Bixi, Montreal's public bike system

Montreal has rolled out their prototypes for their bikesharing program, Bixi, to launch next spring.

"Weighing in at 20 kilograms, with three gears, they have an aluminum frame and a distinctive design. Each so-called Bixi features enclosed cabling and chains and dynamo-powered front and rear lights. These bikes have been designed to be able to tough it out for between 75,000 and 100,000 kilometres of use on the city's streets and hills, officials said.

"By next spring, the city expects to have 2,400 of the custom-built Bixis available from a total of 300 solar-powered docking stations in six boroughs: Plateau Mont Royal, Rosemont-La Petite Patrie, Ville Marie, Outremont, Villeray-St. Michel and the South-West."

According to Bixi (a combination of bicycle and taxi), it is a self-sustaining program that won't rely on any outside funding - whether advertising or public. The Montreal equivalent of the Toronto Parking Authority put up $15 million to design and build the system and they hope to recover all the money (except for the R&D) through user fees. There is an annual pass of $78 but people can also choose monthly, weekly, or daily passes. Once you've got a membership you will get the first half hour free and pay in increasing amounts for every half hour after that. Since most trips will be within a half hour it should be quite affordable for most people, especially considering the option of transit passes or taxis.

Out of last week's Bikes as a Public Good Forum we found out that Bixi claims that each bike will cost $1500 per year to administer and maintain, but it will also be shared between approximately 15 people. This makes it significantly cheaper than other programs, and if their claim is correct it will turn out to be one of the only self-sustaining bikesharing programs.

Keep an eye out in Toronto too, as the City has announced bikesharing for this city starting next year. It's an ambitious plan, let's hope they can do it before winter hits in 2009.


My first reaction: Wow, those bikes at 20 kilos are tanks -- I'd hate to pedal 'em up Mount Royal. But the Bixi's heft shouldn't be a deterrent; Velib's bikes, at a portly 22 KGs, have proven that.

I'm glad that Montreal has commissioned dedicated bikes, a la Velib, for Bixi. The design is appropriate: enclosed cables and drivetrain should minimize maintenance, and casual and utility riders will not need accessories or specific clothing -- just get on and go. Excellent.

Underwriting the venture through parking fees is an especially appealing approach -- love it!

I hope Bixi will be a self-sustaining concern but have misgivings, not so much of the viability of the program, but of the fiscal competence and rosy projections of politicians. How many times have we heard that a program will be revenue neutral, etc.?

May it succeed beyond best hopes. I wish their optimism triumphs and congratulate them on their initiative. Bonne chance Montreal!

I hope this program is successful. Although I usually bring my own bike any time I go to Montreal, I'm looking forward to checking out their program. It really sounds like they put a lot of thought into it, especially regarding the design of the bikes and the way the stations work.

I remember being in Montreal around the summer of 2003 and seeing a bike sharing program in front of an office building near the Notre Dame cathedral. Looked like the bikes were set aside for use by the employees and customers of that office building. Seemed like a great idea to me.

As I've said before, if they ever implement a large-scale bike sharing program in Toronto, I'd probably sign up even though I have my own bikes.

Unfortunately - for cycling advocacy - in the later '90s Ottawa City Hall implemented a bike sharing program for City Councillors and their staff to bicycle from downtown meeting to meeting.

Before the program could even get through its first two weeks, it was canceled. Too many complaints from citizens that - at $600 per bike - this was another example of politicians' irresponsible spending of taxpayer dollars.