Bike-sharing program ready to roll

Thieves fail to put brakes on trust-based collaborative effort

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Published April 16, 2007 by Canada.com
By Ron Chalmers 

Thieves fail to put brakes on trust-based collaborative effort

EDMONTON – Scott McAnsh hopes the Peoples Pedal bike-sharing program will flourish again this spring — without the thefts that decimated the fleet last fall.

For two years, Peoples Pedal has supplied bicycles for use by members who pay $25 annually or volunteer four hours of maintenance work.

McAnsh, the founding president, says they typically lose about one bike each month. But last October they lost 20.

Peoples Pedal has eight bicycle racks — supplied by the city — downtown, at the University of Alberta, in Old Strathcona, and near LRT stations. Each rack has a lockbox with a combination that is given to members and changed every three weeks. Inside each box are keys to the locks on the bikes in that rack.

Thanks to donations from individuals, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters, and purchases at police auctions, there are now 40 bikes in the fleet.

The red bikes all are modified to single speed, reducing the maintenance they require — and their commercial value.

In a similar program in Paris, McAnsh says, theft is reduced by requiring users to swipe a credit card before removing a bike — but card readers would cost Peoples Pedal $5,000 apiece.

In Amsterdam, bikes are distributed freely, with no locks. "Initially, they lost a lot of bikes," McAnsh says. "But then the thieves were saturated."

For now, his plan is simply "to trust the members."

The bikes are meant to be returned to any of the racks, and are not to be borrowed overnight; members do not use them as primary transportation, McAnsh says.

Peoples Pedal had about 60 members last year. McAnsh hopes the program will expand this year, with Edmonton Transit advertising the service on buses.

rchalmers@thejournal.canwest.com