Bike-lending, not-for-profit BikeShare, faced with an $80,000 budget shortfall, isn't considering putting corporate ads on its fleet of yellow two-wheelers just yet.
But the chair of the city's cycling committee, Councillor Adam Giambrone, says the six-year-old groupshouldn't count on a lump sum from council to put the brakes on the financial bleeding.
"Council can't just meet and vote to allocate funds," Giambrone says.
To add to BikeShare's woes, the arrival of a for-profit bike rental program as part of the city's Street Furniture initiative may be just around the corner.
Run by the Community Bicycle Network, BikeShare has an annual $110,000 operating budget that covers a full-time manager and mechanic, office space and bike parts. So far, the group secured $25,000 in funding: $15,000 from U of T's student levy and about $10,000 from membership fees for 2007. The group has until December to come up with the difference.
Says BikeShare project manager Maogosha Pyjor, "Every year it's a challenge, but this year it's more critical. At this time last year we had some funders lined up. Right now we're in crisis mode."
TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Ontario Power Generation, two groups that have provided support in the past, say new grassroots groups are competing for money every year.
"We can't set ourselves up as a core funder," says OPG spokesperson John Earl. "We can provide monetary support, but not where the organization looks to us to provide administrative salaries."
Pyjor met with Giambrone last week to discuss the possibility of BikeShare working with Tourism Toronto or parks and rec centres. Another option discussed was partnering with the Toronto Community Housing Corporation so that tenants in public housing can access bikes.
Of greater concern for the long-term future of BikeShare is the fact that a number of European companies have approached the city about setting up a BikeShare-like program with newer bikes and higher fees.
Giambrone says not to worry, because they'd be targeting a different market. "BikeShare will complement, not compete, and work better with people who might not have credit cards," he explains.
Darren Stehr of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC) says the city should bail out BikeShare "if it's serious about people riding bikes," rather than force it to turn to advertising on its fleet. "That would add more visual diarrhea to the streets," he says.
"The city should get behind [BikeShare]. It's a bargain for visitors and people who use TTC."