Report to/Rapport au :


Transportation Committee

Comité des transports


and Council / et au Conseil


18 March 2011 / le 18 mars 2011


Submitted by/Soumis par : Nancy Schepers, Deputy City Manager/Directrice municipale adjointe, Infrastructure Services and Community Sustainability/Services d’infrastructure et Viabilité des collectivités


Contact Person/Personne ressource : Vivi Chi, Manager – Transportation Planning Branch/Division de la planification de transport, Planning and Growth Management Department/Service d’aménagement et de gestion de la croissance

(613) 580-2424 extension/poste 21877,



Ref N°: ACS2011-ACS-PGM-0046




Bike Share System - Update








That Transportation Committee recommend that Council:


1.                  Defer the City’s participation in the Bike Share System until enhanced cycling infrastructure is in place in the downtown; and


2.                  Reallocate the $500,000 for the Bike Share System approved in the 2010 Budget to the Somerset Tunnel portion of the cycling infrastructure program as outlined in the report.




Que le Comité des transports recommande au Conseil :


1.                  de retarder la participation de la Ville au système de vélo-partage until que des infrastructures cyclistes sûres sont mises en place au centre-ville; et


2.                  de réorienter la somme déjà approuvée de 500 000 $ du système de vélo-partage vers le tunnel Somerset du programme d’infrastructures cyclistes, comme le précise ce rapport.





On 9 July 2008, as part of the Ottawa Cycling Plan approval, Council directed staff:


“… to investigate the implementation of a “smart bike” programme with the

private sector (examples: Montréal, Paris, Lyon – ‘Vélo V’)…”




The concept of a Bike Share System (BSS) is to provide low cost access to bicycles for primarily inner-city transportation thereby reducing traffic congestion, noise and air-pollution, while promoting a healthy activity and sustainable transportation option.


BSS stations are strategically placed at various locations throughout the city and are composed of electronically locking bike ports.  Bikes can travel freely and are returned to any of the stations within the network.  Telecommunication devices and “smart” technologies are commonly utilized to track and control the bicycles to aid in theft prevention, identification and tracking of technical difficulties, and payment processing.


BSSs provide a city wide cycling alternative but most successfully facilitate short distance travel and provide convenient connections to and from transit.  BSSs are a relatively cost-effective approach to solving what is commonly known as the "last mile" problem of public transportation, the distance between the commuter’s transit stop and destination. More cities are considering BSSs as a way to help achieve environmental, public health and Transportation Demand Management (TDM) related goals while improving the city's marketability.


BSSs are becoming more popular and active systems can be found in many cities worldwide, mostly in Europe where the concept originated.  Many other cities with traditionally automobile centred transportation systems are in various stages of study and development of BSSs, including some Canadian cities.




Pilot Project, 2009


Following Council direction, the Tripartite consisting of the National Capital Commission (NCC), the City of Gatineau, and the City of Ottawa, began discussions to gauge public and organizational interest of a BSS for the National Capital Region (NCR).


The Tripartite, led by the NCC, implemented a small Pilot Project in the downtown cores during the summer of 2009.  The Pilot Project was devised to promote a functioning BSS, encouraging residents and visitors to make use of an available fleet of rental bicycles in the downtown cores of both Ottawa and Gatineau.


Public Bike Systems with its Bixi bikes was selected to deliver the Pilot BSS.  The Pilot Project featured four fixed docking stations, two in Ottawa and two in Gatineau, with a total of 50 bikes in operation.  The stations were in place from 8 June 2009 to 22 September 2009, at the following locations:


·         near the National Art Centre, at the corner of Elgin Street and the Lawrence Freiman Alley next to the westbound side of the Canal Rideau pathway;

·         in the Byward Market, at the corner of Dalhousie Street and York Street;

·         in front of Maison du Citoyen, near the Canadian Museum of Civilization at the corner of rue Laurier and rue Victoria; and

·         in the Vieux-Hull, at the corner of promenade Portage and rue Laval (in front of the Federal Government Offices.


The Pilot BSS was accompanied by a modest communications campaign that included signage, posters, distributed leaflets, web presence, and a series of news releases.  Special demonstration stations were set up at a number of community events throughout the NCR during the project timeline.  A Street Team, composed of four summer students, was hired to promote and maintain the service on a day-to-day basis for the duration of the Pilot Project.


