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Food delivery riders hogging e-bikes sparks push for new Bike Share fees

Members of Toronto’s Bike Share may have to pay a new fee to use the program’s e-bikes starting this spring, in part to deter food delivery riders from hogging the power-assisted two-wheelers.

City staff are proposing a new pricing structure for the bike-rental program that includes for the first time charging members $3 for a half-hour ride on an e-bike, as well as $7 for non-members. The program also plans to triple the number of available e-bikes to 1,850 in the next few months.

At a Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) meeting on Friday, board members approved a new fee structure for the bicycle sharing program that will take effect at the beginning of April if approved by the city’s infrastructure committee and the full council. The parking authority oversees the bike rental program.

“Part of the issue we are having is there is a lot of food delivery employees that are jumping on the e-bikes and monopolizing the use of those bikes,” said Jeffrey Dea, the vice-president of business development at TPA, at Friday’s meeting. “This is a way of controlling use, very much like how we use parking rates to regulate the use of curbside space and the use of parking facilities.”

The bike share program, which operates at a loss — this year of $2.8 million — is subsidized with parking revenue. The new fees — which are expected to amount to $3.3 million — will go toward recovering costs, investing in expanding the system and adding more workers to relocate bikes so that there are fewer spots without bikes or with no space to dock a bike, Dea said.

The fee revenue will also fund a new app, which has been much-requested by members, Dea said.

Bike Share triples in size

The rates have been mostly unchanged since 2017 despite the program tripling in size to 7,100 bikes, 680 stations, 525 e-bikes and more than 31,000 members, the city staff report said.

The other proposed fee changes include increasing the basic annual membership from $99 for unlimited rides to $105, and increasing the cost of a day pass for regular bikes from $7 to $15, but allowing 90-minute long rides rather than having to re-dock the bike every half-hour. There will be no day pass available for e-bikes.

There will also be a reduced member pass available for low-income riders that will be linked to the TTC Fair Pass program. That will become available later this year.

“It’s one of the best deals in town,” said Dea.

Food delivery riders fear fees

Delivery riders, however, fear the proposed new charge, which could start April 3, would “create devastating impacts for precarious workers who deliver by e-bike,” said Jennifer Scott, a courier and president of Gig Workers United.

TPA board member Jeffrey Steiner questioned whether the new charge — 10 cents per minute for members, 20 cents for non-members with an additional $1 undocking fee — is needed.

“I don’t want to screw up that some delivery drivers are using our e-bikes — that’s all part of the city ecosystem,” he said, asking that there be more time taken to examine the new charge. “Let’s not make the life of a gig worker even harder.”

Alison Stewart, coexecutive director of Cycling Toronto, urged the board to consider that the e-bike charge will add an extra burden to riders in the suburbs who may rely on multiple forms of transit and will have to now pay both an e-bike fee and a GO train or TTC fare.

“Try to find a way that pricing can be done in a more equitable manner so it is not essentially taxing residents of Toronto who don’t have the privilege of living in the inner core,” she said.

E-bikes more expensive

While the e-bikes are extremely popular, they also cost twice as much as the regular bikes and require staff to move them and make sure they are charged overnight if they are docked in stations that don’t allow charging, Dea noted.

An amendment from Coun. Chris Moise changed the proposed block $4 overage charge for half an hour to a 12 cents per minute charge that would help keep rider costs down.

Moise is confident that the new e-bike charge will not deter users from accessing the e-bikes.

“I think the rates being presented are reasonable,” he said, adding that the pricing for the e-bikes is considered low in comparison to other North American cities according to the city’s research.

Moise said it is worth keep an eye on how food delivery workers use the e-bikes, but said “we don’t dictate what people do with the bikes.”

What is needed is to make sure the e-bikes are available to more riders outside the downtown area and that there is space to dock them in popular locations, he said.

Source: thestar