Visiting friends in Montreal this past weekend, we decided to take advantage of their BIXI system to rent bikes to go for a ride around the city and its pathways. BIXI is a public bike system launched by the City of Montreal in May 2009. Because of the enormous success of BIXI, there are plans to implement the system in other major cities worldwide.
The system seems easy-to-use and flexible. Judging from my first experience with BIXI, it's clear to me why it's become so popular so quickly.
There are 300 bike docks throughout the city. Each dock (which is entirely powered by solar panels) has a pay station and a rack full of bikes. Once you've made your payment, you simply release your bike and off you go. You can drop off your bike at any of the other docks; once the bike is locked back into the rack, any charges are put through on your credit card.
BIXI subscriptions can be purchased by the year (May to November--bikes are removed during the city's harsh winters) or for 30 days at a time. For people like us who only need bikes for one day, there is also an option for 24 hour access. For our afternoon journey, we each paid $5 plus our additional time. For those just using the bikes to get to and from work or errands, the first half hour of use is always free. Beyond that the costs increase (to the point that it isn't as economical to use the BIXI for more than ninety minutes at a time). For an hour-and-a-half on a sturdy commuter bike that allowed us to move quickly and easily around parts of the city otherwise difficult to see, our costs were $9.50 each. Well worth it, in my opinion.
For Montrealers without cars (or even those, like my friends, who have a car but try not to use it unnecessarily), BIXI is a quick, reasonably-priced option for getting around the city.
Even though I own a bicycle, I would love to see BIXI or a similar public bike launch in Calgary to give another option to people who wish to travel throughout the city. Could it work in a city as spread out as ours? Calgary has been working to make itself more bike-friendly but there are still some roadblocks to making our city as cyclist-friendly as Montreal. In Spinning Wheels or Making Progress, Drew Anderson did a great overview of some of the issues surrounding cycling in Calgary in FFWD Magazine a couple of weeks ago. I will say this: I was reminded again how much I love the on-street bicycle routes in Montreal, something Calgary lacks. Like my fellow bloggers, I sometimes commute to work by bike. I spend the majority of my 60 minute ride on the Bow River pathway. The ride is beautiful and I appreciate the good bike pathways. If it were safer to ride up some of the regular streets to get from South Calgary to downtown, however, I could cut my travel time in half. I hope Calgary becomes even more of a cyclist-friendly city in the future.