How to use BIXI and not get charged extra fees

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 is the official launch of the BIXI bike share system in Toronto. Based on my experience in Montreal last summer and from conversations with friends it seems as though there is and will be some initial confusion with how to use the BIXI system.

The BIXI web site has step-by-step instructions for non-subscription based usage. These instructions will also appear on the payment terminal at all BIXI stations.

The majority of BIXI users will only ever pay the base user fees and not accrue extra charges. Here are a few points to remember so you only pay the base access fees and aren’t charged extra when using BIXI Toronto:

1) Your access fees grant you an unlimited number of trips using any BIXI bike at any BIXI station. However, each trip must be completed in under 30 mins or you are charged additional fees that escalate the longer you keep the bike.

2) When planning travel by BIXI use the station location map to plan both your route and to determine your destination. Remember, your BIXI trip is from station to station. Unlike car sharing where you rent and return a vehicle to the same location, with BIXI you return the bikes to ANY STATION.

3) When you purchase 24 or 72 hour access your credit card is your access key. You need a new access code to release a BIXI bike from its dock for every trip. To get another code, repeat the same steps you took when purchasing access, your credit card will not be charged again and this is the only way to get another code to release a BIXI bike.

4) One credit card can give you access to two BIXI bikes at a time. To release two BIXI bikes from one station you need two access codes. Codes are only printed individually so you need to repeat the access code process twice.

5) The close proximity of all BIXI stations means that when you stop riding you should return the bike to a station. You may be tempted to stop and run quick errands without returning the bike to a station. Doing this could result in the BIXI bike being stolen if left unattended or you may exceed your 30 minute usage time.

6) If the BIXI station you intended to end your trip at has no empty docks you can use your credit or access key to add an additional 15 minutes to your usage time. This only works when there are no vacant docks at a BIXI station.

7) Many of Toronto’s BIXI locations are located on sidewalks and in parks. BIXI bikes are vehicles and you can be ticketed for riding on sidewalks just like any other vehicle would be. Walk your BIXI to the nearest street to start your journey and obey traffic laws. A fine by Toronto Police Services could make your BIXI rental much more expensive.

For more answers to any BIXI-relation question visit the BIXI Toronto FAQ

Update: Still unsure of how to use BIXI? Here’s an excellent video to help: How BIXI Toronto Bike Sharing Works

A Bike Share Bicycle Built for Two

As you may have heard, there was a pretty big wedding in London, UK on Friday, April 29th, 2011.

While everyone was buzzing about a dress that looked like some other dress, a carriage that is over 100 years old (OLD!) and a convertible… there was one item that received very little attention and has pretty fantastic Canadian roots.

A specially commissioned tandem “Boris Bike” was gifted to the Royal couple by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson.

Via Bike Hub:

The bike was paid for by Serco, operator of the London Bike Hire scheme, and made by the Public Bike System Company, the same Canandian company that makes the standard Boris Bikes.

The bikes used in London were first used by PBSC in Montreal, Canada and is known as the BIXI. The bikes are designed by industrial designer Michel Dallaire and built in the Saguenay, Quebec region by Cycles DeVinci.

The tandem has an oversized downtube, seven speed gears, an adapted braking system, a greater wheelbase (1800 mm vs 1111 mm) and two bells.

Roger Plamondon, chairman of the Public Bike System Company said:

“We are very proud of the work we have accomplished to make this special gift a reality and are delighted to find our BIXI at the heart of the royal festivities.”

But why just a one off? With Toronto’s Bixi launching on May 3rd let’s get a couple of these on the streets for real!

Image via Mayor Boris Johnson’s Twitpic
Story via Bike Hugger

Bike share brings out creativity

Bixi Toronto is set to go live on May 3, 2011 and we can’t wait!

With bike share systems already up and running in many major cities we’ve already had a look at some creative uses for the system.

Here’s a Boris Bike Flash Mob Spin Class:

A pro BMX rider put the London Cycle Hire Scheme through some rigorous strength testing:

And Bixi Montreal is even filming “alleycat” style races that promote legal riding and provide information about cycling infrastructure in the city: An “Alleycat” Race on BIXIs?

In Anticipation of Bixi Toronto a Look at Bicing Barcelona

Some great points are made in this video.

- If you promote cycling in a positive way, you get positive results (and the exact opposite is true).

- Bike share helps to get more people onto bicycles while cycling-friendly infrastructure is still also needed.

Video by Mike Rubbo: Situp-cycle.com
Via Copenhagenize

Congratulations, Toronto For Supporting Bixi; 1,000 Subscriber Goal Reached!

Toronto Bixi

Last night, October 18, 2010, Bixi Toronto held a party for the existing 884 subscribers.

According to ibikeTO.ca the party was a success and coincided with the announcement that the 1,000 early subscribers goal set by Toronto City Council was reached (and surpassed)!

