Dockless, GPS-enabled fleet has bike-share optimistic about Victoria market
A bike-share company hoping to cash in on Victoria’s cyclist-friendly reputation says it won’t suffer the same fate as services that have failed in other major cities.
China-based U-Bicycle is launching a fleet of 150 app-controlled, self-locking bikes that will be available to the public on Sept. 30.
The company said it identified B.C.’s capital as the perfect place to branch out into the North American market for the first time.
“I’m so excited that Victoria’s our first launch in North America,” said CEO Grace Min. “It’s bringing a green lifestyle into the city and helping the daily commute of the people here. It’s great.”
Riders can access the bike-share by downloading a free app, paying a deposit ($29 for students under 25, $49 for anyone over 25) and then scanning a QR code to unlock the bike.
After the deposit, which the company says is refundable any time, rides will cost $1 per 30 minutes.
The service will also provide helmets for riders who don’t have them, but they’re also free to use their own, Min said.
Unlike other services that require riders return to designated docking stations, U-Bicycle says its fleet can be parked anywhere within the service area as long as it’s done legally and responsibly.
The wheels automatically lock when not in use, meaning someone can’t just hop on and start pedalling.
Min said her company has learned lessons from other bike-share endeavours in North America, including a failed city-subsidized service in nearby Seattle.
City officials there blamed the failure of the Pronto bike-share program in part on Seattle’s many hills, something U-Bicycle was careful to avoid in its first foray into the North American market.
“Victoria’s downtown is very flat, it’s very suitable for riding a bicycle,” said Min. “Also, it’s because of our technology. We’re dockless, we’re trying to provide affordable pricing on this so more people can enjoy the daily commuting.”
There’s also the concern of theft in Victoria, where 75 bicycles were stolen in July alone.
The company says with GPS tracking it’ll be easy to track where all of its bikes are at any given time, making it easier to track down any possible stolen ones.
While the company isn’t receiving financial support from the city, officials are welcoming it with open arms.
“Victoria is Canada’s cycling capital and we are thrilled to see this business open,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “We’ll see. I hope they don’t fail. I think they’re well-positioned for success.”
After the company launches its initial fleet of 150 bikes at the end of the month, it says it expects to roll out another 150 before the year’s end.
Min said the company will also work with other cities on the island to see if it can expand U-Bicycle’s service area.
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Scott Cunningham