The performance statistics indicate that more than 3,000 residents and visitors logged 5,361 trips with the service during the duration of the Pilot project. July and August was the busiest period for the initiative with a steady daily average of 50 to 60 trips between the four stations.


Feasibility Study, 2009


Additionally, between April and December 2009, the Tripartite conducted a Feasibility Study to determine, analyze, and assess potential clientele, demand, and opportunities for a full-scale BSS.


The study determined that the BSS is deemed to be economically viable over the long term and it was therefore recommended that it be progressively developed in the region based on demand.  A service area that includes downtown Ottawa and Gatineau was identified for implementation of the first phase of service due to its high level of traffic and the concentration of destinations and primary attractions.


The Feasibility Study proposed an initial service that includes a minimum of 50 stations (32 in Ottawa, 18 in Gatineau) and 500 bicycles in the service area.  It is intended that the regional BSS will extend in stages to areas outside the initial service area and that this expansion of service will be based on market demand and viability of the service.


Setting up a Permanent Bike Share System


Based on the experiences from the Pilot Project and the recommendations of the Feasibility Study, the Tripartite project committee began the preliminary planning for the implementation of a full-scale service.


In early 2010, the Tripartite secured a total funding of $ 1.2M from its partners ($500,000 from the City of Ottawa, $400,000 from the NCC and $300,000 from the City of Gatineau).  The City’s intention was to provide “seed” funding so that a private sector service provider would implement, manage and operate the BSS without further public funding.


To that end, the Tripartite prepared a Request-for-Proposals (RFP) to solicit bids for a private “turn-key” service operator that was issued in May 2010.  The RFP was designed to limit the Tripartite’s financial contribution to a maximum $1M service fee whereby the private service provider would maintain ownership of the assets.  The extended length of the contract and the royalties that would have been required of the service provider were designed to ensure the high performance and quality standards that were expected.


The RFP included a two phased implementation of the system which would have seen a limited preliminary service of six to 10 stations, with 10 bikes per station in operation, beginning in the fall of 2010.  The purpose of the preliminary service was for service continuity from the 2009 Pilot Project and to launch the marketing initiatives in advance of the full implementation in the spring of 2011.


No submissions were received by the deadline of the RFP.  It may be that the proposed financial arrangement was viewed as too restrictive and limiting for the business model and that the required preliminary service was technically infeasible due to the tight timelines required.


Subsequently, a modified RFP was prepared and issued in July 2010 by the NCC on behalf of the Tripartite.  The modified RFP proposed a 2011 implementation and included a more traditional financial model consistent with other jurisdictions where the local agency, the Tripartite in this case, owns the BSS infrastructure and contracts a service provider to operate the system.  The procurement process followed the standard NCC protocols.  It was expected that a full-scale system to operate annually between April and November beginning in 2011 and would feature 500 bikes spread across 50 stations (32 in Ottawa and 18 in Gatineau).


However, based on the preferred submission, the secured funding from the Tripartite is insufficient to cover the implementation costs and the anticipated potential annual operational costs of the full scale system.  For the City of Ottawa, an additional $1.3M is needed to meet the City’s total required contributions of $1.8M, which represent approximately $1M of capital investment and an operating cost of $800,000 over five years.  The above required investment takes into account projected user revenues which cannot be guaranteed by the service provider.


Given that both the City of Ottawa and City of Gatineau do not have additional funding for this project in the 2011 budget, the NCC decided to proceed on its own with a limited system implementation.  The Commission announced on 4 March 2011 that it had reached an agreement with Public Bike System Company (PBSC) of Montreal, Québec to implement 10 stations with 100 bikes total using the Bixi system, beginning in May 2011.  The locations of these stations will likely be in the vicinity of the Confederation Boulevard, both in Gatineau and Ottawa.  The BSS system allows for future Ottawa and Gatineau participation and expansion at the discretion of each City and as funds become available.  At that time, each municipality will need to enter into its own contract with PBSC.


In addition to identified available funding, another key determinant of City of Ottawa participation will be the existence of enhanced cycling infrastructure in the downtown.


