Urban planning, public transportation, and bicycling – three of my interests that are rolled into one in a Montreal-based bicycle sharing program called BIXI, short for BIcycle taXI. BIXI was introduced in June 2009, quickly growing to 5,000 bicycles. The one-millionth ride was taken in the first five months. Perhaps this is a model that we will see gain traction in other cities?
Already, BIXI has expanded into Melbourne, Australia and Minneapolis, Minnesota – and London, England and Boston, Massachusetts are supposed to be online this summer. A system in parts of Washington, DC is scheduled to be on the way, too. Other cities around the world are installing similar systems.
There is a bicycle rental program here in Bangkok, but it is only in the touristy section of the old city, designed for sightseeing, not transportation. I do ride my bicycle here, but since there are few places to park, I ride it mostly for exercise and not errands.
Bicycling is an ideal way to get around for many of the errands we run or even for some of the distances we commute. Much of the year, the weather is fine, and bicycling is faster than walking. But one of the biggest obstacles is that we don’t want to lug our bicycle all over the place, especially if we need to travel by bus, train, or car for portions of the journey.
Bicycle sharing programs eliminate the hassle. By providing a bicycle when and where you need it, you can easily integrate a bicycle into your overall transportation options. The system allows you to take a bicycle from wherever you are and leave it wherever you are going, without having to worry about bringing it back to your point of origin. A subscription program lets you rent a bike on the fly, free for the first thirty minutes, or you can pay as you go.
The bicycles are durable and designed to keep you from getting messy – chain guards and fenders keep the oil and puddles off you. A handy basket lets you carry your belongings with you and even pick up a bag of groceries or other small items.
Best of all, in my opinion, is their convenience. This map of most of Montreal shows how densely located the BIXI bike stations are. They are everywhere – usually within a block of where you are! Especially when tied into transit systems like bus and train lines and large car parks, the bike sharing system makes it easy to switch to a secondary mode of travel, one that is better for you and for our environment.
If you would like more information about BIXI, you can click here. For more information about bicycle sharing systems in general, here is the Wikipedia article. Sorry if this sounds like a marketing brochure – I just think BIXI sounds like a cool idea that should be the standard rather than the exception in more cities.