Hamilton On. is not having a good year for cycling.
At a city council public works meeting in January, Hamilton city council stalled a move to add three blocks of bike lanes around a GO train station as councillors argued it would interfere with parking. Councillor Esther Pauls stated that when she goes downtown, she sees people “begging for money” on bike lanes, not using them as transportation. The same day Pauls also estimated that there are only about 100 cyclists in Hamilton. Although she later claimed she was referring to a specific area, her comment was regarded as ignorant by a number of Hamiltonians, including many of the 26,000 SoBi bike share program members.
Hamilton bike share users let down once again
Despite 600 new users signing up for the SoBi bike share program since the pandemic began, this month Uber—who just signed a one year bike share operation contract with the city in February—unexpectedly announced it would pull out of the agreement. The city had until June 1 to decide how to proceed.
“We’ve been forced into this situation,” said councillor Nrinder Nann, “and we have a responsibility as a municipal government to serve our people.”
“If we don’t act today, we risk losing SoBi for good. This isn’t something we can afford to lose.”
The council would have to allocate $400,000 to keep the city’s SoBi bike program going until the end of the year. On May 27, after a 15-hour meeting, they voted 8-8 against spending funds (a tie means the vote failed and the funding will not go through).
What happens next
The bikes will be put into storage on June 1, leaving the 26,000 SoBi members to find other means of transit. Of these members, 500 depended on free or discounted SoBi passes arranged by Canada’s first cycling equity program, the Everyone Rides Initiative.
There is a possibility of the bikes returning to the streets, but it will be a minimum of six months before city staff are able to secure new bike share operators. The cost of keeping the bikes in storage has not been made public.
Many Hamiltonians took to Twitter to express their anger with the situation.
Infuriating. SoBi is how I commute to school and volunteering – alongside 26,000 other Hamilton residents. Guess this isn’t important to the 8 councillors who voted against bringing SoBi in house temporarily so we could keep riding IN A PANDEMIC. I’ve never been so disappointed. https://t.co/rut53xCf7y
— Carly Eisbrenner (@CarlyEisbrenner) May 28, 2020
She stopped using public transit to practice physical distancing. Her living space cannot accommodate a bike. And even if it could, she can't carry it up a flight. She bikes to the library to get her news & to cool down. Libraries are closed. "What happened last night?"
— Maureen Wilson (@ward1wilson) May 28, 2020
Do you know who (for the most part) DONT own their own bikes? People who live in small apartments with other people, who don’t own cars, many of whom are ‘essential workers’. Killing Sobi will mean these workers are exposed to COVID on public transit. https://t.co/EFh09YY4aN
— Soph-cially Distancing Geffros (@sgeffros) May 28, 2020
We aren't giving up yet, #HamOnt! We are so grateful for your support of bike share, and there's still time to act.
Stay tuned, there is much more to come.
— Everyone Rides Initiative (@Everyone_Rides_) May 28, 2020