Saturday July 1st I was at the Farmer’s Market and a young girl of 13 approached me with a great question. She had recently been travelling and saw some bike sharing stations and wanted to know if we could do the same here in St. Albert?
First off, I was impressed with Stella’s question and how well she articulated it. I love our youth!
Bike sharing is a great example of the sharing economy; something I’m a big believer in. These systems provide access to bicycles for trips in an urban area as an alternative to motorized public transport or private vehicles, thereby reducing traffic congestion, parking concerns, noise, and air pollution. They can be a wonderful addition to an active city with public transit as a way to get from a transit station to your final local destination.
These programs can take on many forms; the one a city chooses depends on a great many variables. I think St. Albert should try the “Community Bike share model” which is largely volunteer driven and therefore wouldn’t cost tax payers a lot of money. Imagine the city, or better yet corporate sponsors, providing special bike racks that are easily recognized by colour and signage with used bikes that have been refurbished and painted by volunteers. Our recycling depot has dozens of bikes discarded each year! We could place stations in our downtown, along the trail system, Servus Place, transit centers, etc. People could just take a bike and return it to the same or a different station anywhere.
I have long been contemplating introducing this model in St. Albert, but I always run into the hurdle of our helmet bylaw. At the Farmer’s Market while this young enthusiastic girl and I were discussing how we could do it, the chair of our Environmental Advisory Committee joined the conversation and mentioned the idea of disposable paper helmets.
This morning I sent the designer an email to further investigate the vending machines, cost, and options. I envision asking for corporate sponsorship and I already have many bikers ready to help with the refurbishment and maintenance of the donated bikes.
A grass roots, resident driven, volunteer run, service that benefits the community and ties into the use of our existing trails, facilities, and events. All at next to no cost for the tax payers. A win-win for everyone.
I’m excited that this young 13 year old girl prompted a conversation that overcame the hurdle I’ve been facing for years. She’s proof that our youth need to be part of our conversations. Together our community, young and old, can find the solutions.