LONDON, ONT. -- Delays stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic will keep a bike-share program and e-scooters off London streets this year, but work has resumed for a potential launch in April.

Only recently did city hall resume its search for a private company willing to operate 100 e-scooters, 300 bicycles, or a combination of both for a three-year pilot project.

“If there are some unique ideas they (companies) want to test here in London, we think that would be a good opportunity to bring it to Council’s attention,” says Jay Stanford, director of environment, fleet, and solid waste at city hall.

The intent is to provide low-cost, zero-emission travel within the city’s core neighbourhoods.

Bike-sharing and e-scooters can’t come soon enough for Londoners still pounding the pavement to get about the core. “It would interest me and probably my friends. Getting around efficiently and not having to take cars everywhere,” explains Matthew Krestell.

Josh Dusang adds, “It would improve the student transportation routes incredibly.”

Back in January, municipal staff intended to complete a tendering process by late March. Pending council approval, a bike-share or e-scooters could have been on London roads by late summer or fall.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, put that work on hold. The new target aims to have a launch on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. But Stanford concedes the launch date remains flexible.

The pandemic has placed new significance on cleaning frequently touched surfaces. Stanford says the tender documents contain clear expectations of bidders.

“Cleaning is now something that has to be clearly described as part of the venders protocols. We need to understand how it will take place.”

He adds London will also consider best practices from cities where bike-sharing and e-scooters have operated this summer.

The first phase of the program would restrict bikes and e-scooters to the downtown, Western University, Old North, the Old East Village, and Blackfriars.

This winter council will decide if it will green light a pilot project. Some of their deliberations will likely focus on the amount of safe cycling infrastructure available to riders.

“If a bike or scooter program was to be started, I think there should be lanes all over the place, all the main roads so its safe for everybody,” says Dusang.

“The notion of ‘safe’ is very important, but is really up to the individual rider,” explains Stafford.

“If you feel unsafe, then the Thames Valley Parkway is an ideal location for you to be on. For those comfortable on the roads, that will be their choice.”

Civic administration expects to have a report to  ouncil, including costs and operational details, around the end of the year.