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What if Kingston…

Bike Share, Kingston, OntarioAllow me to put the cart before the horse on this one. What if Kingston adopted a bike sharing system as an alternative for daily commuters, and to accommodate recreational tourists? In case you are unfamiliar with the concept of bike sharing, the name is somewhat of a misnomer. Basically the networked system employs multiple self-serve rental stations that are strategically positioned throughout a given city, while boroughs such as Washington D.C. (SmartBike DC), Barcelona (Bicing) and Montréal (Bixi) have already adopted their own versions of bike sharing.  Think of it as a vending machine that supplies a temporary mode of transportation, while the vending machines can be relocated to accommodate demand, and bicycles can be returned to any station.

These systems are geared towards convenience, as they accept multiple forms of payment including online and subscription methods, allow 24-hour service, place no restriction on the amount of time you can rent a bike, and can be configured to provide vital stats regarding individual usage.  Users can look up their real time, cumulative statistics including:  total number of trips, total/average usage time, total/average distance travelled, total gas saved, and total reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  As a city that’s trying to claim Canada’s sustainability crown, increasing bike usage will have a direct, positive impact on the environment, and help clear congestion on our streets.

Downtown Kingston, Queen’s, RMC and St. Lawrence campuses, the Kingston Centre, as well as Wolfe Island would be prime locations for future bike sharing hubs.  That said, providing rental bikes in isolation of key infrastructure may not be a recipe for success.  And here’s where the horse comes into the picture.  Kingston is severely lacking bike lanes, and a comprehensive recreational pathway along our waterfront.  If old cities such as London, Paris and Boston are making additional room on their streets for cyclists, and also incorporating bike sharing systems, why isn’t the Limestone City?

It is worth noting that Kingston already has a bike sharing service, which goes by the name of Yellow Bike Action.  Since 2000, YAB has been handing out free used bicycles to children in need, as well as providing affordable repairs and bike rental services.  As a grass roots initiative, YAB is starkly different than the systems mentioned above as they do not provide city-wide self service stations stocked with shiney new bikes, equipped with GPS and other bells and whistles.  Still though, for $5 a day YAB fills the void until the City of Kingston jumps on the bike sharing bandwagon.  Thanks to BikePortland.org for the photo of Montréal’s Bixi bike share system.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

5 thoughts on “What if Kingston…

  • October 8, 2009 at 9:39 pm
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    “YAB is starkly different than the systems mentioned above as they do not provide city-wide self service stations stocked with shiney new bikes…”

    Well, the thing is, they did. They used to have a service where you ‘rent’ a key to several bike lock ups downtown. However, it only takes one bad apple in the batch – people got the keys and then simply stole all the bikes, at which point the service was canceled.

  • October 8, 2009 at 9:58 pm
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    4 out of the 6 locations mentioned are educational institutions, where biking has more popularity and support, and where you are just preaching to the converted. Downtown is not as important for bikelanes, because the bike culture is entrenched on downtown roads, stuff is even close enough to walk to…

    …and most auto traffic comes from the ‘burbs (the kind of traffic you want to convert to bikes). Why? Because the ‘burbanites don’t have any other choice. So give them some – rabblerouse for any new roadwork going on, such as Taylor-Kidd just had done.

    And really, Wolfe Island??? That just makes me want to buy an SUV.

  • October 9, 2009 at 3:15 am
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    I think that this type of program would be a great idea for this city. I love biking, but as I live in a 4th floor apartment with almost no extra room for storage, I have never spent the money on a new bike. Having this type of program would allow me to bike ride once a week without the hassle of storage or lugging a bike up four flights of stairs…lol. It would be a great addition to the tourist industry as well. Bike tours through some of the nicer, scentic areas of the city, etc. I imagine that the initial cost to the city would be pricing but if marketed right then it would be possible for them to make the money back in a few years while at the same time providing great PR for the city.

  • October 9, 2009 at 9:43 am
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    The city needs to work on getting some bike lanes. I stopped biking to work at RMC because crossing the causeway (aka green monster) is just too sketchy. Plus every year we hear about a major accident on the east end of a car and a biker (was 2 this year).

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