The McMaster & Hamilton communities should do more to support SoBi

By: Adeola Egbeyemi, Brittany Williams and Christy Au-Yeung, Contributors

This article is written by members of the MSU Sustainability Committee, who are in the midst of their virtual SoBi campaign.

They’re blue, built with a thick Dutch frame and basket. Though you may have been around Hamilton, you may have not even noticed their presence swarming the McMaster University campus. We’re talking about Social Bicycles.

SoBi is a bike-sharing company. The Hamilton-specific SoBi fleet has bikes located in approximately 130 hubs across the city. Users can purchase a specific level of membership online and once registered, are ready to ride anywhere. Bike-sharing systems like SoBi Hamilton allow users to take one-way trips on publicly accessible bikes and create a network of efficient, affordable and sustainable transportation.

This efficient, affordable and sustainable mode of transportation nearly ended this past summer and is not yet out of its narrow bike lane. Back in May, SoBi was operated by Uber, although still city-owned. On May 15, Uber unexpectedly notified the Hamilton City Council that they would stop operating SoBi in June due to COVID-19 considerations, even though ridership had increased in the hundreds since the pandemic began.

Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann attempted to save SoBi by using taxes collected from areas where SoBi operates, but the motion narrowly lost at City Council. The very next day, Hamilton Bike Share Inc., a not-for-profit bike-share operator, started a GoFundMe to try to continue operating the bikes at no cost to the city.

In a last-minute save, a reconsideration motion for SoBi passed unanimously at the next council meeting. Presently, SoBi is operating as normal through Hamilton Bike Share Inc., but the city is still in search of a stable long-term operator.

As the city searches, SoBi has become a notable transportation alternative for individuals who want to avoid public transportation. SoBi also provides users with the convenience of locking their bikes to a non-SoBi rack for a one-dollar fee.

In addition, the bike-share service maintains user accessibility through their subsidized Everyone Rides Initiative, which provides both a discounted pass and an opportunity for users to earn SoBi credits by relocating any out-of-hub bikes. If you’re a McMaster student, you can also access a discounted membership. So if you want to reduce your carbon footprint or you want to support this community program, this affordable option is for you.

Just as small actions can produce larger change, bike-share programs not only provide benefits to individuals as previously outlined but to the community as a whole. It is at this level that bike share programs have been proven to decrease car usage and reduce traffic congestion, which consequently reduces pollution, leading to community health benefits and allowing for economic expansion.

These environmental benefits are particularly relevant given that the transportation sector emits the second most greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. To date, SoBi bike-sharing is estimated to have reduced nearly 1 million kilograms of CO2 emissions. As a community, we have the vital responsibility to be environmental stewards; we need to make the necessary efforts required to protect the natural environs that have provided us with so much.

McMaster has demonstrated its commitment to sustainable transportation practices at an institutional level through its April 2017 Master Campus Plan Update, which outlines infrastructural changes for a vehicle-free core campus. A key aspect of this is not merely accommodating cycling on campus but actively encouraging it.

In the 2017 update, McMaster planned to expand SoBi to the GO Bus station and west campus. Evidently, the support and facilitation of bike-sharing services like SoBi align closely with McMaster's culture and priorities of sustainability.

The McMaster Students Union has also shown its commitment to supporting sustainable transportation through the MACycle service, an on-campus do-it-yourself bike repair shop. Unfortunately, due to low engagement and alternative services in the Westdale area, the service was de-ratified last year.

This exemplifies the importance of making conscious decisions to support these sustainable programs otherwise these options may become defunct. We are only able to keep these programs running through our community efforts.

SoBi is a valuable and accessible program that provides benefits individually, institutionally and municipally; as a result, they have received support at all of these levels. Since the future of SoBi remains undetermined, we as a community can find our footing as environmental stewards by supporting the bike share program while it is still here.

Since Halloween is a weeklong holiday around Hamilton and McMaster, there’s no shortage of fun events to attend. Halloween falls on a Tuesday this year, so no doubt this upcoming weekend will be filled with spooky events to dress up for (because apparently we have to celebrate starting Thursday and throughout the weekend.)

