City Cycling: Why Renting Beats Owning

Seven years ago, I got rid of my car and all the city driving headaches and expenses that went with it. I opted for the metro in the winter and my bike in the summer.

Obviously, I prefer my summer means of transport. Not only can I enjoy the summer greenery, sun and fresh air, but I can also get to my destination much more quickly.

There are, however, disadvantages to city cycling, namely theft of our dearly beloved, few parking spaces and winter storage.

Now I am not as attached to my bike as some people are. Pinkie, my ride, is hideous and not the most comfortable. I chose him for the simple reason that he was so hideous that only a desperate individual would steal him. What is more, although the situation is improving, many stores provide little, if anything, in the way of bike racks, and some residents object to you locking your bike to their fence. Finally, as a city dweller with little storage, I have to store my bike in the winter for a whopping $90 per season. I do sometimes hope that someone will steal Pinkie in early December, but as of yet, no such luck.

The Solution
As many of us have noticed, self-serve bike rental stands have been popping up in cities throughout Europe and North America (Vélibre in Paris, Smartbike DC in Washington, Bike and Roll throughout the US* and Bixi in Montreal). For a nominal price, which is cheaper than public transport and a fraction of the cost of owning a car, you can rent a bike and drop it off at a stand close to your destination. And don't worry, there are hundreds of stands all over the city.

(Have you tried any of the Smart Bike DC, Bixi or Vélibre bikes? Do you prefer to rent or own in the city?)

The City of Montreal has designed the very sturdy 3-speed Bixi (combo of bike and taxi), and you can get an annual pass for just $78. The first half-hour is free each time you enter your code, which is perfect because I can get to work and run just about any errand in 20 minutes. In addition, there are 4 rental stands within a five-minute walk of my home. This means that as soon as I slide a bike into the stand after use and hear "the ding," the Bixi is no longer my responsibility. I, therefore, don't have to worry about theft, find a place to lock my bike or pay $90 to store it in the winter.

The added bonus is that I can take a Bixi to meet my friends for dinner downtown, and I am not compelled to ride it back after a few drinks. I can simply take a cab.

The Bixi works out to be cheaper, more convenient and fewer worries than owning a bike.

However, the real clincher in this renting vs. owning debate is how the Bixi rides. In my next post, I will tell you about my test drive.

*At Bike and Roll, you can rent a bike for an extended period of time, but it is not a bike share program (See comments).

A Review of Montreal's Bixi Rental Bike


C. McKane | July 6, 2009 at 7:57 PM

what a great idea.
$90 per season for your bike- ouch. can't wait to hear how the test drive goes.
poor pinkie!

Heather | July 6, 2009 at 9:16 PM

It really is a great idea, and so far, it has been successful. The $90-storage fee is very expensive, but I still use my bike for 7 months and am not paying for either a public transit pass or a car.

Catharine Pear | July 7, 2009 at 10:38 AM


I'm the Marketing Director for Bike and Roll DC and came across your blog in my alerts from Google. Thanks for including us in your post! :)

The Bike and Roll link you provided is just for the Washington, DC and Alexandria, VA locations. The national site is Bike and Roll offers rentals and tours and though you may rent for an extended period, we are not a bike share program.

However, Washington DC is the first country in America to offer a bike share program. Currently, there are 10 stations with 100 bicycles(expanding to 100 stations with 1000 bikes in the next couple of years). Annual membership is $40 US dollars. It's a great program! Check out:

BTW, I like your bike's name....

Heather | July 7, 2009 at 6:24 PM

Thanks for stopping by. I will make the necessary corrections and changes. Thanks for the additional information. All the best.

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