As most of us already know, the City of Toronto has recently joined the growing number of cities with a public bike sharing program. BIXI Toronto, based off of Montreal’s successful BIXI program, will be hitting Toronto’s streets as early as May 2011. Though there isn’t much information online about the program and how it will work I had the chance to chat with a City of Toronto employee to talk about some of the finer details of how BIXI will run in Toronto and what makes it unique compared to other bike sharing programs.
How to rent a bike:
BIXI Toronto will share many of the same aspects with BIXI Montreal from the docking stations to the bikes. In order to use a BIXI bike one must either have a membership or purchase a temporary pass. Subscriptions will cost $6 a day, $40 a month, and $90 a year. This will allow for unlimited access to the bikes during the subscription period. Subscribers will be able to take out a bike and use it for a maximum of 30 minutes, after the 30 minutes a small charge is incurred depending on how long the bike is rented out for. Subscribers can return the bike at any docking station which is perfect for multi-modal transport (for example: biking from one place to a subway station then taking a train) or for various trips in the City. Like the Montreal program, Torontonians will have 24 hour access to the bikes but they can use them all year, unlike BIXI Montreal which only runs during the spring, summer and fall seasons.
The docking stations:
To maximize coverage and access, 80 docking stations will be spaced 300 meters apart throughout the downtown area of Toronto in a grid pattern. The docking stations are portable needing no excavation work or alterations to the streetscape. The docking stations are 2m * 9m in size (for reference, an average parking spot for 1 vehicle is around 5.5m * 3m) and can accommodate a maximum of 12 bikes at a time. The pay stations have an easy to use touch screen which controls purchases, transactions and can be used to alert BIXI employees if a bike is in need of repair. Adding to the green concept of the bike sharing program, the docking stations will not be plugged into an electrical outlet as it will be powered using built in solar panels.
BIXI bikes are built around a rugged aluminum frame which can accommodate riders up to 120 kg (265 lbs) in weight and the front rack has a maximum capacity of 8 kg (18 lbs). It is a step-through frame is perfect for those wearing skirts or who have difficulty swinging their legs over the saddle and top-tube and features full fenders and both a chain and skirt guard to make it practical no matter what you wear and the low.
The bike is driven using a 3-speed internally geared hub with a chain tensioner to prevent accidental chain derailment and features drum brakes on the front and rear wheels for effective stopping power in all weather conditions. The brake and shifter cables are routed internally to protect them from the elements and from vandalism. The bike is completed with active front and rear lights which are dynamo (pedal) powered rather than powered by batteries for increased visibility and safety.
The success of BIXI Toronto relies on subscribers who will rent out the BIXI bikes. Initially, there will be 1,000 bikes and the City is aiming to have 1,000 subscription pledges by November 2010 to ensure that the program has the financial stability to keep it running. The initial cost of implementing BIXI Toronto will be under $5 million and will require $1.3m annually for operational costs. Despite the costs, large scale bike sharing programs such as BIXI Montreal and Vélib’ are successful both in addressing the need for more utilitarian cycling while proving to be financially beneficial.
BIXI Toronto needs subscribers so be sure to spread the word or get a membership yourself. At $90 a year it’s much cheaper than buying a beater bike with a lock and you don’t even have to worry about paying a mechanic for tune ups or doing your own repairs.