Fun Way to Track Bike Use and Carbon Footprint

Montreal's bike-taxi or Bixi was definitely this summer's shining star, and Bixi fever is spreading fast. Both London and Boston have signed agreements to use the Bixi in their future city bike-share programs. Effective, September 28, 2009, there were 10,297 regular users and 103,209 occasional users in Montreal after just four months in operation. A resounding success!

Faced with a mysterious flat tire in September and my son changing daycares, I decided to put my regular bike into retirement and subscribe to Montreal's Bixi. Four days after signing on, I received my key in the mail. Not only does the Bixi web site keep track of my stats, such as the distance I travel and how many litres of gas I save, but it also allows me to keep track of activity at my favourite docking stations. Yes, we are still talking about bikes.

As you may already know, Bixi is not a bike rental program. In other words, you never have to return the bike to its starting point. Instead you drop your Bixi off at the closest station to your destination. However, if the docking station is full, you have to find another one. Sounds simple enough...right? At a cost of $78 a year, you get a Bixi membership and the first half-hour of cycling is free. Therefore, if your trip takes 29 minutes and the docking station at your destination is full, then you will probably have to pay $1.50 for the next hour.

Knowing the location and the status of the Bixi docking station closest to your destination is therefore key to saving on any additional charges. I learned the hard way this week when I ventured into unfamiliar terrain, the Centre-Sud neighbourhood of Montreal. (Photo on left: funky Centre-Sud organic fairtrade café that I happened upon while searching for a docking station.)

Because I live on the Plateau, I assumed that Bixi stations were as ubiquitous as they are in my hood. Wrong. As I was driving around the Centre-Sud trying to find an obscure side street by the name of Provencale, I noticed very few stations.

I eventually asked someone who gave me directions to one nearby. Unfortunately, when I arrived, the station was full. I had to pedal a fair distance and incur the additional charge before finding an available dock. As you can see in the capture below, I have started keeping track of dock availability close to home.

Other than this problemcita, I have been very pleased with my first week of bixiing to work. I no longer have the hassle of removing my seat or child carrier and lugging them around downtown with me. I also don't have to find a safe place to lock my bike up, as there is a huge Bixi docking station close to work. But the best part is, if it rains, I can take the metro home and don't have to worry about having my bike stolen overnight.

BTW, you may remember from my post in August that bixi users had travelled enough kilometres to go around the world 57 times. This dizzying globetrotting has now surpassed 87 times.

Related Posts:
3 Compelling Reason For A Bike-Share Program in Your City
City Cycling: Why Renting Beats Owning
A Review of Montreal's Bixi Rental Bike



Benoit Gratton | October 4, 2009 at 7:56 PM

Did you know that if a docking station is full, you just need to go at the pay station, enter your id number (which you'll find in the back of your Bixi key), and you'll be given an extra 15 minutes to find another station. These additional 15 minutes are at no extra cost.

Heather | October 4, 2009 at 8:02 PM

No way! I had no idea. That's a great piece of advice for anyone new to Bixi. Thanks Benoit!

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