Monday, September 27, 2010

Invest In BIXI For a More Sustainable Urban Future

Maybe you're the person who lives outside of the city and likes to come by train to visit every other weekend, then needs a way to get around while here. Or maybe you're the person who doesn't want to invest in a new bike only to have it stolen. Or maybe you're the person heading out to attend an event with friends, but one of you doesn't have their own bike. Or maybe, like me, you'll happily settle for transit (complaining all the while) and walking but believe in making the city more sustainable by reducing vehicle traffic. All are great reasons to register with BIXI Toronto.

This public bike sharing system has already been successfully adopted in Montreal, London, Washington DC, Minneapolis, and Melbourne, and Toronto will follow suit if 1,000 people sign up for a 12-month membership by the end of November. For $95, you will be able to sign out a bike at one of 80 solar-powered docking stations positioned every 300 metres south of Bloor between Spadina and Jarvis, ride it to run an errand, cross town, or just look really cool, then drop it off at any station on the network and enjoy no additional fee as long as your trip took less than 30 minutes.

The bikes themselves are sturdy yet lightweight with aluminum frames, easily adjustable seats, a front rack, lights which are activated when the bike is in motion, and best of all, they're designed and built in Canada. The docking stations, as mentioned above, are powered by the sun, wireless, and require no digging to be installed! In fact, the systems are modular and designed to be so portable that it can take as few as 20 minutes for a team of two to set them up in a new location, which is especially useful for two-day festivals on weekends in areas otherwise unserviced by BIXI.

Once the network has been set up (again, provided a total of at least 1,000 memberships are sold in the next two months), riders can opt for 1-month or 12-month subscriptions purchased online, whereas occasional users can just step up to a docking station and buy a 24-hour pass and make as many 30-minute trips as they'd like over the course of the day. Longer trips cost extra but can be easily avoided by using the bikes only for one-way trips - you don't normally call a taxi to take you to the airport, wait there while you vacation in the south, then bring you home again two weeks later. Hence the name, bicycle + taxi = bixi. It sounds better in French!

Bike sharing systems are important. For everyone's sake, we need to reduce the number of vehicles in use, improve air quality, and allow everyone access to sustainable methods of transportation. BIXI not only brings us closer to these goals but also offers convenience and security. Imagine leaving your own bike at home (or not having to buy one in the first place) yet being able to ride whenever and wherever you need to without having to carry heavy locks, spend time and money on maintenance and accessories, worry about having your own bike stolen, or wonder if the subway will be too crowded to fit your bike when you bring it all the way from home.

The plan is to have 1,000 12-month memberships sold by the end of November (which hasn't happened yet) so that the system can be put into place about six months later, just in time for beautiful cycling weather. Subsequently, use of the program is expected to increase as the bikes and docking stations will be everywhere and pretty much advertise themselves. This will allow the network to be expanded and the number of bikes to increase. So even if you don't live in the proposed service area, invest in the system today to make use of it tomorrow. This is just like raising capital to start up a business, but without having to worry about whether it will take off: the statistics from Montreal prove just how successful the program can be!

  • in its first year (2009), 1.14 million BIXI trips were made, 10,775 riders purchased 1-yr subscriptions, and over 100,000 24-hour passes were used
  • 86% of 2009 subscribers intended to renew for 2010
  • 91% of Montrealers are aware of the BIXI program
  • the system expanded from 3,000 bikes at 300 stations when it launched in May 2009 to 5,000 bikes at 400 stations within six months!
  • there were 20,000 subscribers by May 2010, just one year after the program was started!

I hope you will give this some thought, talk about it with your family, friends, and colleagues, and of course, register by November 30th, 2010! (Don't worry, you will receive a full refund if the target isn't met.)


  1. I think this is a wonderful idea! Unfortunately, being a suburbanite, it doesn't make sense for me to subscribe to its services, and I have a bicycle. Great for the environment, keep our people healthy and active and reduce traffic! We just have to make sure everyone continues to follow traffic laws and wear helmets!

  2. Good point about helmets, which are sadly not required in Toronto. However, the Toronto Cycling Map ( explains the laws, provides safe cycling tips, and lists information about bike courses for children and adults. Maps are available for free at the library.