Fond of renting e-bikes in Toronto? They’re about to get more expensive

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Renting an e-bike in Toronto may get a lot more expensive this spring.

The proposed changes could see residents paying $3 for a half-hour ride on an e-bike or $7 if they’re not a member of the bike share program.

The Toronto Parking Authority, which oversees the program, is proposing a new rate structure that includes charging members 10 cents per minute on an e-bike and 20 cents for non-members with an additional $1 undocking fee.

“At the face of it, it seems like a minor cost. But for those that rely on it the most, [such as] people who live in the inner suburbs and have the longest distances to travel, that adds an additional barrier to their daily commute,” said Allison Stewart of Cycle Toronto.

Cycling advocates like Stewart say bike-sharing systems provide the missing link in public transportation, but she and other advocates worry the bump in e-bike prices will keep people off them.

On April 3, which is when this increase is proposed to take place as is the already-approved TTC fare increase, people who rely on bike share to be that connector to active transportation are going to be paying upward of $15 per day,” Stewart continued. 

Photo courtesy: Bike Share Toronto.

The city argues battery-powered bikes require more costly maintenance and replacement than regular bikes and place greater pressure on staff who ensure they’re charged overnight.

Based on current ridership and membership projections, system expansion and investments in electrification, the current rate structure is no longer sustainable,” said Jeffrey Dea, Vice President of Business Development with the Toronto Parking Authority. “Any new revenue raised is invested back onto the program.”

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Jennifer Scott, President of Gig Workers United, representing drivers and couriers across delivery apps in the GTA, said the proposed increases would considerably impact workers delivering goods by e-bike.

Right now, the average pay for a single delivery is between $2.50 to $5,” Scott admitted, noting that she’s calling on the city to find other ways to raise funds.

“I think the City of Toronto, instead of putting the onus and the responsibility onto precarious workers, can put pressure on apps like Uber, [Skip the Dishes], and DoorDash, all of them, to contribute to the costs of the infrastructure that they are profiting off of.”

The Toronto Parking Authority defended its approach to the Bike Share program, saying its key objective has always been to ensure “equitable access” to people and communities across the city.

“The per-minute fee is meant to ensure accessibility for all, not meant to exclude,” said Dea.

Cycle Toronto wants to see bike share in the cost recovery model used for on and off-street parking. It agrees those living in the downtown core want more access to e-bikes.

If the system has more e-bikes, then that’s a win-win situation for everyone,” Stewart said.

The current Bike Share pricing structure has remained essentially unchanged since 2017, despite the program tripling in size.

Bike Share Toronto pledged that by the end of 2022, the initiative will have taken the e-bike fleet from 300 to 525 with 15 new e-stations. By 2025, Bike Share Toronto plans to have an e-bike fleet of 2,000 and 100 more e-stations.

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