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Local bike rental shops feeling pinch of Vancouver’s new Mobi bike share

Owners of some local bike rental stores are worried that the accessibility of Vancouver’s public bike share makes it attractive to tourists

Jason Bernknopf and Audrey Gil, visiting from Austin, Texas, rent Mobi bikes for the first time, beside Canada Place on Sunday.

Laura Fortey/For Metro

Jason Bernknopf and Audrey Gil, visiting from Austin, Texas, rent Mobi bikes for the first time, beside Canada Place on Sunday.

Vancouver’s new bike share is off to a roaring start, but local bike rental companies say they have been feeling the impact of the new competition.

“While it’s great to see more bikes in lanes, it’s tough on shop owners who pay rent and taxes to compete with government subsidized competition,” said Brian Vetter, owner of Spokes Bike Rentals, on West Georgia Street at Denman.

“We don’t have an even playing field here...we were told [Mobi] is for commuters and won’t target tourists,” Vetter said.

Mobi launched on July 20 with 23 stations and 250 bikes. It eventually aims to expand to 150 stations and 1,500 bikes.

At its launch last month, Vancouver Bike Share general manager Mia Kohout said the city had taken steps to address concerns from bike rental companies.

“[Mobi] is geared to improve our transportation network, it’s not made as a recreational system for tourists,” said Kohout. “If you keep a bike longer than 30 minutes, you’re going to be dinged for an additional $5 for every half-hour you keep that bike. I think it’s important to see that bike share is not the same as bike rentals.”

On Thursday Mobi opened up to the wider public, offering a $7.50 day pass, which gives the user unlimited rides under 30 minutes. Monthly pass options ranging from $10 - $20 are also now available.

Joe Kainer, owner of English Bay Bike Rentals, said a double Mobi stations sits at the entrance to Stanley Park, on the corner of Davie and Denman, just 75 metres from his shop.

“We see people renting bikes from there all the time,” said Kainer. “I would like to see Mobi succeed in what they claim, providing transportation for locals who need a short trip use ... but it is upsetting when the government takes tax dollars and subsidizes a private American company to compete with the locals.”

On Sunday a sampling of Mobi racks found that while the bike share is attractive to tourists, visitors were finding it difficult to use. The need to visit the website, create a profile, sign up and pay extra for trips longer than 30 minute increments didn’t allow for easy rental for visitors.

“We rented bikes in Chicago and the system there is much more user friendly,” said Jason Bernknopf from Texas.

“I can’t find an app and it is frustrating to use the website. Registering shouldn’t have to be part of the process,” said Bernknopf.

Two tourists from Germany were having trouble with registering their account and using up data on their phones.

“In our town bike sharing is free for the first 30 minutes, so this seems rather expensive to be charged every half hour,” said Sabina Hofmann-Paetzold. In the end the pair couldn’t unlock the bikes and decided Spokes Rentals would better suit their desire to explore Stanley Park for the day.

With Files from Matt Kieltyka/Metro

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