All Hail the Bixi
07 Sep 2009
The City of Montreal, Canada, has a cool new public bike network. Accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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The Greener Way to Get Around Town
The City of Montreal, Canada, has a cool new public bike network. Accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from May to November, travellers can grab a Bixi when they need to go somewhere and leave it behind when they arrive.
The City’s aim was to provide a user-friendly, affordable, ‘greener” alternative to the car, which also complemented other types of public transport. In fact, Bixi has been coined one of the finest self-serve transport systems in the whole world. It is ranked 19th in TIME magazine’s best inventions of 2008 and won the Edison Gold Award for being the best product of 2009, alongside other such notables as the iPhone, Speedo competition swimwear and Barack Obama’s election campaign.
The Bixi — an abbreviation of ‘bike’ and ‘taxi’ ‘- is modelled on bike sharing programmes up and running in Europe, notably the Velib Network of Paris. It was introduced to reduce the amount of traffic, on the premise that a “Bixi in use will count for one less car”. Furthermore, while these little electric runabouts are made from cutting-edge composites, they are tracked via a state-of-the-art wireless communication system and docked in solar powered parking bays. No electrical connections mean they can be stationed anywhere without roadworks and taken away just as fast. Bixi’s website is also accessible and people can log on from their iPhone to find their nearest dock.
The bikes, which are light, clean, easy-to-use, with hidden cables and enclosed chains, are designed to tough it out for 60,000 miles. To stop them being stolen, each vehicle contains a GPS chip, so if not returned, it will slow to a halt and the brakes will lock. However, to cement a true sense of civic pride in the system, the makers have adopted a cult-like approach. “We are Bixi!” says the new movement, so if you steal or damage them, it might be deemed as blasphemous.
To date, there are 3,000 bikes shared between 300 stations, located in three boroughs. The service opened in Spring and will close in November to avoid icy conditions. The dock locations have been determined by points of interest, shops, universities, cycling paths, bus or train stations and population movement.
Daily, monthly or annual subscriptions serve different needs and there is also a special offer that rewards the first Bixi bikers — the system’s founding members. Providing the payment covers the period needed to complete the journey, there is no maximum time the vehicle can be borrowed. However, Bixi’s fee structure encourages short trips to avoid queues. The first half hour is free but the longer the ride, the less advantageous the price ratio becomes.
Bixi has truly taken off like wildfire among the business sector, visitors and urbanites alike. Ottawa and Gatineau, in Ontario, are also piloting the concept, sharing four stations and 50 bikes. “We developed the programme for Montreal,” explains Councillor Andre Lavallee, who championed the new transport network, “but we are convinced it’s good for any city.” Mr. Lavallee added that New York and London are considering Bixi as a model for their own self-serve system.
Contact: BIXI Montreal 2113,
32e Avenue, Lachine, Quebec, H8T 3J1
Je suis BIXI! Photo: Courtesy of BIXI
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