor breakage of a front light on one bike— and no thefts. The bikes have GPS units and can be tracked if taken, use non-standard parts so have little salvage value and require the app to release the back wheel.
In addition to the hold feature, Worona said other technology being worked includes the ability to pay in other ways than just by credit card, such as with a credit-debit card and by cash and having information about a ride, such as distance and cost, sent by text to the rider’s phone.
Following the pilot project, Kelowna city hall hopes to have enough information to issue a competitive call for proposals for a permanent bike share program in the city, which could be a continuation of the existing Dropbike program or an entirely new program.
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