|My New Bike|
This was another stellar year for Bixi, Montreal's public bike system, with 4,174,917 trips, a 25% increase over 2010. Other good news: there are some 40,000 yearly subscribers, which is up 24% from last year, and the operating deficit shrunk from $7.2 million to $3.2 million. Sales on the international front were fair, but not as good as expected. But never mind the sales. What was 2012 like for users? This being my third year, I have a few comments to make, both good and bad. Let`s start with the positive.
Bixi was the fastest way to get around our construction-ridden city last summer.
Our public bike was also available until November 15 this year. Next year, December 1 would be even better.
Bixi was far too convenient for me to give up, even after the cheesy advertising was added.
Compared to owning a bike, Bixi is almost hassle-free. It`s a pain to have to find a place to lock up my new bike every time I go to the store for milk.
Theft with Bixi is a non-issue. I`d also forgotten about New Bike Angst (NBA) or being too afraid to take my new bike anywhere for fear it will be stolen.
I found that motorists were more considerate or just more aware of cyclists this year; however, many cyclists travel far too fast on the Claire Morissette bike path, making it dangerous for everyone.
The novelty of Bixi has not worn off. It's still the cheapest, healthiest and most pleasant way to get around Montreal.
Depending on the time of the year (last June being the worst), the only bikes left were broken or not roadworthy. The company still needs to inform users of the little wrench icon on the dock to report a bike in need of repair.
Expanding service to more city boroughs sounds great in theory, except that everyone is going downtown to work between 8:00 and 9:00 am. In June and July, it was very difficult to find a place to park downtown; all the stations were full. I had to either leave earlier than in the previous two years or drop the Bixi off at the first station with a free space and walk the rest of the way.
I called to report a malfunctioning station twice last summer, and it was never repaired. I know because I used it regularly. When I returned a bike, there was never a ring indicating that the bike had been properly returned. Once I was fined $30 because I had apparently not returned a bike to that very station.
The above three disadvantages are all signs of an organization that grew too fast before ironing out all of its kinks. Bixi still continued to thrive this year because of the enthusiasm of Montrealers and the people working at Bixi. But I doubt other cities will be as enthusiastic. I think they're looking for a turnkey solution with all the logistical and technical problems worked out.
As you can see my feelings are mixed. I still think that Bixi is a great idea, and we may only see the health benefits of the public bike system in a decade's time. But I must confess that I'm still confused about our municipal tax dollars being used to finance/fund/bail out Bixi last spring. From what I've read, it's very difficult to determine who reaps the financial benefits or even who is financially accountable for the entire public bike system. I fear that our beloved Bixi may become a boondoggle for Montreal taxpayers. We must demand clear, transparent reporting and settle for nothing less, or this may become our new Olympic stadium.
The Path of a Cycling Activist
Dear Bixi Chairman Roger Plamondon
Montreal Bixi v. Denver B-Cycle
Bixi: Success For All?
A Review of Montreal's Bixi