Bowen LIFT gets picked up
When a group of five islanders began thinking about local transportation in 2010, Bowen LIFT, a Bowen-based ride-sharing project, was born. They realized that Bowen, as a friendly island community, was uniquely positioned for creative solutions for getting around. With a long tradition of “thumbing a ride,” they focused on using lifts.
From those early days when the enterprise was unveiled at Bowfest 2010, the LIFT team has been busy. The island was mapped into colour-coded neighborhood zones and neighborhood mirror tags were created for drivers to display with the aim to let potential riders know that a driver is willing to offer a LIFT.
Bowen’s advantage was being a small, friendly community with a history of hitchhiking – the oldest form of ride-sharing. Drivers were enthusiastic; during the 2011 Bowfest and subsequent fall ferry event, Bowen LIFT distributed 150 mirror tags to islanders willing to offer lifts.
One of the challenges is finding a safe place to pick up a rider. Five LIFT stops, featuring the LIFT thumbing icon (created by island cartoonist Ron Woodall) were installed on the roads leading out of Snug Cove in the fall of 2011. The LIFT Stops indicate designated places where riders can wait and drivers can stop safely.
Meanwhile, new thinking about the global place of cars and a shift in how we use them privately and publicly was taking hold. Progressive innovations in car and ride sharing run in other communities around the world. Car sharing co-ops like Zip Car have taken off in Vancouver and elsewhere across North America and smart-phone based lift sharing has become popular in San Francisco.
Bowen LIFT was competitively awarded a two and a half-year, $49,000 grant from Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program to build ride-sharing on Bowen. EcoAction supports projects that rehabilitate, protect or enhance the natural environment, and builds the capacity of communities and individuals to ensure future protection.
The goal of the Bowen LIFT project is to transform casual thumbing – which has been in decline on Bowen over the last several years – and grow it into a dependable, island-wide method of transportation. The funding allows mirror tags for cars and lanyards for riders seeking a ride to be made more widely available, without relying on the generous donations from members of the community that provided the previous materials.
A second component of the project, inspired by the successful Pender Island Car Stop project, will build a minimum of 20 new LIFT stops with designated safe roadside pullouts for picking up riders around the island. Funding from the grant will allow Bowen LIFT to hire local Bowen contractors to construct widened shoulders for safe pullouts. The Bowen Island Municipality has provided in-kind support to supervise and implement this work. The pull-outs will be marked with the LIFT thumbing icon created by Ron. The intent is to create a network of roadside LIFT stops that are as integrated and valued in Bowen community life as the BIRD recycling depot.
The EcoAction grant provides funding until October 2014, and will be matched by in-kind contributions from Bowen LIFT volunteer hours and in-kind value from the municipality. Volunteers are contributing a minimum of 2,000 hours of time during the course of the grant.
The municipality is participating by providing in-kind support of $20,000 between 2012 and 2014 for the administration and installation of LIFT stops. DG Blair is providing further in-kind support and is a part-time (paid) project coordinator.
The Bowen LIFT team knows that succeeding in creating a viable alternative for people who need to get around will take more effort than an appearance at Bowfest and a one-time ferry event. Connecting foot passengers with drivers is the highest priority over the next six months. We welcome your ideas on how to make this happen.
Islanders interested in volunteering for LIFT events, surveying, working on the BowenLift.com website or possible work on smart phone integration, please contact DG Blair at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-947-0134.