This summer, residents on both sides of the river will be able to take advantage of fast, healthy, eco-friendly transit — without owning their own bikes.
The National Capital Commission and the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau launched their Ottawa-Gatineau Bike Share Trial Run Monday. The program — which allows residents, workers and visitors in the National Capital Region to travel in a greener way — is also part of a feasibility study for a permanent bike share program.
"This is another positive step towards making the National Capital Region a more vibrant, livable and attractive place," said NCC CEO Marie Lemay. "It lays the groundwork for a broader progressive initiative that encourages environmentally friendly travel."
Now through the end of September, 50 bicycles will be available between four stations, two located in each of downtown Ottawa and downtown Gatineau.
Users swipe their credit cards to pay a $3 user fee and to get a code to unlock a bike. While the first half hour is free, bikes are charged per half hour of use after that. The fee structure is designed for shorter trips, so that bikes are available to others.
Users will be asked to provide feedback on the system and their experiences.
If all goes well, there could be 300 to 500 shared bikes in the region this time next year, said Lemay. "The residents here are very environmentally conscious," she said. "We think this is going to be very well received."
The unisex, three-speed bikes to be used here — designed for public bike sharing in Montreal — have lots of features that make it easy for a variety of people to use, said Public Bike System company president Alain Ayotte.
The seats are adjustable and the tires are wide, making them easier to ride. The bikes will be checked and maintained on a regular basis, said Ayotte. The system, which features a patent lock and an internal security device, also guards against theft.
"This is another option in addition to the many sustainable transportation modes that currently exist in the region," said Gatineau Mayor Marc Bureau.
Ottawa is committed to making the city even more cycle-friendly, said Ottawa Acting Mayor Michel Bellemare. "This will hopefully lead to a permanent bike share for Ottawa and Gatineau."