Party stores are pumping the prices on costumes, and partying in a different costume each night can get expensive. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey on Halloween spending habits, this year on average people will spend $86.13 US. And that doesn’t even include nightly festivities, like alcohol or bar cover.

Personally, my favourite part of Halloween is getting creative and making my costumes from scratch. So for those who are planning on partying multiple times this weekend and don’t want to shell out money on multiple expensive costumes, I’ve got you covered with cheap, easy DIY costumes that will be sure to make an impression at any McMaster-adjacent Halloween event

If you’re having trouble finding cheap materials, I suggest Value Village, Dollarama, the Campus Store, and Bunz Trading Zone.

Marauder Football Player. Re-use your homecoming outfit, or buy a jersey from the campus store and you’re instantly a Marauder Football Player! Bruise up your face to look fresh out of rookie training, and if you’re committed, puff your shoulders all night to make you look more intimidating than you actually are!

What you’ll need:

A Party. “Cause baby you’re the life of the party…” If you’re looking for the most low energy costume there is, grab some streamers and red solo cups from the corner store and pin them to your entire body. Realistically, your costume will be a disaster by the end of the night, but that’s just commitment to character.

What you’ll need:

Terri, the dancing Tim Hortons lady. Pay tribute to one of McMaster’s best Terri, the dancing Tim Horton’s employee from the student center. Bring a Timmy’s coffee cup to house your choice beverage for the evening, and do her winning dance whenever you or your friends win at beer pong or need to celebrate.

What you’ll need:

Spotted at Mac. Transform yourself into the iconic student anonymous Facebook page by covering yourself in maroon spots and being everyone’s secret keeper for the night. Relay anonymous messages to and from people at the party and play cupid (or the devil) behind the scenes. For extra effect, start questionably controversial debates with a group of people and slowly walk away to let disaster ensue.

What you’ll need:

TwelvEighty Night + security guard. For the couples who are looking for a cute, matching costume this Halloween, a TwelvEighty night out and security guard is the easiest bang for your buck. One of you can adorn whatever you wear (or used to wear) to TwelvEighty, and the other can be the bouncer.

What you’ll need:

Sobi Bike. Be the chang(ed) (gear) that you want to see in the world. If you’re a fan of our blue transport cycles, then being one for Halloween is a great option. If you’re feeling flirtatious, you can even offer rides.

What you’ll need:

HSR Bus Driver. If you’re planning on showing up to the party really late, or maybe even not at all, this costume for you!

What you’ll need:

What are you planning on being this upcoming weekend?

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By: Saad Ejaz

If you are a McMaster University student or a resident in Hamilton, you have likely passed a dock of dark blue bikes appearing on city corners.

A new program by Sobi Hamilton rolled out last week which introduces new functionality that enables users to use their Presto pass on all the bikes in the fleet.

This comes after the introduction of the new Hamilton Street Railway U-Pass, a free Presto card for all McMaster Students Union members that does not charge users to access the HSR. The U-Pass is the new iteration of the university’s prior bus passes.

Chelsea Cox, the General Manager at Sobi Hamilton states that the program will help create greater ease in using the Bike Share program.

“It’s now easier than ever… it’s mostly just creating convenience for anyone who wants to carry one less card and tap in with their presto — it makes transit integration easier for the future,” said Cox.

Now with Presto integration, users can link their Presto card with their Bike Share account, and can skip the step of entering account numbers to unlock a bike at the dock. Account and payment setups follow the same format as before.

Now you can tap onto a SoBi using your Presto card! More on this in our latest newsletter: #HamOnt #bikeshare

— Hamilton Bike Share (@SoBiHamilton) September 23, 2017

This comes a few months after the failure of the McMaster Students Union referendum to include a discounted Sobi Hamilton membership in every undergraduate’s tuition fees last Nov. The projected cost was a flat fee of $16.95 for 90 minutes of daily access.