However, Bixi Toronto is not a sure thing just yet. The good news is that you can help. In addition to 1,000 early subscribers the bike share system also needs to secure $600,000 in sponsorship. Of that total, ING Direct has contributed $450,000. The remaining money can come from both additional sponsors and from subscribers beyond the 1,000 mark.

If you haven’t subscribed to Bixi Toronto yet you can do so here: http://toronto.bixi.com/

If your company would like to become a sponsor, information can be found here: Corporate Memberships and How to Sponsor Bixi Toronto

Patch stencil artwork by Janet Bike Girl

How London, UK is Promoting Cycling

Transport for London has produced a series of short, stylish videos to help promote cycling in London. Each video introduces a new person and we get to hear how taking a cycling course, using the bike hire system, planning your route and traveling along the “superhighway” adds to their enjoyment of cycling.

This is a great series, each is embedded below:

Ad for Bike Share in Valéncia, Spain

A simple ad that demonstrates the easy mobility bike share can provide.

Learn more about Valenbisi here.

Via Copenhagenize

The Challenge of Bixi Thriving in Today’s Toronto

Bixi station at Mount Royal Metro Stop photo by Duncan H

What can you learn about bicycle sharing and cycling infrastructure over just one weekend?

I was recently in Montreal to attend the Osheaga concert in Parc Jean-Drapeau. We rented a car and drove from Toronto. A collision backed up traffic on the 401, effectively setting us behind by 2 hours. One closed down lane and all forward movement halts.

We checked into our hotel and took the STM (Montreal’s public transport system) to the event. Our transit ride was free when we presented our paid for tickets to Osheaga.

You see, I had no intention of discovering Montreal’s cycling infrastructure or even riding a Bixi bike. I was in town for a concert, I had access to free transit to and from the event, why would I even consider riding a bicycle?

Had this event been held in Toronto, a bicycle would not have presented itself as an option. Our morning plans involved walking to a restaurant for brunch and then hopping on transit to the event. Montreal is a stunningly beautiful city. The hills provide grand views and the unique architecture is certainly worth seeing on foot. As we stepped out of our hotel and began our morning walk we saw a couple people riding Bixis. We soon passed one Bixi station, located in a spot that once provided parking for 3 cars. Next to the station was a bike lane and on the opposite side of the street there was a bike corral for non-Bixi bikes.

We continued our walk, passing another street with a Bixi station, more bike lanes and sharrows. As we walked up avenue du Parc we passed by a completely separated bike path, one with bicycle specific traffic lights, sharrows through road crossings and dotted with several Bixi stations.

I hadn’t planned on biking in Montreal, but cycling soon became an attractive option.

We stopped at a Bixi station to look at the large city map on display and figure out where we were heading. From the distance we’d already walked we discovered we’d be late if we kept on going by foot. And this is when Bixi grabbed us and said, “Here’s the better way.” The map showed us a Bixi station near our destination, the map also indicated that there were bike lanes along the entire route.

While the Bixi system isn’t designed specifically for tourists, it is exceptionally easy to use even if you’re unfamiliar with the city and bike sharing. A quick swipe of my credit card and I had access to two Bixi bicycles for the next 24 hours. A code is provided for you to unlock a bicycle and when you reach your destination you simply return your Bixi to a station and walk away.

Sure, it sounds simple, but this concept is almost completely foreign to North Americans (and elsewhere I imagine) when it comes to personal transportation. We’re familiar with having to return to the same vehicle and to find and pay for parking or locking space. We’re tethered to bicycles and cars, never wanting to stray too far from them as we know we must return to where we left them. Bixi cuts the strings associated with personal vehicles. Bixi is hailing a taxi from anywhere and not worrying about where the cab will go next. Bixi is hopping on transit and not having to care if the train keeps on moving. Bixi is public transit, personalized to you and your destination.

Still on our way to brunch, now on Bixi bikes, we had an idea of where we were going but couldn’t quite remember the French street names. From the map we knew we’d encounter bike lanes, but we didn’t realize what we would encounter.

In Toronto, bike lanes exist, but if you’re standing at an intersection, you probably wouldn’t know it. Bike lanes here often end many metres before intersections and there’s almost no indication that they will start up again on the other side. This isn’t true of all intersections, but the majority of bike routes in Toronto are this way.

You can imagine my surprise when I saw bright yellow sharrows indicating that I should turn left at the approaching intersection to connect to a bike path. You can imagine my surprise when this bike lane was separated from moving traffic by parked cars and bollards. You can imagine my surprise when this bike path became a contra-flow lane on one way streets, when bright yellow sharrows took me around bends and guided me to the next part of the bike route. You can imagine my surprise when I was able to get to my destination on cycling infrastructure without having to cut through parks or find recreational paths.

