As the City of Vancouver battles with anti-bike lane elements over the sometimes inappropriate placement and location of bike lanes and now attempts to fund an expensive albeit well-intentioned bike-sharing program, it appears to be ignoring a major deterrent to both long and short-distance cycling trips; bicycle theft.
Like a plague, bicycle theft has arguably been one of the biggest obstacles to cycling in Metro Vancouver and the problem shows no signs of going away. This problem exists because our officials not only lack the ability to consider practical, new solutions that exist outside the limited lens through which they perceive the world, but because they are unable to even see what other places around the world have done to tackle such issues.
If cities like Vancouver are willing to spend millions of dollars to set up and fund bike sharing programs that will inevitably struggle with the problem of theft and vandalism, perhaps they should first commit such funds towards partnerships with existing or new businesses to set up secured bicycle storage facilities that can be used by cyclists for a nominal fee. For someone that has had their bicycle stolen while locked on 2 occasions, both of which have deterred me from using my bike over the past decade, I would gladly pay a fee to ensure that my bicycle will still be there in its entirety when I return to it.
Currently, the bus loop next to Brentwood Station (as do some other SkyTrain stations) has rentable bicycle storage lockers provided by TransLink. These lockers prevent thieves from even taking parts of bicycles as they are completely covered from view and reach. The lockers cost $10 per month which is a reasonable price. However, flexibility is limited as you are able to only use the one locker only at that one location which limits your possible destinations to that one area. Such lockers are essentially only good for those that need to bike to a SkyTrain station to commute for work on the train and if that is your only cycling need, this bike locker program is perfect. But what about everyone else that would like to use their bicycle to get to various destinations?
In Tokyo the following types of pay locks exist where users pay per use to ensure that their bicycles are safe. They are free for under 2 hours of use and cost $1 for every 6 hours of use. Once the bicycle is rolled onto the rack, a lock is automatically triggered. The user then goes to the pay machine where they receive a code after entering the bike lock number. When they return, they are able to enter the code given and take their bicycle either for free or for the appropriate cost if they've used the lock for more than 2 hours. This might work in a place like Tokyo but in a place like Metro Vancouver where bike-theft-culture abounds, it wouldn't work so well unless the concept is tweaked to prevent bike part-theft and to prevent vandalism of the pay machines themselves.
Such a city program in collaboration with private security companies that can monitor a modified version of the above pay-per-use bicycle locks or a collaboration with TransLink to expand the current bike locker program would be a far better and safer investment of tax-payer dollars than a bike-share program that is open to various problems including theft and vandalism.
While creating more dedicated and designated bicycle routes to increase safety and cycling is a good idea, the issue of theft will only limit the use of bicycles to mainly recreational purposes instead of for other daily life uses.