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Public bike share system

Public bike share in Montreal

The City plans to launch a public bike share (PBS) system – a network of shared bicycles available for short-term use for a fee.

With bicycles located across the network at secure, easy-to-use docking stations, they offer a convenient, comfortable, flexible, and affordable way to get around.

More than 500 cities around the world, such as Montreal, New York City, Boston, and Seattle 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.

Recent developments with this initiative

City to seek new partnerships for public bike share system

June 11, 2015 – In the coming weeks, we'll seek bids from proponents to provide, implement, and operate a bike share system. The procurement process will reflect recent changes in the bike share industry and provide an opportunity to consider new proponents and new technologies.

Although we had identified Alta as the preferred proponent through a request for expressions of interest in 2011, Alta and its partner Bixi have both undergone major restructuring and corporate change since that time. As a result, the City and Motivate (formerly Alta) have not reached an agreement.

Past developments

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

Related initiatives

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: Wed, 17 Jun 2015 08:19:14