If the strike doesn't delay things the City will be entering into negotiations with Bixi this fall for Toronto's new bike sharing system. Only two companies responded to the City's Request for Proposal of Interest this last spring. Only one of them qualified on technical grounds. Bixi was accepted to enter into negotiations. The loser, the "Public Nature Corporation of Toronto", is calling foul and asking for a do over.
Only the Public Bicycle System Company (as Bixi is called when doing negotiations outside of Montreal) met the requirements and was pre-qualified to make a bid. Weeks after the City announced who qualified and made a request to City Council to negotiate, a National Post article has giving precious ink to the Public Nature Corporation to explain why the whole process was unfair. Matias Marin, CEO of the Public Nature Corporation is claiming the City is not being open because they were excluded and that it should not only re-open the bidding process but also hold public consultations even though this apparently not the regular habit of City Hall.
Mr. Marin said his idea, still at the development stage, would provide Toronto with a more technologically advanced system including regenerative braking, which stores energy and releases it when the rider is climbing a hill. Mr. Marin said other technology could return the bike’s stored energy into the city’s power grid.
Matias Marin, chief executive of Public Nature Corporation, said the BIXIs are too heavy and susceptible to vandalism and theft.
I wonder how a company that doesn't even have a website can make a convincing argument that they have superior technology to Bixi, which made #19 on Time's list of Best 2008 Inventions. Let me make this a bit more transparent. Mr. Marin claims they are developing electric bikes that can be left outside 24/7; will be robust under continuous use and abuse; and will be inexpensive enough to not rely on advertising revenue. The Bixi bikes cost $2000 a piece; are sturdy; vandal-resistant; comes with a smart card system of locking stations; and don't rely on advertising to operate. Those claims are a bit hard to swallow. One only needs to look at the current market for electric bikes to see that the base price starts at about $1500. Given that these bikes need to withstand vandalism, abuse and all weather, the cost will soon skyrocket.
The most ridiculous part of Mr. Marin's proposal is that the bikes will return their "stored energy into the city's power grid". I just hope he's not trying to create bikes where cyclists will end up on hamster wheels trying to keep the city's lights on.
I'm not sure why Mr. Marin thinks why Toronto needs electric motors when all the other cities with bike sharing systems are doing fine with regular pedal bikes. What's wrong with reducing our obesity rate a little?
Technical feasibility aside, Mr. Marin is missing the point: this is supposed to be a functioning system of bikes and stations by next year. The City isn't giving out a grant for a research project. Mr. Marin should perhaps go hat in hand to the feds to ask for funding to get their amazing electric bikes off the ground. And the next time he wishes to respond to a city call for proposals he could first read carefully through the requirements.