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BIXI bikes make their Toronto debut

Posted by Annia V / July 29, 2010

BIXI TorontoBIXI bikes made their official Toronto debut last night at the public subscription launch party at the Gladstone Hotel. Hundreds of people came out in support of what could be the first large scale bicycle-sharing program in this city, should BIXI meet its subscription and sponsorship targets by the end of November. Many partygoers were avid cyclists and cycling advocates, others stopped by to take the bikes out for a test ride around the block, and some were like me: pedestrians with a renewed interest in cycling, lured by the accessibility and flexibility that BIXI can provide, with none of the ownership.

BIXI BikeMy BIXI bike and I got off to a shaky start, which is a testament to how long it's been since I've mounted one of these things and not to the build quality of the bike itself, which I admit is rather sturdy. I bungee-strapped my bag onto the front rack, adjusted the seat to my desired (and very short) height and once I pushed off the curb, it all came back to me - just like... riding a bicycle. For someone who isn't familiar with the ins and outs of cycling, I can attest to how well the bike handled on the flooded potholes of Gladstone Avenue. My particular model had three gears (some have six) and they all seemed fine, though I would later hear them being described by another test rider as being a 'little low' - something which is most likely a personal preference than a flaw.

BIXI stationDesigned in Montreal and built in Chicoutimi, BIXI bikes are intended to be the ultimate commuter bike, adaptable to a wide range of body types, terrains, and all sorts of weather conditions. If Toronto's mild winters persist, year-round BIXI-ing could very well become a reality. The tires, while smooth, are built to tread on snow and, to some degree, icy roads. The enclosed mechanics and thick frame give it some heft and durability without feeling too clunky. It's about as polished as anything with a propensity for being used and abused can possibly be.

BIXIBased on my observation of those arriving to the party on their own bikes, decked out in full riding gear, I was compelled to find out if joining a bike-sharing program would seem a bit redundant. Surprisingly (or not), cyclists are among some of BIXI's first subscribers. Daniel Egan, Manager of Cycling Infrastructure and Programs at the City of Toronto summed BIXI up as "an extension of transit more than a bike-sharing system." This way, cyclists who wish to pedal around downtown but don't want to lug their bikes on the subway can now enjoy the best of both worlds.

Yvonne Bambrick, Director of Communications and Events with Toronto Cyclists Union, agrees with the notion of a more flexible approach to transportation, citing the resounding success of similar programs in Montreal, Paris and soon, London. At the very hub of the BIXI launch is a collaborative push for cycling as a fair and mainstream mode of transit. For all of its discordant views on transit and transportation in general, perhaps our fair city is more than ready to re-define our roads, share our streets, and change the way we get around.

BIXIFor more information on the BIXI bike-sharing program, see the Q&A fact sheet on the Toronto Cyclists' Union info page.

Subscriptions are also available online through



Ste / July 29, 2010 at 09:58 am
here's preying it works - Paris' Velib is amazing to use.
Bradley Wentworth / July 29, 2010 at 10:13 am
BIXI will not be the first bicycle-sharing program in this city as you state. BikeShare was run from 2001 to 2006 by Community Bicycle Network, where you can still see the characteristic yellow bikes outside their Queen West location. At its peak it had 150 bikes and several hubs around the city. Such a program was hard to maintain without a stable source of funding, which for BIXI will come in the form of a guarantee by the City.

k386 / July 29, 2010 at 10:33 am
Is there any word yet on where the BIXI locations will be? I'd definitely like to subscribe, but I need to know availability before committing.
Mathieu / July 29, 2010 at 10:35 am
I love the idea and I saw how it seemed to work very well in Montreal (similar program in Paris is having difficulties though)... but how can I sign on now without knowing where the 80 BIXI locations will be... this is not a lot given the size of Toronto... If there are not enough locations this will not work...
Mike Mazza / July 29, 2010 at 10:52 am
This is a brilliant idea and would do well towards making Toronto a more pedestrian-friendly city. That said, please remind the bike riders that stop signs are not optional.
Adam replying to a comment from Mathieu / July 29, 2010 at 10:59 am
I'm curious as to what problems the Velib system is having in Paris. I was there recently and being a daily cyclist here in Toronto, found the Velib system to be a major boost to my overall enjoyment of the city. Honestly, my one complaint would be of the system being too popular at times, leaving some of the racks empty during peak hours. I love the idea of bike sharing.
simuls / July 29, 2010 at 11:18 am
The only reason I didn't sign up last night - and I went with the intention to is that their first service area has nothing west of Spadina (so no go to Little Italy, Kensington, Dundas or West Queen West, Liberty Village, etc) or east of Jarvis (no Cabbagetown, Distillery, etc.). The area is so small, it'd probably be just as fast for me to walk between those spaces. I understand it's supposed to be used as a short trip solution, but I just don't know why I'd pay $95 ++ when I can buy a bike for $95.
canmark / July 29, 2010 at 11:45 am
I live in the suburbs, but work downtown and am interested in subscribing but have some questions: Is there a system that monitors the balance of bikes--for example, if there are 5 bikes at Union Stn., but 7 people want bikes are the extra 2 just out of luck. Or, you take a bike from Union to your office, but all the bike spots are full--do you have to go elsewhere to park your bike? If there are much more than the minimum 1,000 subscriptions might there be a shortage of bikes? Would more bikes/locations be added above a certain number of subscribers? What's with the 30 minute rule? What if I wanted to take the bike to Centre Island for the day or ride around town--do I have to keep returning the bike and signing out a new one every 30 minutes?
E / July 29, 2010 at 11:55 am
You can take the bike out for longer than 30 minutes, but beyond 30 min, you get charged incrementally for the time. I think this is to discourage day-ride use such as what you suggested. These are mostly to replace transit/cars, not for recreational cycling. If you want a bike for a few hours, then you should figure out if it's better to rent elsewhere ($25-50 typically) or to ride BIXIs.
Will Fail / July 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm
Yeah, too complicated and too likely to fail.

