BIXI Toronto reaches 500 members almost a year before it launches
BIXI Toronto memberships have reached 500 as of September 1st! This is a reason to celebrate! Why? Despite news reports suggesting this is a "lukewarm response", we are still nine months before the launch date and 3 months before the requirement to get 1000 memberships. They've also made the threshold high by only selling yearly memberships - the monthly memberships would have allowed many more people to dip their toes in the water before diving in.
City Hall made it quite difficult for bikesharing to get off the ground: they're providing no money to get it started, and even to get a loan guarantee (which only allows BIXI to get a better interest rate from private banks) City Hall made a number of harsh requirements. BIXI Toronto has reached the half-way mark after only one month out of 4 months.
With a bit perspective we can see that this is in fact remarkable that BIXI Toronto already has 500 members and over 1300 fans on the Facebook page. It's clearly popular. What other company selling a product requires that people purchase the product a year before it comes out? Only Apple fans would be crazy enough to do that.
I doubt that government ever demanded the public to pre-purchase memberships when the Toronto subway was built, or require the public to pay upfront before the highways were built. Why do it with a service that is clearly popular worldwide? Why make it hard when cycling is such a cheap way to help solve our imminent crises of climate change, air pollution, obesity and so on?
Cycling has been marginalized for so long that the powers that be are willing to ignore all evidence: none of the "third-generation" bikesharing systems (those that use smart keys, electronic locking systems and computerized tracking) have folded or failed to get enough users.
I'm not sure what kind of number crunching went on at City Hall, but maybe they could have looked at other feasibility studies done out there (lower left sidebar under "Feasibility Studies") and a cost-benefit analysis done for Washington D.C. that shows that the long-term benefits of bikesharing far outweigh the costs - we're talking in the 100s of millions of dollars over 20 years. And given that City Hall is putting absolutely none of its own money into it, it will be all gain and no pain.
We may still reach the 1000 member requirement by November 31 and get our measly 1000 bikes. But I'll be mighty pissed if we get to 900 and they say no.