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Public bike share system

Public bike share in Montreal

In 2015, the City will launch a network of shared bicycles available for short-term use for a fee.

The public bike share system (PBS) will add a convenient, comfortable, flexible, and affordable way to cycle in Vancouver. Bikes will be located at secure, easy-to-use, automated docking stations.

The PBS system will be privately owned and operated.

More than 500 cities around the world, such as Montreal, New York City, Boston, and Washington, DC, have started public bike shares.

Goals of bike sharing

In addition to providing people with a healthy transportation option, public bike share systems can help:

  • Extend the reach of transit and walking trips
  • Reduce the need for personal vehicle trips
  • Trigger greater interest in cycling, and increase cycling ridership

A public bike share system aligns with the City’s Transportation 2040 Plan and Greenest City 2020 Action Plan objectives of making cycling a viable, sustainable transportation option.

Read about related initiatives in depth

Recent developments with this initiative

Council approves public bike share contract and budget

July 23, 2013 – Council approved a five-year contract with Alta, provided that Alta meets the sponsorship and lending agreement requirements.

Staff update external stakeholders

May 2013 – City staff met again with external stakeholders over two sessions to give a project status update and present strategies to address concerns raised in the September 2012 sessions.

Staff negotiate an agreement-in-principle with Alta

April 2013 – The City negotiated and settled an agreement in principle with Alta that outlines the roles and responsibilities for both parties.

Park Board to include PBS stations in parks

November 26, 2012 – The Park Board carried a motion to include bike share stations in destination parks, such as Stanley Park, and in recreation facilities that are located within the PBS system boundary.

Staff will explore options to lessen the business impact of the bike share on bike rental shops, particularly around Stanley Park.

Council amends bylaws to help implement PBS system

October 17, 2012 – Council approved the proposed bylaw changes at the October 16th public hearing and additional bylaw amendments at the October 17th Planning, Transportation, and Environment Committee meeting.

September 18, 2012 – Council received a report on potential bylaw changes to help implement and operate the PBS system. The proposed bylaw amendments would allow for:

  • Bike share stations to be placed on public and private property 
  • Logos and signs on bikes and stations to acknowledge sponsors, subject to requirements
  • Commercial transactions to rent bikes

These proposed changes to the Sign Bylaw, Zoning and Development Bylaw, and Comprehensive District (CD-1) Bylaws were referred to the October 16, 2012 public hearing.

City consults with external stakeholders to explore PBS impacts

September 2012 – To get feedback on the planned PBS system, City staff held four consultation sessions with 35 external stakeholders, including:

  • Bike advocacy groups and other interest groups
  • Bike rental operators and retailers
  • Business improvement associations (BIAs)
  • Citizen advisory groups
  • Tourism representatives
  • TransLink
  • UBC and SFU
  • Vancouver Police Department

Consultation sessions focused on three themes: impacts to bike-related businesses, safety considerations, and impacts on the public realm.

Alta agrees to meet City conditions before contract awarded

August 2, 2012 – The City set out conditions that Alta agreed to meet before the City awards the legal contract. Alta must secure a minimum level of sponsorship funding, confirm lending agreements, and deliver a helmet distribution plan and prototype.

City identifies leading proponent and starts negotiations

June 13, 2012 – The Director of Transportation updated Council on the PBS procurement process, and outlined the business model, key success factors, risks and mitigation strategies.

Alta Bicycle Share, Inc. from Portland, Oregon, is identified as the preferred operator. Alta operates PBS systems in Boston, Washington, New York City, Chicago, and Melbourne.

Public Bike System Company (also known as PBSC or Bixi) will supply equipment to Alta.

Evaluation of submitted proposals and PBS research

May 2012 – Between July 2011 and May 2012, City staff evaluated submitted PBS proposals and short-listed two proponents for further evaluation, working with several peer cities and potential local partners, such as TransLink, UBC, and the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Separately, staff analyzed the experiences of other cities with PBS systems.

Call for proposals to create a public bike share system

April 2011 – Through its procurement process, the City of Vancouver issued a Request for Expressions of Interest to request interested parties to develop, install, own, operate, and finance a PBS system. Six submissions were received.

Service area, bikes, stations, and helmets

The PBS service area includes the downtown peninsula, plus the area between Arbutus Street, 12th Avenue, and Main Street. This area suits a PBS because of the high number of homes, offices, and businesses, and the potential for many short-distance bicycle trips.

1,500 seven-speed, adult-sized bikes will be available at 125 solar-powered stations with 2,850 docks, spaced every two to three blocks on streets, sidewalks, plazas, parks, and private property within the service area. We are still deciding on exact locations.