According to SoBi’s website, one of the main concerns students raised about a universal SoBi pass was the accessibility of it, as some students may not have been able to use the bikes. SoBi is now in the works of addressing these concerns and asks those interested in contributing to reach out.

SoBi maintains that a more developed bike share program on campus would benefit all students whether they use it or not by alleviating congestion in buses and promote a healthier, more active community.

SoBi Hamilton is now offering several new opportunities for students which include discounted monthly rates and a Facebook platform to foster a cycling culture and more connections within the Hamilton community.

The Facebook platform will offer promotions and specialized content, opportunity for feedback and an avenue to discuss arrangements for big events and festivals in the city. There will also be a new model called “Priority Hub” that will be incentivizing rebound tasks that help reduce the need to bring Sobi vehicles to campus and parking at certain hubs. For instance, this could include parking bikes at particular sites for either ease of access for other or collecting of bikes by SoBi.

The program has seen a steady increase since its introduction in the Winter of 2015. 

“We have been seeing a growth in McMaster students, faculty and staff joining the program,” said Cox.

“Any opportunity we have to get more people riding bikes and trying out a healthier and environmentally sustainable mode of transportation is really big positive for us and a part of our goal and mission, and McMaster is a really big part of that,” she added.

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McMaster is home to a diversity of people with different transportation needs.

Some walk, run, bus or rent nearby, while others need to bike or skateboard to make it to campus.

Once they’re on campus, the options for storage and security for those who do not walk or drive vary.

McMaster has a few different options available for those who bike to campus.

Social Bicycles, better known as SoBi, was recently introduced to McMaster, and has shown great success with students who commute or rent near campus.

SoBi allows students to rent and reserve bikes without a time limit. In 2016, there were a total of 45,699 bike trips across campus using SoBi. Like Presto bus passes, SoBi rentals come with a discount for McMaster students.

However, for those who use their own bikes, there are only a few safe locations to secure your bike.

Though McMaster has over 1,800 bike rack spaces located on main campus, many of these locations are not sheltered.

Unless you are willing to pay $40 per semester or $100 for one year for one of only 28 bike lockers on campus, your bike will remain unsheltered ina harsh weather conditions.

Students living in residence have the option to use relatively safe indoor storage for their bikes, but for everyone else, bicycles are only allowed to be stored indoors with permission from the supervisor in your work area.

The only bike space that is secure and monitored is the ‘Secure Bike Facility’. This caged location is available for $5 per semester, and can only be accessed with a swipe card to ensure security. It is located on the west side of Chester New Hall, and is also not sheltered.

Students living in residence have the option to use relatively safe indoor storage for their bikes, but for everyone else, bicycles are only allowed to be stored indoors with the permission from the supervisor in your work area vary.  

Beyond this, there isn’t much guidance for keeping your bike secure, unless you consider “[bikes are] not to be locked to or leaned against hand rails, trees, or other features of the university landscape…Bicycles found in violation are subject to ticketing” helpful advice.

According to Guelph University News, there is a bike shelter in the heart of Guelph University’s campus that doubles as a pavilion for students to use.

The structure holds 90 bikes with two tiers of bike racks that can be removed for small events when the pavilion is needed.

The lighting in the pavilion is also powered by solar panels, and is as big as a four-car garage, and a green roof that has low maintenance plants as a part of it.

For those who do not cycle and prefer to skateboard, penny board or longboard across campus, the options are even more minimal.

Unless you want to pay for a $25 for half a locker or $50 for a full locker in the school year, you are likely to end up making yourself known to your fellow classmates and squeezing your board in between lecture seats.

Seeing as most people use their board to get across campus to get to classes, keeping your board in your locker would be a little redundant anyway.

McMaster has shown great progress with cyclist accommodations and is continuously improving. L.R. Wilson Hall features a pair of very modern looking bike racks available for students to enjoy both aesthetically and practically.

This concept of modern and green should be implemented for those who transport with two wheels instead of four.

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