Becoming Multi-Modal: Nanaimo’s New Bikeshare
Some Evo bikes parked in Downtown Nanaimo along the seawall. (Strong Towns Nanaimo)

I am optimistic about Nanaimo’s transportation future. I was called into the office last Saturday. I didn’t have access to a car that day, so I had to make a choice: do I take the bus, ride my personal bike, or walk? The day was nice enough, so I took the longer route by foot. The morning was sunny and pleasant. Along the way, I even stopped at a coffee shop. When I was ready to head home, the weather had soured and my bus wasn’t coming for another 45 minutes. Normally, I would have only had two options: wait or walk. I was keen for neither at this moment. Then I remembered that there’s a fresh third option in Nanaimo.

Some Evo e-bikes parked at the corner of Fifth & Bruce in Harewood. (Strong Towns Nanaimo)Some Evo e-bikes parked at the corner of Fifth & Bruce in Harewood. (Strong Towns Nanaimo)

Recently, the company Evo placed e-bike stations throughout Downtown, Harewood, and the Hospital District. Without a subscription, long-distance rides are a little too expensive for me, but my home was just an 8-minute bike ride away (the Goldilocks zone for an e-bike ride). Rather than standing at an empty stop for 45 minutes, I scanned the e-bike, hopped on, and was swept home in just 8 Minutes. This is what a city built for people should look like. I’ve spoken with many neighbours who are skeptical about the recent changes to transportation in Nanaimo. Everything from the Hullo Ferry and bike lanes to having a new bus station downtown and an e-bike-share program. Some see these changes as pointless. To many, these new transportation schemes appear pitifully inefficient when compared to driving a car, and, if treated singly, they would be right! In a vacuum, any one of these options (walking, biking, or transit), would be insufficient. However, when provided in concert with one another, these forms of transportation synergize to create a robust and healthy transportation ecosystem where people are provided ample choices for how to get around.

Some more Evo e-bikes parked off Rosehill and Caledonia in Central Nanaimo. (Strong Towns Nanaimo)Some more Evo e-bikes parked off Rosehill and Caledonia in Central Nanaimo. (Strong Towns Nanaimo)

A complete transportation system is one where we have transportation options for all people across a wide variety of situations. In Nanaimo’s central neighbourhoods, there have long been transit gaps, particularly in the South End. The #6, #5, #8, and #7 bus routes all have great route coverage which serve our lower-income neighbourhoods where many students and immigrant families live, but they come so infrequently that people are not able to reliably commute without needing a private vehicle. When you are stuck behind a bus, consider this: Imagine not being allowed to drive your car after 8 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, or not being able to leave your home whenever you want. This is the reality for many in Nanaimo.

Even more Evo e-bikes parked along the Front Street seawall next to the dedicated cycle lanes. (Strong Towns Nanaimo)Even more Evo e-bikes parked along the Front Street seawall next to the dedicated cycle lanes. (Strong Towns Nanaimo)

With options like Evo, people have more ways to get around town, and I think this is something to be excited about! Evo e-bikes fill a gap for shorter trips. And, because many stations will be linked to bus stops and ferry terminals, the combined potential of these shorter trips will grow as the system expands. At the moment, the walk to Hullo Ferry is strange and inconvenient. With Evo, this situation improves immensely. There are already bike lanes and multi-use sidewalks that connect Hullo’s terminal to the downtown waterfront. These small options contribute to the larger whole of our transportation system, and I am grateful. Small changes like these are what our city needs. We are all forced to reckon with the consequences of auto-oriented development in Nanaimo. Incremental changes to the way we think about transportation and mobility hold the potential to shape our city for the better.

So, if you haven’t already, give Evo a try! And when you do, ask yourself: what other small changes can our city make to improve the quality of our lives in this beautiful city?

Becoming Multi-Modal: Nanaimo’s New Bikeshare
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Becoming Multi-Modal: Nanaimo’s New Bikeshare