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The Hamilton Bike Share Program has begun rolling out test phase bicycle stations around the McMaster campus and is already offering early membership access before the official bike program launch in March.

The bicycle stations are being managed and installed by the non-profit organization SoBi Hamilton, and uses fourth generation “smart bikes” provided by the New York-based organization. The bicycles have Global System for Mobile connectivity and GPS capabilities that gather anonymous data on bicycle usage such as which stations are most frequently used, which stations need to be restocked, and even alert SoBi services when a bicycle is in need of repair. By the end of the program’s full launch, 700 stations will have been installed around the city.

There are currently five stations located around campus, including two by the Health Sciences Centre, various residences and the Arthur Bourns Building. A sixth station by Mills Library is to be installed in the near future, and bike racks may be expanded according to demand.

Any level of membership can be purchased online, at a kiosk, or at the SoBi Hamilton office. This includes a discounted $70 annual fee for McMaster students, faculty and staff. A $149 founding membership is also available, which includes ninety minutes of daily ride time, a t-shirt and the ability to name a bike. The pay-as-you-go option will become available after the program’s official spring launch.

The program is also planning to implement the Everyone Rides initiative that will try to give access to people who can’t afford a membership so they can utilize the system as well.

“With the Everyone Rides initiative we’re just basically trying to get grants in different sources of funding so there’s no barrier for anyone to use the system,” said Chelsea Cox, Sobi Community Manager. “We are working on a few partnerships right now to secure that funding and we’re telling anyone who doesn’t want to join who can’t afford it to get in touch with us so we can work with them to find a solution and get them on the bikes if they need to.”

While the bike share program will by no means replace the need for busing, even in warmer temperatures, Cox describes the Social Bikes as a compliment to the current public transit offerings.

“The bus system is great and I also encourage people to use that. I think Bike Share is just really helpful in providing another option for people and more options for getting around the city are always better. This is something that’s healthy and sustainable and often times more efficient…instead of waiting for the bus for ten minutes, you can make that bus ride turn into a short bike ride. They are really convenient and fill the gaps in transit.”

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