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Fundraiser launched to save Hamilton’s bike share system

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Fundraiser launched to save Hamilton’s bike share system

A fundraiser has been launched to raise $400,000 to keep Hamilton’s bike-share service on the roads.

Hamilton Bike Share Inc. started the fundraiser Thursday (May 28), shortly after the City Council voted down a motion that offered an interim operation plan for the Social Bicycle (SoBi) bike-share system after its current operator pulled out of a contract early.

“By donating to our fund, you will enable us to make a pitch to continue operating the bikes at no cost to the City of Hamilton, and help the system along a path toward financial sustainability,” the group’s fundraising page says.

The system is expected to cease operations Monday (June 1) but the defeated motion would have seen operations continue to the end of the year with a price tag upwards of $400,000.

The nonprofit group behind the campaign is no stranger to the SoBi system.

“As the sub-contracted, local operator of Hamilton’s Bike Share system from 2014 to 2019, our nonprofit organization has the experience and expertise to take over operations immediately,” they say on their GoFundMe page.

“A transition of operations back to HBSI will also ensure that Hamiltonians retain access to a safe, essential mode of transportation during the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

Council also voted on Thursday to store the 900 bikes as they search for a new operator for the system — a process that could take many months or longer.

The system currently has 26,000 subscribers in Hamilton, 600 of whom signed up for it during the pandemic.

Ward 3 councillor Nrinder Nann introduced the notice of motion this week for the interim operation of the service because the city owns the bikes and the service’s infrastructure but contracts out the actual operation of SoBi to an Uber-owned company called Social Bicycle LLC.

Earlier this month the Uber-owned made the surprise announcement that they would not be honouring a contract signed in February 2020 to operate the service until February 2021.

“SoBi Bike Share program is a vital part of our transportation network and complements HSR service, especially while capacity of buses is limited for physical distancing reasons,” the notice of motion reads.

“[It] plays an essential role in our local economic recovery by enabling workers an affordable option to safely travel to and from work, as well as for residents to run errands or simply enjoy our beautiful city.”

So far, the fundraiser has received upwards of $26,000 in donations and it continues to climb. The goal is to raise $400,000 — the amount identified in Nann’s motion for the system’s interim operation.

If you want to donate, you can find the GoFundMe page here.

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