Two things holding back Calgary’s new e-bike-sharing system

My first ride on a Lime e-bike in Calgary. Photo by Tom Babin.

Finally, Calgary finally has a bike-share program. In the video below, I detail my first experience with it. Now, pat us on the back for joining the rest of the world, where such systems have been enjoyed for years.

But I’ve been thinking a bit more since I finished the video,
 and there are two big problems that face the success of the system in these early

Correction to the video above: Cost is $1/unlock + $0.30/min to ride.

E-bikes: I love e-bikes, and at first I was happy that Lime decided to enter the Calgary market with only pedal-assist bikes available. But there’s a shortcoming.

One of the great things about e-bikes is their ability to ease
 the ascending of big hills. Calgary’s downtown is in the valley of two rivers,
 meaning big hills surround it. This has long been one of the things discouraging
 some people from bicycle commuting downtown. However, Lime’s home area — the area
 where you are permitted to leave the shared e-bikes — excludes many of these
 hilly areas. That means the places where e-bikes would be of most benefit are
 excluded from use.

This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s a missed opportunity. Hopefully,
 Lime will take this into consideration when considering the long-term feasibility
 of the program.

Obscure e-bike helmet law: I’ve always taken a bit of pride in the fact that Calgary has avoided the folly of our neighbourhing province of B.C. with its misguided bicycle-helmet requirements. But sitting on the books in Alberta all these years, unbeknownst to me, was a law mandating helmet use on motorcycles, mopeds and motor-assisted bicycles.

This means that to legally ride a Lime e-bike in Calgary,
 you need to wear a helmet. So unless you happen to carry a helmet around with
 you, just in case, your opportunities to ride will be limited. If you are one
 of those multi-modal commute planners who uses Lime to complete the last mile
 of your journey, I can imagine you planning to bring a helmet along. For the
 rest of us, those opportunistic rides will be mostly off-limits.

This law feels like antiquated, written when motor-assisted bicycles
 were mopeds and two-stroke gas sippers, not the high-tech pedal-assisted bikes
 of today. Let’s hope the provincial government brings the law up to date. While
 they’re at it, maybe they can update all the laws around e-bikes — California’s
 legislation is a good place to start.

Because of these factors, I can’t see myself using this
 first wave of Lime e-bikes much in the foreseeable future. I’ll be holding out
 more for the spring, when the system expands to include old-school pedal bikes
 and another company enters the fray.

Baby steps, Calgary.

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Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling.

Originally published at Shifter.