'It’s good for you, it’s good for the environment:'

·4 min read

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — A new public electric bike rental program is currently in the works for Charlottetown, but more work is needed if the province plans to meet the goal of net-zero emissions.

The program is part of the city’s strategy to stay in line with the provincial goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, Scott Adams, manager of public works for the city of Charlottetown, told SaltWire Network during an interview on Sept. 6.

“It’s just another way to encourage more sustainable alternate modes of travel other than a typical gas-powered vehicle.”

The system will work by having several station racks around town, where users can rent a bike using an app for up to several hours, after which they can return the bike at any public station.

Stratford is also integrating the program, which will see bike stations installed in public areas, such as grocery stores and business fronts.

About 60 per cent of all carbon emissions in the province comes from transportation. The city hopes this program will aid in reducing the carbon footprint in urban areas.

Several major Canadian cities – such as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver – have started offering similar programs which have become popular over the last few years.

In P.E.I., additional infrastructure, such as more and longer bike lanes, was needed before the project could be discussed.

But with parking and lack of space in the downtown area becoming an increasing issue in recent years, where to put the stations is still the question.

“Every province has its challenges, but there is a workable solution,” said Adams.

Both Stratford and Charlottetown have spent the last several years working to make their streets more accessible to cyclists, such as fortifying the bike lane on the Hillsborough Bridge and adding more public locking racks and lanes.

Frank MacEachern, owner of Rising Tides Electric Bicycle shop on Queen Street, told SaltWire Network on Sept. 6 that more infrastructure is needed if the city wants people to invest in e-bikes.

“The first thing that comes to mind is this is extremely premature,” said MacEachern.“We’re starting to get to the point that we have some great infrastructure out there. Now we’re at the point where we have to encourage people to use it,” Adams said.

The problem is several bike lanes in Charlottetown end without warning once they reach the highway. This leaves many people afraid to be on a bicycle in Charlottetown because the proximity to fast traffic is too intimidating.

In North America, most cities were built with automobiles in mind. If the government expects to get to net zero, more money is needed, as well as a shift in the public mindset, said MacEachern.

“We’ve torn down large parts of old cities that were designed for people and built expressways to accommodate traffic. What that does is encourage more traffic,” he said.

Avid cyclist Mitch Underhay, who bikes in the Charlottetown and Cornwall area frequently, agrees that if the city wants people to move towards the green technology, more infrastructure is needed first.

For an e-bike program to be successful, there needs to be a place for people to ride safely, and in Charlottetown, there are simply not enough lanes, he told SaltWire Network on Sept. 6.

“I think it is the future, and it’s what is best for the environment, but I also think we need to make sure that we have the infrastructure in place and that we are maintaining it adequately before we release a fleet of e-bikes in Charlottetown.”

The solution is to have fun with it, he added.

“Because people are used to using cars, they’re more hesitant because they see it as people telling them, change their habits,” he said. “It’s good for you, it’s good for the environment, It’s good for everything. I think we need to encourage that culture more.”

The program is still in the preliminary phase. The public works committee has already approved the project, and Stratford and Charlottetown are now seeking support from the environment and sustainability committee of P.E.I. to move forward.

The hope is to get requests for proposals within the next month or two, as the plan is to implement the program starting next summer.

Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian