Derek Koel

Malcolm Island visitors get a free ride

SOINTULA-RDMW, local business team up on free bike loaner program for ferry travelers.

SOINTULA—Through a unique joint effort involving small businesses in both Port McNeill and Sointula, the Regional District of Mount Waddington has unveiled a free-use bicycle loan program for ferry visitors to Malcolm Island, to run through September.

Using federal gas-tax funds, RDMW has arranged the purchase of 10 rehabilitated bikes from The Shed in Port McNeill. The cycles are painted a distinctive bright green and have been placed at Deb’s Deli, just off the ferry dock in Sointula, for foot passengers to check out and use to tour the town and Malcolm Island.

“It’s a way for people to get around without taking their cars over,” said Patrick Donaghy, operations manager for RDMW. “We see it as a carbon-neutral service. With these bikes, there will be less need for people to use their cars.”

The cycles will be available for check-out at Deb’s Deli upon arrival of the first morning ferry at 8 a.m., and will need to be returned by 4:30 p.m., when the afternoon ferry returns to Port McNeill. There is no fee, though some form of collateral, possibly a driver’s licence or other I.D., may need to be left pending drop-off of the bike.

The first seven cycles were delivered to the deli Friday, and the last three will be sent over this week, Donaghy said.

The Shed will remain involved in the program under a maintenance contract for upkeep of the bikes, and Deb’s Deli will receive a stipend for managing the loaners in Sointula.

“We were looking at starting a program like this earlier in the summer, but we heard Deb’s might be looking into a bike-rental program out of their shop,” Donaghy said. “When she decided not to do that, we decided to try this.”

The bikes are basic, single-speed touring models, not high-performance racing or mountain bikes, and are designed for ease of use. Riders will be asked to remain on paved surfaces for safety purposes, but that still allows 12 kilometres of touring road between Rough Bay and Maynell Point, Donaghy noted.

He said most of the bikes would be adult models, though he anticipated two or three would be children’s bikes.

“That way, a family could go over together and ride,” he said.

The program is scheduled to run in August and September, though it could be extended if ridership proves steady throughout September, Donaghy said.