Cycling Challenges in the Downtown Area


The existing downtown cycling infrastructure within the identified BSS area is limited.  There are currently bike lanes located on Percy Street (southbound), Bay Street (northbound), on Lyon Street (southbound), on the Laurier Avenue Bridge (east-westbound), and on the Mackenzie King Bridge (east-westbound); additionally, there are multiuse pathways along Albert Street west of Bronson Avenue, and along the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal.  The remainder of the downtown cycling network is limited to shared traffic lanes.


The major challenge for cyclists in the downtown area is connecting east-west across the major travel axis of the core of the city.  Currently there are no designated cycling facilities crossing the downtown core between Elgin Street and Bronson Avenue.  The City currently recommends that cyclists use the shared lanes on Albert and Slater Streets.  There are also no north-south designated cycling facilities that are adequately serving the eastern areas of the core, in the O’Connor to Elgin region.  These represent significant missing areas in the network preventing proper connectivity.


There are also significant challenges connecting to the core from the existing major cycling access-ways, the multiuse pathways along Albert Street west of Bronson Avenue, along the Ottawa River at the Portage Bridge, on the Alexandria Bridge west of Mackenzie Avenue, and along the Rideau Canal, as most of these facilities either end abruptly or do not have many, if any, direct connections to the roadways.


Increased connectivity from the Ottawa River Parkway pathways to the Rideau Canal pathways at Dows Lake is required to provide a north-south link in the western parts of Centertown and connecting the two heavily used pathways.  Such a link would complete the pathway ring around the centretown of Ottawa.


The downtown cycling network especially lacks connectivity.  Very few of the existing facilities connect to one another, leaving most cyclists to ride in inappropriate and potentially dangerous locations such as on sidewalks or performing sudden merges into traffic.


City staff are currently working on implementing the approved Cycling Plan and focusing on solving many of these identified problems.  Some of the initiatives towards this goal include the Downtown Ottawa Mobility Overlay Study that will identify the transformative opportunities that can be capitalized on during and after the implementation of the City’s light rail transit project through the downtown.


Staff are pursuing other opportunities to incorporate improved cycling infrastructure as part of infrastructure works where technically feasible and introducing special projects to address some of the identified network challenges.  Foremost is the Council-approved Segregate Bike Lane Pilot Project which will provide physically separated bike lanes on Laurier Avenue from Elgin Street to Bronson Avenue.  Construction of the $1.3M project is due to begin in May 2011 and will be completed in the subsequent summer months. If the Pilot Project is proven successful, an extension of the Laurier Segregated Bike Lane eastward towards the Rideau River is possible in future years.


Staff are also working on many other initiatives, including working with the NCC to introduce bike lanes on Wellington Street between Portage Bridge and Lyon Street connection; and on Sussex Drive. There are also a number of pedestrian and cycling bridges that are currently under study; in particular, the Multiuse Pathway Crossing of the Rideau River (vicinity of Somerset Street East and Donald Street) that will connect the Sandy Hill and Overbrook communities and provide a direct pedestrian and cycling link to the downtown core via the Corktown Footbridge over the Rideau Canal.  Other projects include increased bike parking throughout the downtown and at transit stations, and the introduction of bike boxes at intersections to promote safe cycling movements in the downtown.  Implementation of these projects and others is anticipated to occur over the next few years, depending on funding levels.




Given the financial constraints regarding the implementation of the BSS and the current challenges indicated above, it is recommended that the City focus its efforts and resources on improving the downtown cycling network before participating in the BSS.  This can be further aided by re-directing the $500,000 in existing authority for the BSS to the cycling infrastructure program towards the implementation of the Somerset Tunnel.  As the construction of this project would coincide with the reconstruction project on Somerset Street east of Preston Street, traffic disruption and construction impacts would be minimized while affording cost savings through the integration of works.


The Somerset Tunnel is the critical piece of infrastructure as part of the forthcoming Champagne/O-Train Corridor Pathway.  This pathway will facilitate north-south cycling connections to the downtown and provide a direct link between two of the most heavily used cycling corridors in Ottawa, the Ottawa River Parkway pathways and the Rideau Canal Pathways.  The Champagne/O-Train Corridor Pathway will additionally provide important connections to transit and to Preston Street.  The Somerset Tunnel will provide grade-separated mobility along the corridor; thereby avoiding conflicts with Somerset Street and enhancing safety for cyclists, pedestrians and road users.