Because all cyclists must wear helmets, each station will have a helmet vending machine and helmet return receptacle. You will be able to rent a helmet at the same time that you rent a bike, and return the helmet to any station. After each rental, Alta will sanitize and inspect returned helmets for safety and wear before replacing them in the vending machines.

Alta will redistribute bicycles and helmets throughout the day to ensure a sufficient supply at the docking stations.


Purchasing daily, weekly, or annual memberships will give you access to the public bike share. A membership includes unlimited trips up to 30 minutes at no additional charge. However, for trips longer than 30 minutes, you will pay additional usage fees. 

Alta will consult with the City to set PBS prices that discourage competition with bike rental shops, and that are in line with other North American cities that have PBS systems. For example, PBS rates will best suit short rides under 30 minutes, while rides over two hours will be cheaper at bike rental shops.

Helmet rentals will also be available at every station for a daily rate.


Date Milestone

April 2011

  • City calls for expressions of interest to implement and operate a public bike share (PBS) system

June 2011 

  • City holds a public open house about the PBS

June 2012 

  • City staff identify Alta Bike Share, Inc. as the preferred operator, and begin negotiations 

Fall 2012 

  • Council amends bylaws to help implement the PBS system
  • Staff hold four consultation sessions with external stakeholders to explore PBS impacts

Spring 2013

  • Staff continue negotiations with Alta
  • Staff hold additional information meetings to update stakeholders

Summer 2013

  • Council authorizes staff to enter into a contract with Alta, provided they meet sponsorship and financing requirements

The remaining timeline below may change, based on Council entering into a contract with Alta, and on Alta's ability to meet City requirements. 


  • City and Alta to conclude negotiations and enter into contract
  • Stakeholder conversation and engagement


  • PBS field testing of helmet distribution system, with 250 bikes at 25 stations
  • Implement all stations and bikes
  • Complete PBS system testing, and incorporate findings
  • PBS official launch with 1500 bikes at 125 stations

The owner-operator's role

As the expected third-party owner and operator of the PBS system, Alta Bike Share, Inc. will:

  • Be responsible for capital and operating requirements
  • Secure the necessary funding to deliver the PBS system with corporate sponsorship revenues and bank financing
  • Charge membership fees and user fees
  • Ensure the PBS system is safe and usable 

This business model is similar with PBS systems in many other North American cities.

The City's role

To help the public bike share system succeed, the City will:

  • Provide a one-time financial contribution towards buying equipment 
  • Engage with and maintain an ongoing relationship with Alta
  • Provide ongoing in-kind support, including some station sites 
  • Enable changes to appropriate regulations
  • Monitor system performance and progress on achieving transportation and sustainability goals

Council approved a one-time contribution of $6 million to Alta to help buy and install PBS equipment, and a budget of up to $1 million for City of Vancouver start-up staffing, signage, and wayfinding costs. In order to provide ongoing support for PBS, staff are recommending an average annual sustainment budget of up to $500,000 for staffing, signage, and wayfinding costs. The City will not provide any ongoing operational or financial guarantees.

To accommodate PBS stations on the street, some metered parking spaces will be removed.

Managing impacts to bike-related businesses

We heard the concerns of bike rental companies in consultation sessions and are working with Alta to lessen the impact of the PBS system on these businesses. The table below outlines our strategies to meet the concerns.


Concerns we heard  How we will reduce the impact

PBS stations may be placed too close to a bike rental shop 

  • Consult with the bike rental shop during the station-permitting process
  • Avoid placing stations within 50 metres of the shop

PBS stations in and around Stanley Park may compete with nearby bike rental shops  

  • Target residents and commuters as public bike share users, not tourists
PBS may offer cheaper bike rental fees than bike rental shops
  • Consult with Alta to set rental rates that encourage bike share users to use bike rental shops for rides over two hours


PBS users may not know about other options for renting bikes

  • Present bike rental options on Alta website and wayfinding signs at PBS stations
  • Encourage bike rental shops and bike retailers to partner with Alta to offer discounts on bike equipment and accessories to PBS users


Work leading up to this initiative

In 2008, Translink studied the feasibility of a public bike share system in Metro Vancouver. The investigation concluded that a PBS system would be viable and beneficial in high density areas with good public transit and cycling connections.

In March 2009, Vancouver City Council approved a motion directing staff to explore opportunities to implement a PBS system.

Public and stakeholder feedback was collected in two phases of public consultation in summer 2009 and summer 2011, and showed general support for a bike sharing.

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Last modified: Mon, 07 Apr 2014 10:03:34