Hamilton Bike Share Expands East With Free Bike Share Passes in Tow

by Odochi Akwani, Writer and Content Manager

Hamilton, Ontario’s nonprofit bike share system now operates more than 800 bikes across about 130 locations in their hybrid system. 

Earlier this month, Hamilton Bike Share in Ontario, Canada, expanded eastward, installing five new hubs in the city’s Ward 4. These efforts were made possible through federal funding from the Healthy Communities Initiative, a program designed to “create safer, more vibrant, and inclusive communities.” With this expansion, Hamilton Bike Share now operates more than 800 bikes across about 130 locations in their hybrid system. 

“There is less bike infrastructure in the East End. So much of the cycling infrastructure is concentrated more in downtown West End. Fortunately, we are seeing that change now with our current city council in Hamilton,” says Julia Hamill, program manager at Hamilton Bike Share. “There’s been more investment and buy-in into creating protected cycling lanes and adding those to the city. So, I’m hoping we’ll see that continue.”

Input from the bike share community was a large factor in Hamill’s decision to expand. Feedback comes directly from riders through an annual rider survey as well as outreach efforts involving summer group rides and partnerships with community organizations.

To engage the East End community, Hamilton Bike Share recruited two Ward 4 “Neighborhood Connectors” to get the word out in their neighborhood as bike share advocates. 

“We already have a connection with the Francophone Health Center. They work with a lot of Francophone-speaking newcomers in the area. We’re going to set up some sessions with them to come to their English classes and talk about bike share and let people check out the bikes,” Hamill says. “It’s on the ground talking to people.”

Expansion to Hamilton Bike Share’s equity program, the Everyone Rides Initiative (ERI), established in 2017, is also part of the expansion package. The federal funding allowed the system to add an additional 150 subsidized ride passes for low-income residents called Pedal Passes. No documentation is required to access these free bike share passes.

“The pass is open to anyone who identifies as having financial or other barriers to bike share. This includes folks who don’t have a credit card, don’t have a bank account, people who don’t have phones, or don’t have access to computer technology,” Hamill says. “We have ways to overcome those barriers.”

Hamill hopes that with this expansion, more people will utilize bike share as a transportation option to get to the places they both need and want to go.

“A goal for our organization is to increase representation and access to bike share for folks who, historically, haven’t been well represented in cycling, or who haven’t had access to these services,” Hamill says. “We have a Black Lives Matter Action Plan, where we’ve been working for four years now, to think about how we as an organization can work towards racial justice in cycling in terms of our operations, but also in terms of our riders and our members.”