Bixi

I got to ride a BIXI Toronto bike (maybe we all will soon)

I was recently given a sneak peak of the BIXI Toronto bikes, which are being securely stored in a City "bunker" somewhere. We've made progress in the last two years.

Two years ago TCAT presented the TCAT Public Bike Forum (I helped Fred Sztabinski and Andrew Bieler organize it). At the forum we invited the top bikesharing systems out there (the advertising-based systems stayed away, most likely because Astral Media already had a lock on Toronto's street furniture deal). Alain Ayotte of Public Bike System Company out of Montreal gave an interesting presented on BIXI; it was the first time someone said that a bikesharing system could be financially self-sufficient and not rely on advertising or grants (I had presented on Bikeshare which met its death because it relied on unstable grants and received no public funding to keep it running).

BIXI was (and is?) the best of breed. Soon after that TCAT and the bike union invited BIXI to come show off their bikes. That was the first taste Torontonians had of the BIXI system. Come July 28th, T.O.ers will get their second taste at the BIXI Bash at the Gladstone Hotel (7:30pm), as BIXI launches its membership drive (only 900 or so left to sell!).

You want to Bixi? Pledge a membership and become a Bixi community leader

Bixi is coming to Toronto!

It's exciting... but wait. There's still more work to be done before we'll get Bixi. City Council required that Bixi get 1000 membership pledges by November 30th of this year. That's 1000 people putting down money for a membership that will be good for next year if and when Bixi launches in Toronto. The City and community partners will be hosting a Bixi Toronto pledge drive kick-off in July (date TBA). To get started we (city staff and volunteers) are looking for 50 keen "community leaders" who are willing to pledge and work towards finding others.

City Hall put us in a tough spot but I think we can get these 1000 members if we all let people know just how great Bixi is. And Bixi is a great. Just look at how enthusiastically London is pushing Bixi there in the video!

Bixi is setting up a Toronto website (forwarding to the main site still), which will have all the details, plus the ability to purchase memberships. For now people can visit the Montreal-version to see how Bixi works. You can also read below on how Bixi Toronto will operate. We'll keep you notified on the location of the Bixi Toronto demo bikes so you can try them out yourself this summer.

Bixi one major step closer to reality - now we only need 1000 members to start up

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.

Bixi Toronto and University bike lanes: tomorrow is decision day at City Hall

Tomorrow is do or die. Either council approves the loan guarantee and contract with Bixi, or it will be a long, long time before Toronto gets its own bikesharing program. Please go to City Hall at 10 am with your bike helmet on to show your support. The Mayor is making a special push for it!

The 2010 Bikeway Network will be coming up at a later time, possibly on May 12th. That's when the University bike lane pilot will up for vote. This item will be likely even more contentious than Bixi. Follow the bike union's Twitter feed @bikeunion to see when the item is coming up, then rush down to City Hall with your helmets!

I've got a lot of hope riding on Bixi. Way back in 2000, my roommate Todd Parsons first brought back the idea of yellow bikesharing back from his trip to Austin, Texas. This brought forth Bikeshare, which populated Toronto with lots of yellow bikes for 6 great years. Now I'm hoping that Bixi will more than fill the hole that Bikeshare left. I hope that all cyclists and other folks can jump to show the politicians that this is a great idea! We can't let Montreal have all the fun.

From Yvonne at the bike union:

As per my email last week about the City Council meeting taking place May 11th & 12th in Council Chambers - you are invited to attend whenever you are able.

Although I don't have specific details around timing, I now know that Item PW 32.8 – The Public Bike (Bixi-Toronto) Program (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2010/pw/bgrd/background...) will be one of the Mayor's items! Good news indeed.

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