As Bixi takes to the streets of London, Melbourne, Minneapolis this year, bike-share programs are springing up throughout North America, and one of Bixi's competitors, the B-Cycle, is now the bike of choice in Denver, Chicago and Des Moines. When looking at the two bikes, one striking difference is the B-Cyle's large roomy basket. You may recall that a year ago, my only criticism of the Bixi was its lack of a basket. My husband checked out the bike and told me that the Bixi designer knew exactly what s/he was doing. He claimed that a basket would have been too easily damaged in addition to adding too much weight to the front of the bike. Well, was he right? And the bigger question: how does Bixi measure up to the B-Cycle? I'd have to ask someone who has used both the Bixi and the B-Cycle to be sure. Enter Lucie.
Lucie test drives a B-Cycle
Friend, fellow translator and regular city cyclist Lucie happened to be visiting Denver last spring, and while she was in the Mile-High city, she paid the flat rate to take a B-Cycle out for the day on the Cherry Creek cycling trail.
She described the bike as heavy and slightly difficult to maneuver. "Heavy" is par for the course as far as public bikes go, as they have to withstand a lot of use and abuse, but maneuverability is something else. Lucie said that the handlebar grips were farther apart than on a standard bike, making it difficult to turn, particularly on and off the ramps to the bike path. She also said that the basket added noticeable weight to the front of the bike, making it front heavy (Shit, I hate when my husband's right!). There was also apparently a lot of clanking noise with the B-Cycle.
Our test driver also encountered a problem when she didn't push the bike into the dock hard enough, and thus, in the system, it was as if the bike had never been returned. Luckily, she learned of her mistake before someone else had taken out the bike on her credit card.
This, however, is the case for all public bikes. Just last week, I did not return my Bixi properly and only discovered the next morning when I couldn't take out another one. By the time, the Bixi team had tracked down it, the bike had already traveled an additional 274 km. After submitting a request pleading my case, I was charged only an additional $1.50. Now, I'm especially careful to wait for the telltale bell that indicates my bike has been safely returned.
Regardless of the B-Cycle's shortcomings, Lucie enjoyed her tour of Denver. In fact, she says that it's the only way to visit a city. As our test driver is too cool for guided group tours, and walking is too slow for our speed demon, she would definitely take out another B-Cycle if she ever returned to Denver.
Lucie test drives a Bixi
Last week, I got Lucie to test drive a Bixi. She took it out for a 10-minute spin in downtown Montreal. For seven months of the year, our test driver rides a light-weight 21-speed. When Lucie returned, she said that the Bixi was heavier than her regular bike, but that it was lighter than the B-Cycle. She added that the Bixi ride was smoother and quieter. She also thought that the first and second gears were great for climbing Montreal's many hills.
The only criticism that she had was the lack of a fourth gear. She said that she could not get to a fast enough cruising speed in third. In other words, she would be unable to get from Place Bonaventure to Place Dupuis for her weekly bridge game in her usual break-neck 12 minutes. I've heard that there is no fourth gear for safety reasons. After all, we all know how dangerously fast some people cycle on the Claire Morissette bike path on De Maisonneuve, and we don't need any more.
However, I was interested in the maneuverability of the Bixi compared with the B-Cycle.
"No comparison," said Lucie. "The Bixi's handlebar grips are not as far apart as those on the B-Cycle, and the front is not nearly as heavy. The more enjoyable ride is definitely the Bixi."
And the basket...
I've been a Bixi subscriber for almost a year and after traveling more than 1,000 kilometres, I must admit that the Bixi rack and bungee cord are far more effective than a basket for transporting bags, groceries, etc. I found the rack much better suited for transporting irregular shaped objects, such as children's toys and my three-year-old's wooden bike. In addition, as most people who have a bike with a basket know, you only have to hit one pothole (No! In Montreal?!) to lose or damage the basket's contents. The bungee cord secures objects in place, so they can't be knocked around.
Reader, would you like a bike-share program in your city?
In the end, whether you prefer one public bike over the other is immaterial. Bike-share programs are win-win situations for everyone, creating healthy and environmentally friendly communities. And like Lucie, I think cycling is the most enjoyable way to visit a new city.
The Path of an Activist
Bixi: Success for All
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