The Bixi: Success For All?

Just about everyone's heard about the success of Montreal's bike share program and that it's star, the Bixi, has now been rolled out in London, Melbourne, Minneapolis and Washington, DC--Arlington, VA. In 2009, the program's first year of operation in Montreal, the Bixi was used 1.14 million times.

I became a subscriber last September like many other people on the Plateau-Mont-Royal. In fact, of the 10,775 people who bought annual subscriptions in 2009, 34% lived on the Plateau. This might explain why you can't swing a cat without hitting a Bixi station. Unsurprisingly, 32,098 bikes were checked in and out at the Mont-Royal station, making it the busiest in the city.

As I reported last year, the Bixi has reduced the number of cab fares in the city, so I wondered if the Bixi had hurt business for bike retail shops in my neighbourhood. We went shopping yesterday for bikes for our kids at ABC Cycles et Sports at 5584 Park Avenue, and I asked the owner, François Sylvestre, what effect the Bixi has had on business.

"It's been good for business," he said. "People who tried the Bixi decided that they liked cycling and wanted to buy a better bike for themselves."

This surprised me. Given the number of bike thefts and the convenience of having a Bixi station at every corner, I assumed that most people would prefer the worry-free Bixi option to having their own. Not so.

"I agree that the Bixi is convenient. I use it myself on occasion," said Sylvestre. "But as for thefts, most bikes are stolen at night, and that is when people have to take extra precautions, like bringing their bike inside or putting it in the garage."

Was it true that the Bixi's success was win-win for everyone in cycling circles? I decided to stop by at D'un Sport à l'Autre at 173 Bernard West to find out.

This is by far my favourite bike shop in the hood. It's the thrift shop of bike and sports retailers. In other words, there are plenty of treasures both used and new if you have the time and don't mind getting poked with pedals and handlebars in the process. In addition to vintage sporting goods and unique objects (see left), you'll find used cycling accessories, such as good quality seats and helmets, at a fraction of the price.

So has the Bixi put a dent in business? Apparently, not. "As you can see," said the clerk, "we're diversified, and no, there has been no change in our volume of business since the Bixi has come out."

And there's my answer. The Bixi has not had a detrimental impact on area sports retailers. If anything, it has made cycling even more popular, and with new cycling paths and more Bixi stations, I'm sure that it will get even bigger.

My question to you reader, if you had a bike share program in your city, would you drop your current means of transport and take a public bike to work or school?

Related Posts:

Fun Way to Track Bike Use and Carbon Foot Print
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


Unknown | June 13, 2010 at 9:28 PM

Excellent piece! Congratulations!

Heather | June 13, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Hey thanks!

Joey | June 14, 2010 at 12:06 AM

I would imagine it would increase the bike sales in general...greater awareness, cheap trial to see if it "is for you", encouragement from public officials to use green transport, all points to using more bikes.

Heather | June 14, 2010 at 10:29 AM

I agree with you on all those points, but I think bike paths have been key to Bixi's success. The number one argument I hear from people against cycling to work and school is safety. Too many people are afraid of getting hit by a car. I'm not sure that the Bixi would have worked without the added cycling infrastructure in Montreal.

roseanne | June 15, 2010 at 10:48 AM

i love bixis in theory, and i feel grateful to live in a city with such wonderful bike infrastructure. i'm also glad that montreal's bixi program can serve as a model for urban centres around the world. in practice, though... as a cyclist, i find bixi riders to be slow, inattentive and at times even erratic. especially in the tourist areas...

but i'm just crabby, i guess :) overall, it's good to hear that they're not taking away business from the bike store in the area. also sort of related: have you seen the new sufi bike shop on fairmount? it's called velo dervish and it's in the basement of la khaima. every neighbourhood needs a sufi bike shop!

Heather | June 15, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Hi Roseanne!
The slow, inattentive, even erratic bixiista would be me toute crachée!

But you`re right, people who ride too fast and too slow are worrisome, particularly with the increased traffic on the bike paths. The worst sections are where you have to change from an east-west path to north-south (University and De Maisonneuve).

I`ve met the Sufi bike repairer in person at la khaima. Thanks for another great tip to check out.

C. McKane | June 19, 2010 at 3:18 PM

This is a cool concept and good to see so much positive response. I just got my first bike again since my teen years and have only ridden it on bike paths till I get my confidence back. Yes, I'd consider switching to a greener mode of commute if I didn't work nights that is!

I see many riding the commuter bikes to the train, I don't think regular bikes are allowed on our commuter rail (to Boston) but I could be wrong.

Love the tricycle... what kind of steering is that!?

Heather | June 19, 2010 at 3:30 PM

I'm with you about cycling at night. Unless of course, you have a sidewalk you can cycle home on. Even then...

As for the tricycle, there is no steering. It's just two different brakes. You brake really hard on one side and you can spin to a stop. Heather

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