It should be noted that $500,000 is insufficient for the full construction of the Somerset pathway tunnel which is estimated to cost $1.2M.  The additional tax supported share of the project could come from remaining funds in account 905929 (2011 Cycling Initiatives) once the contract for construction of the Laurier segregated bike lanes is finalized.  Pathways extending beyond the Somerset tunnel are not included in this estimate.


Further, a motion was tabled during Budget 2011 that residual funds from 905929 Cycling Initiatives be dedicated to the Champagne/O-Train Corridor pathway up to a limit of $700,000, with a recognition that should additional funds become available, that this pathway tunnel could be built in 2011 in conjunction with the Somerset reconstruction.


Finally, it is recommended that the City revisit its participation in expanding the BSS after an enhanced and well-connected cycling infrastructure is in place in the downtown.




Cycling is a healthy and sustainable transportation mode.  Encouraging cycling through the expansion of the provision of cycling facilities including (lanes, parking, etc) and the integration of cycling with transit will help the City attain its modal share targets.








Consultation with the general public was available through the web pages, e-mail and phone access lines of the Tripartite partner’s client services.  No additional consultation was undertaken in the preparation of this report.




I fully support the report recommendations. While it is unfortunate that the Bike Share System would require additional funding, it is appropriate to dedicate the existing funds to the Somerset Street tunnel project which will provide a safe cycling route, greatly improving connectivity in the downtown portion of the National Capital Area.


This improved connectivity between on-road and off-road facilities can support the future BSS and will encourage improved modal split by providing for eventual connections to the Bayview transit station and both major recreational pathways.


It is in the City of Ottawa’s best interest to undertake the Somerset Road reconstruction, and the tunnel construction concurrently as there are savings which can be realized through coordination. Additionally, this neighbourhood has endured years of road reconstruction; Preston Street and Somerset Street West have been under constant construction between 2008 – 2011. As a result, the local Business Improvement Association and Community Association are strongly in support of the efforts to limit the number of years of construction and road closures through coordinating the installation of the tunnel with the Somerset Street reconstruction.




There are no legal/risk management impediments to implementing the recommendation in this report.




Focussing on improving cycling infrastructure responds to four priority objectives outlined in the Council approved City Strategic Plan (2007-2010):

·         Transportation Priority: Objective 1 – “Improve the City’s transportation network to afford ease of mobility, keep pace with growth, reduce congestion and work towards modal split targets;”

·         Sustainable, Healthy & Active City Priority: Objective 1 – “Support recreational facilities and programming to match the population growth;”

·         Sustainable, Healthy & Active City Priority: Objective 6: “Require walking, transit and cycling oriented communities and employment centres;” and

·         Sustainable, Healthy & Active City Priority: Objective 11: “By 2017, close the gap in sidewalks, traffic lights, street lights and bicycle lanes in infrastructure that has been warranted and unfunded”.








On 28 January, 2010, Council approved the 2010 Capital Budget, including a strategic initiative investment of $500,000 (Capital Project #905413) representing at that time the City’s portion of the funding of the full‑scale BSS in partnership with the NCC and City of Gatineau.


It has since been determined that the BSS program would require $1.0M of capital funding and a further annual operating cost of over $100k per annum for the years 2011 to 2015.  No additional funds, beyond the $500,000 of capital authority approved in 2010, were requested as part of the 2011 budget.  The existing funding is insufficient to cover the additional implementation costs and the anticipated potential annual operational costs.


The capital authority of $500,000 in the Bike Share Implementation (Capital Project #905413) remains unspent at this time.  Upon Council approval these funds would be transferred to the 2011 Cycling Facility Program (Capital Project #905925) for use towards the Champagne/O-Train Corridor Pathway.  In order to fund the full $1.2M pathway cost the program will be refinanced to secure development charge funding of $252,000 and a further $448,000 in tax funding is also required.  It is expected that funding will be available from the $2M Cycling Initiative program (Capital Project # 905929) approved as part of the 2011 Capital Budget.


Future participation in the bike share system will require a new capital budget submission.








Following Transportation Committee and Council approval, staff from the Planning and Growth Management Department will:


1.      Update the Tripartite partners on the City’s position regarding BSS;

2.      Monitor the performance of the NCC’s BSS;

3.      Focus staff efforts and resources on improving the cycling network; and

4.      Revisit the City’s participation in the permanent bike share system after enhanced and well‑connected cycling infrastructure is in place in the downtown.