Bixi Sharrows Separated Bike Lanes Montreal

After brunch we found a different Bixi station from the one we dropped our first bikes off at. A quick credit card swipe and we had 2 new codes to unlock our Bixis. We followed the bike path in the opposite direction aided along by clear markings on the road and signs. I noticed that one separated bike way was only temporary, removed during the snowy months to allow for snow removal. We crossed a rather dramatic section of avenue du Parc with little concern, simply following the traffic lights and sticking to the path.

avenue du Parc bike path crossing

So thrilled with our morning Bixi experience, we opted to skip the free transit ride to the show and get there by Bixi. We twisted and weaved throughout downtown Montreal, guided by ever present cycling infrastructure including sharrows, on-street bike lanes, separated bike paths and even a few stretches where the sidewalk doubles as a bike lane. We were never left high and dry by a bike lane ending when a street narrowed. We did get sidetracked at one point by a detour, but were able to find our way back to the bike lanes that took us over Jaques Cartier Bridge and to our destination within Parc Jean-Drapeau. At the venue entrance a Bixi station awaited us, attendants on hand to manage the influx of bicycles and keep a few docks open at all times.

Separated Bike Way Montreal

We’d take the free transit home from Osheaga but we’d use Bixi again throughout our trip. It was where we were and where we wanted to go. $5 for 24 hour unlimited use (in 30 minute intervals) was less expensive than repeatedly taking transit or taxis. We saw more of the city than we planned. We enjoyed Montreal as tourists, through the aid of Bixi.

This brief experience in a city embracing cycling as a form of transportation and not just recreation has me looking at Toronto’s plans to launch Bixi in May, 2011.

Learning to use Bixi is easy. I saw a few tourists mulling over the bikes at one station. They were adding up prices in their heads. They wanted to take the bikes out for a few hours and were trying to calculate how much it would cost. Having only used the system for a day, my girlfriend and I explained that it would cost them only $5 (plus the $250 deposit placed on your credit card). They simply couldn’t imagine just riding the bike and leaving it, then getting another when they were ready to ride again. We don’t interact this way with personal transportation. Even car sharing requires you return the car where you picked it up.

Bixi in a Business Suit

Bixi works not only in accessibility but also in connection with Montreal’s infrastructure. The planned Phase 1 of Toronto’s Bixi system is in an area devoid of continuous and intuitive cycling way-finding. Certainly, there are some bike lanes already in use downtown Toronto and there are plans to add a few more in the area, too. But as it stands these lanes are a hodge-podge and require you to find the connections between them. For example, if I take the bike lane on Simcoe street from Queen’s Quay and head north to Front, I’m left without any indication of where to go next to keep heading north. If I take the bike lanes along St. George from Bloor and head south I’m abandoned by our current system at Queen Street, a destination for sure, but if I want to go further south I’m on my own.

That said, these are not impossible infrastructure challenges to overcome. Routes can be extended and connected with sharrows and contra-flow lanes that require little more than paint. Bixi has the potential to get many more people using bicycles on Toronto’s streets, but are our streets ready for more everyday people on bikes?

You can learn more about Bixi in Montreal here. Support the launch of Bixi in Toronto by registering here. Support the growth of cycling infrastructure in Toronto by contacting your city councilor.

All photos by Duncan H.

Bike Sharing: “A project that trusts people before it distrusts them”

Screen shot 2010-07-30 at 8.32.45 AM

A look at London’s Barclays Cycle Hire:

Via The Guardian

London Launches Bicycle Sharing Program with Bicycles Built in Canada

Screen shot 2010-07-30 at 8.16.41 AM

Via The Guardian, “In Montreal’s Tracks”:

“Bixi bikes are for short hops, not days out.” This was the advice I was given about Montreal‘s hugely popular bike share scheme on my first day in the city. It came from André Giroux, who was clearly keen to make the distinction between this new scheme and his own 16-year-old cycle hire shop, Ça Roule. “Tourists get confused,” he sighed. “They try to take the Bixis on the out-of-town routes for hours on end, then wonder why they get hit by a huge bill.”

Today, those same Montreal-designed public bikes are rolling around London and with them come the same misunderstandings. Some of the UK press is up in arms about £50 charges for 24 hours’ use, but, as Montrealers know, no one is supposed to hang on to one bike for this long. The key to affordable usage is to dock the bike for five minutes between each “free” 30-minute session and – bingo – no extra charges. The daily charge in Montreal is $78 (Canadian dollars), about £50.

With their heavy frames and three-gear system, the bikes should have “short hop” written all over them. Are Londoners already struggling to see beyond the heavy-handed Barclays branding?

Read the full article here.

Toronto’s bike share program, also using Canadian-built Bixi bikes, needs your support now. Subscribe early and help bring more bikes to Toronto’s streets. Subscribe here: Bixi Toronto

Photo via The Guardian