Unlike the potholes that have been making their spring appearance for more years than we would like to remember, the Bixi public bike system hasn’t been around as long. Bixi takes its name from combining the words "bicycle" and "taxi" -- a first in Canada and unmatched in scale in North America. For those of you who aren’t familiar with those gray, two-wheeled, human powered forms of transportation that have been blazing down the streets of Montréal for the last two years, a lunch hour jaunt in the downtown core might be in order.
Bixi is an alternative means of urban transportation that’s accessible to everyone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from May to November. With more than 300 conveniently located docking stations, urbanites can pick up and drop off their Bixi bikes all over town. Bicyclists have the choice of renting daily ($5 rental fee for a 24 hour period, $250 deposit required), monthly ($28 rental fee, $250 deposit required) or yearly ($78 rental fee, no deposit required) with a maximum of two bikes per credit card for 24 hour access. In recent years, the city of Montreal has been taking progressive measures to combat the effects of urban pollution. Initiatives such as the “In Town without My Car” day celebrated every September 22 since 2003, have been working towards changing the population’s behaviors and attitudes towards mass and active transport.
There has been a growing concern about the harmful effects of vehicle exhaust. In a 2008 study, the Department of Public Safety has noted that pollution from motor vehicles is responsible for 1500 premature deaths and 6000 infant cases of bronchitis yearly. According to the same study, citizens who live next to roadways have a 20% higher hospitalization rate than the average. On the AMT’s (agence métropolitaine de transport) website, transport is cited as being responsible for 47% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and for 10% of respiratory illnesses in the Montréal metropolitan region.
Bixi’s presence is growing in the country and throughout North America. In 2009, a pilot study was held in Ottawa/Gatineau. More contracts were announced to export Bixi to the cities of London and Boston. More recently, Melbourne, Australia and Minneapolis, Minnesota have announced they were creating a public bicycle sharing system based on Bixi. For more information on how to sign up with Bixi, please visit www.bixi.com.