News / Vancouver

Rain more discouraging to bike share users than helmet law: researcher

While there were fears B.C.'s mandatory bike helmet law would dampen enthusiasm for bike share, SFU research suggests it's low on the list of barriers

Mobi users at Canada Place

Laura Fortey/For Metro

Mobi users at Canada Place

British Columbia’s mandatory bike helmet law doesn’t seem to be discouraging users of the Vancouver’s new bike share system, according to preliminary research from researchers at Simon Fraser University.

“We’re collecting data on usage of bike helmets amongst usage of public bike share users, so we’re on the street right now counting how much they use and how they don’t,” said Meghan Winters, a health sciences professor who studies the link between transporation and health. “But what I can say is that it appears to be not too different from (the general cycling population).”

There were fears that Vancouver’s mandatory bike helmet law would prevent people from using the system. But Winters’ research, based on surveys in 2012 and 2015, suggests the bike helmet law is low on the list of things users say would prevent them from using the system.

“The factors that are important with whether or not people will use bike share have to do with rain and adverse weather, whether there are separated cycling facilities and connected networks of bike routes in their area, the costs associated with the membership, and then maybe we would talk about helmets.”

Researchers have observed Mobi users wearing their own helmets, using the Mobi helmets, and not wearing helmets at all (and yes, some users are donning the hairnets Mobi provides to go under the public helmets).

Jens von Bergmann, a data analyst based in Vancouver, has been collecting data from the Mobi site. Usage has remained fairly constant — except when it rains, when ridership can drop by as much as 45%, he said. The busiest station is currently the one located on the Seawall at the base of Ontario Street.

Mobi is in the midst of rolling out more stations and has increased the number of staff to rebalance the bikes. The bike share is also planning to roll out an app “soon,” said Mia Klahout, general manager of Mobi.

There is potential for Mobi to link its data with other transportation providers like TransLink and car share services like Car2Go, von Bergmann said. An example is Transit App, created by developers in Montreal. It combines information for transit, car share, bike share and Uber for several cities.

It’s a great idea, but for now Mobi is focused on getting the system up and running, Kohout said. The bike share will be adding another 20 stations to its existing 50 soon. The system currently has 4,000 yearly members, 1,000 monthly pass holders and around 150 day users per day, for a total of 50,000 trips since July 20th.

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