After a long debate at city council (see a photo of councillors looking at the blue Bixi bike), Bixi public bikes are getting so close to being a reality that I can almost feel myself riding around on these elegant, cruising, commuter machines. The final vote at Council was 33-8 as councillors approved the plan provide a loan guarantee of $4.8 million to Bixi so that they can borrow money and roll out 1000 bikes at 80 stations, spaced 300 metres apart across the core. It's anticipated to be popular enough that the bikes will need to be expanded quickly.
Under the deal, Bixi will need to raise $600,000 in sponsorships and 1000 annual, paying memberships by November 30, 2010. (I will be helping to promote membership in Bixi so we can achieve that target. I'd buy all 1000 memberships myself if I could, but I don't have $78,000 sitting around.)
If all goes to plan the target launch date is May 1, 2011. From the Star:
Membership fees haven’t been finalized but are expected to be $78 a year, $28 a month, or $5 a day, allowing members to take a bike out whenever they want, up to 30 minutes at a time, for no extra charge.
The program, called Bixi (bicycle-taxi), was popular when it rolled out in Montreal last year with 3,000 bikes and 300 stations. It’s expected to be a hit here as well. The Canadian-made bikes are described as rugged and lightweight, with a rack that can handle a briefcase or a case of beer.
“This really is an active extension of our public transit system,” said Yvonne Bambrick, of the Toronto Cyclists Union. “This is another option for people to choose, and I think they’re really going to enjoy it.”
According to Spacing's Twitter feed, these are the 8 councillors (out of 41 voting) who voted against Bixi: "DelGrande, Ford, Holyday, Minnan-Wong, Nunziata, Ootes, Thompson & Ainslie".