It wasn’t quite bike weather on Tuesday morning in Toronto as rain fell, puddles formed and the clouds obscured the sun. You wouldn’t know it, but a new biking revolution was brewing on Yonge and Gould Streets. BIXI has rolled into town and today marked the launch of its bike sharing program. With 300 shiny new black bikes lined up neatly in their docking stations, it’s going to get a lot easier for Torontonians to hop on a bike and take a tour of their city.
“The purpose of the program is to provide everyone with immediate access to bikes as an alternate mode of transportation,” said Gian-Carlo Crivello, director of business development for the Public Bike System Company (the organization behind BIXI). “BIXI is designed to compliment public transit. It’s intended for one-way trips of less than 30 minutes. At the end of the trip, simply bring back the bikes at one of the 80 downtown locations.”
Over the next few weeks, BIXI will roll out 1,000 bikes and 80 docking stations throughout the city. It will be available 24/7 to anyone with credit card and inclination to cycle. Regular users can buy one month subscriptions to BIXI for $40 or opt for a one-year option for $95. Members get a BIXI key that they can insert into bikes at any station. Occasional users can purchase 24 hour access for $5 or 72 hours for $12. A smartphone app called “Spot Cycle” for the bike service has already gone live and gives users information on 50 stations. Over the next two weeks, BIXI’s 30 other stations will go live.
“I think it’s extremely significant for the city,” Andrea Garcia, director of advocacy for the Toronto Cyclists Union, told OurFaves. “Suddenly we have 1,000 bikes for the general public to use right in the downtown. I think it’s going to significantly increase the visibility of cycling in the city.”
But in a city of almost 2.5 million, will 1,000 do the trick? Garcia is optimistic. “I think most public bike systems are installed in phases,” she said. “It makes sense to start in the most dense area which is what they’re doing and then based on trends of use and success rates, that’s when they can start expanding outward. Obviously, the current service is not enough to cover the whole city. But at the moment, that’s not what it’s meant to do. I see this really as a phase one.”
In Montreal, BIXI is considered a success story, attracting 30,000 members and winning the TAC Sustainable Urban Transportation Award. La Belle Province boasts 5,050 bikes, 405 stations and 80 docking points. London, England also bit into a piece of bike sharing program pie. It now has almost 120,000 members, 6,000 bikes and 400 stations.
The program was a joint effort between BIXI and sponsors TELUS and Desjardins Securities. The City of Toronto provided the program with a $4.8 million loan to launch the system, according to a BIXI spokesman.
-1,000 3-speed bikes
-1,5000 docking points
For more information, visit BIXI.com.
Article and photographs by Maria Cootauco