Sustainable Cities Collective has re-launched as Smart Cities Dive! Click here to learn more!

No Credit Card Needed for Community Access Bikeshare in Ontario, Canada

The summer of 2013 saw the birth of a new breed of bikesharing: Community Access Bikeshare, or CAB, located in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Now just a year down the line, this modest bikeshare has countless ambitions to put community-based cycling infrastructure on the map. With seven stations already installed and a membership 125 strong and growing, the Community Access Bikeshare project might redefine what it means "to take the CAB."

CAB Bikes, Community Access Bikeshare, Ontario, Canada

Community Access Bikeshare is an example of a growing cycling trend being put into action as a tool to support the local community. Like other bikeshares, it is a project aimed at promoting green design and cycling culture in an automotive dependent Canadian city. However, the way it does this is quite different. While other bikeshares are typically private companies being contracted by municipalities to build their technology, CAB is an independent and well organised grassroots attempt at making bikesharing a viable tool for a city of any size.

The results of this approach are humbling. In a city like Toronto, the cost of installing one CAB station is ten times less than installing a fully-automatic fourth generation bikeshare of the same capacity. Even technologically similar semi-automatic systems (such as the third-generation one in Hamilton) cost three times more per comparable CAB station. What is most remarkable however, is that the system does not charge user fees and requires no credit card as collateral. There is only a one time annual user fee of $40.00.

So who is creating this system and why? CAB was created by The Working Centre, a rooted community organization which dedicates itself to creating useful tools around which communities can build and support themselves. Joe Mancini, one of the Centre's directors, emphasises that the goals of CAB are very different from traditional bikeshares. While most bikeshares aim at servicing higher-income neighbourhoods (due to high costs), the aim of CAB is to be available for all income-brackets. Credit card as collateral is not required; many people living paycheck to paycheck may have compromised credit histories.

CAB, Community Access Bikeshare in Ontario, Canada

From the street, the onlooker gains a slightly different view of the bikeshare. With undeniably great graphic design, Kona bicycles, and RFID card-based key boxes, the system balances thrift with tasteful modernity. Makes one rethink the idea that high cost equals high quality.

After all, as Program Coordinator Suzie Taka puts it: "There have only been two blips in North American history where cycling has become current. One was in the 1970's, the other is today. So if it's anytime to cohesively build cycling-culture, it is now (based on research from the Toronto Cycling Think and Do Tank)." The Working Centre already has a bicycle-fixing and refurbishing centre (Recycle Cycles). Now its quality bikeshare is another spoke in the wheel that makes getting on a bicycle enjoyable, economically feasible, and another way to fall in love with biking.

How may we begin building socially-accessible systems like CAB in a town near you? Are the bikesharing opportunities in your community accessible to only higher incomes?

Credits: Images by Suzie Taka. Infographic by Adwitya Das Gupta. Data linked to sources.