Although it looked like Hamilton’s SoBi bike share program was gone for good, the program has been saved by the efforts of the Hamilton cycling community and a local non-profit.
When Uber unexpectedly pulled out of its contract with Hamilton in February, the future of the city’s bike share program was left in the hands of city council. The SoBi bike share network has 26,000 members, 600 of which have joined since the pandemic began. 500 of SoBi members depended on free or discounted SoBi passes for transit—arranged by Canada’s first cycling equity program, the Everyone Rides Initiative. Despite the large user base and public outcry, Hamilton city council voted against spending $400,000 to maintain the program for the year.
The council’s decision sparked anger in the Hamilton community.
A well articulated email to councillors regarding saving @SoBiHamilton elicits this response from Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson. #HamOnt “Can you not get your own bike?” pic.twitter.com/qe6gHonsfs
— Ronin (@__Ronin) May 29, 2020
I am so embarrassed to be a member of #HamOnt City Council right now.
Make no mistake – the majority of Council killed @SoBiHamilton out of pure spite. They voted it down because it is important to the wrong people – they know you care about it & know it would hurt.
— John-Paul Danko (@JohnPaulDanko) May 28, 2020
Frustrated by the situation, non-profit organization Hamilton Bike Share Inc. set up a GoFundMe to raise funds and save the program. In less than a week $71,448 were raised, including a $1,000 donation from local indie band the Arkells.
The non-profit approached city council with the GoFundMe donations, paired with a $100,000 gift from the Patrick J. McNally charitable foundation and bike share user revenue. Hamilton Bike Share Inc., which ran the bike share program from 2014 to 2019 before Uber stepped in, was a approved to run Sobi for the next nine months.
The SoBi bikes will be back in service within the next week. In the meantime the bikes will remain non-functional.