Cargo bike keeps the balance for Bike Share Toronto

As Eric Gallo-Miscevich cycles down the Martin Goodman Trail on Queens Quay, it takes a moment for onlookers to understand what they’re seeing.

At first glance it looks like the 19-year-old is riding three bikes at once – two of them seem to hover off the ground in front of him, their wheels not moving, while Gallo-Miscevich pedals away. But in fact, he’s the operator of Bike Share Toronto’s brand new bike-hauling cargo bike.

Gallo-Miscevich admits the machine attracts some odd glances. “Some people look like they’re seeing an alien,” he says.

While his Seussian contraption may look odd, it’s a practical solution to a persistent problem for Bike Share Toronto. Because most users head in the same direction at the same time of day (towards downtown in the morning, away from the core in the afternoon) some bike stations end up with too many bikes and others with too few.

It’s Gallo-Miscevich’s job to “balance” the 1,000-bike fleet by shuttling bicycles from overcrowded stations to empty ones, using only the power of his pedals. He can fit two Bike Share bicycles onto the cargo bike, each one weighing 45 pounds. Moving them around is grueling work, especially during this week’s heat wave, but Gallo-Miscevich is an avid cyclist and loves the job.

“It’s very fun,” he grins. A global development student at Queen’s University for most of the year, he says he took the summer gig at Bike Share because he wanted something “out of the ordinary.” The best part of the work is getting paid to ride.

On an average day, Gallo-Miscevich makes between 30 to 40 trips between stations. To cope with the heat he carries a two-litre sack of water strapped to his back, which he can drink from through a tube while he rides. To keep himself fueled, he tries to eat plenty of pasta.

The cargo bike idea was borrowed from New York City’s Citi Bike program, which pioneered their use to balance its fleet. Before Bike Share introduced its own last week, the program was dependent on three cube vans to redistribute its bikes. The trucks are still being used, but during rush hour they can get stuck in gridlock. By using bike lanes, Gallo-Miscevich can often do the job quicker.

The new vehicle is already a success. According to Scott Hancock, general manager of the company that operates Bike Share, “the cargo bike has significantly increased our service abilities” and the system’s balance has improved even though ridership is up 34 per cent over this time last year. He hopes to add more cargo bikes to the operation.

The introduction of the cargo vehicle hasn’t been completely smooth, however. Although Gallo-Miscevich is an experienced cyclist, it took him some time to get the hang of the heavy-duty ride, which was custom made for Bike Share by a local cargo bicycle expert. “A few times it almost flipped over on me,” Gallo-Miscevich says. He’s since learned to take it easy on the turns.

Despite spending all day wheeling around the city, Gallo-Miscevich still likes to bike in his free time, at least whenever he’s not exhausted. His arduous day job has given him a whole new appreciation for his 10-speed bicycle. “After I get off this bike, I feel I can fly on my bike,” he says.

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