125 helmet vending machines to be paired with bike share stations: CEO

Vancouver's new bike share system will comply with the province's helmet law by using helmet vending machines at each of the 125 Bixi stations expected to be in place by next spring, the system's future owner and operator revealed Tuesday.

No other city in the world with a mandatory helmet law has managed to successfully integrate a helmet system, so Alta Bicycle Share's plan for Vancouver is going to be something of an experiment.

"It's going to be a seamless rental process, which means we'll be handling the financial transactions, which means when you swipe your card you can rent the bike and the helmet at the same time," Alta CEO Michael Jones told Metro on Day 1 of the Velo-City 2012 conference in Vancouver.

He said the company has learned from its mistakes in Melbourne, Australia, where it installed just two vending machines and cyclists at all other stations were forced to hike to nearby retail outlets to rent them. Public response has been lukewarm at best.

"We're expecting [the helmet law] to depress ridership a little bit, and we're using the Melbourne projection just to be conservative, but we're hoping it's not going to be as depressed because it's going to be more convenient."

The helmets will be one-size-fits-all with adjustable straps, according to Jones, and the same trucks that redistribute the bikes will redistribute the helmets.

The vending machines will take care of sanitization by steam cleaning.