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!).
Back to the test ride. The BIXI bike rides much like a Dutch bike; upright, slow and sure. With most urban trips within a half hour bike ride, the BIXI works well for what it's designed (particularly when you get the first half hour free).
[img_assist|nid=4026|title=BIXI Toronto at birth|desc=|link=popup|align=center|width=500|height=375]
The stations fit multiples of six bikes; they can be expanded as needed. Each bike is locked or released from its individual lock.
[img_assist|nid=4023|title=Locking it in|desc=|link=popup|align=center|width=338|height=450]
A lot of thought went into making the bikes sturdier and better able to withstand multiple people using the bikes day in, day out. The lights are integrated into the frame. The chain guard is actually an integral part of the frame and protects the chain from the elements and keeps your pant legs from getting greasy. The roller brakes are part of the hub, making it much harder for water to muck up the moving bits.
[img_assist|nid=4024|title=Integrated lights, chain and brakes|desc=|link=popup|align=center|width=338|height=450]
The seat post has numbered notches in it so that the next time you pick up a bike you can easily adjust it to the same height. I'm a 9.
[img_assist|nid=4025|title=Changing the seat height is easy|desc=|link=popup|align=center|width=338|height=450]
On July 28th you will all get your chance to try out the bikes. Mark it on your calendar: BIXI Bash July 28, 7pm at The Gladstone. Be ready to purchase a 2011 membership!