One jackass with a razor blade and your entire bike fleet is out of service indefinitely. Can only park bikes are predetermined locations, so, what, you have to carry around a station map whereever you go? And then when you get to a station but it's full of bikes, you... ride somewhere else, while being charged usage fees, and then walk back to your actual destination? Apparently as soon as you exceed 30 minutes usage, you get charged an extra $5 fee, so the price to BIXI around for a year could be well above $1000... ouch.

BIXI in Montreal has coverage around the downtown area but as soon as you leave that area, nothing at all.

A combination of complexity, expense and vandalism will doom this scheme.
E / July 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm
Will Fail,

Firstly, the jackass would probably get caught as they would need to vandalize many bikes over many locations, almost all located in high pedestrian traffic areas. Secondly, any damage that can be done with a razor blade (cables, tires) can be fixed pretty quickly.

I assume there will be maps of the nearby BIXI docks at each dock. Also, if the dock is full, you can get a "waiver" electronically at that dock for an extra 15 minutes so you can get to another dock.

I haven't seen the details for Toronto BIXI yet, but I don't think it's a $5 extra for over-30 minute trips. The Montreal system charges $1.50 for up to an hour, and then another $3 for the next 30 minutes. It adds up, but an hour is enough to ride between the farthest docks.
ryguy replying to a comment from Will Fail / July 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm
@ Will Fail's actually working beautifully in Montreal
not sure where your overt pessimism is coming from there guy?

I've used the system several times on visits to MTL. If a stn is full, i usually just ride to the next one (which usually isn't that far). I've only ever had to do this a couple of times. i think they're pretty good about monitoring demand, rush hour habits etc. Yes, this will likely take some time to adjust in Toronto. But ask anyone who uses this system in Montreal...I've only ever heard glowing reviews.

For iphone users, there's actually a BIXI APP that will tell you how many bikes are at each stn etc. It even tracks your KMS. I would imagine the website will do this as well

It's an amazing system. I just hope that they get the support they need in Toronto to make this thing fly.

Denise / July 29, 2010 at 01:05 pm
I am very excited by this prospect. However, like people have mentioned, I cannot commit without knowing precisely where the stations will be.

canmark / July 29, 2010 at 01:19 pm
I checked the map on the Bixi Montreal website ( and was encouraged that they have a pretty dense network of stations within the downtown (I believe Bixi Toronto will be Bathurst to Jarvis, Bloor to Lakeshore). Some companies are even sponsoring stations outside their office.

I don't know that I would be one of the inaugural subscribers, but would give it serious consideration next year when/if it's up and running despite some misgivings about the 30 minute time limit.

While I understand they want a certain density of stations (every 300 metres, I've read), would they consider adding stations to outlying popular areas like: the Danforth, CNE grounds, Harbourfront, High Park, Distillery District, West Queen West, the Beaches?

I agree that this is a system that should be encouraged, and I hope it flies.
Guy / July 29, 2010 at 01:20 pm
Why is the Toronto subsciption $95/year, when Montreal is only $78/year?
Marc / July 29, 2010 at 01:30 pm
Let the chaos begin. That is Toronto, or even any Canadian city or town. First, an idea or plan is announced and even to be implemented (if it actually happens being that there are always "studies" nonsense delays), but then as it moves along, we learn that somethings are not right about it, and the whole concept gets ruined and corrupted in the process.

Meanwhile, the idea is not even fresh in the first place and actually comes from another city, but that other city(ies) knows how to run it and it is running smoothly there. Sorry to say, but Toronto has had too many chances and decades and they never just lay it on the line. No will, no focus, no innovation and no aim to better the place. There is no future here.
Bradley Wentworth replying to a comment from Guy / July 29, 2010 at 02:01 pm
Because in Montreal they remove the system during the winter; the bikes are gone from December to April. In Toronto the system will be year-round, so you need to employ staff the whole year. That works out to about $11/month in Montreal and about $9/month in Toronto. Granted users will probably use it less in the winter, though I currently cycle year round.
W. K. Lis / July 29, 2010 at 02:03 pm
I would like to see them set up booths for signing up at Union Station, Eaton Centre/Dundas Square, and at the Canadian National Exhibition.
kch / July 29, 2010 at 02:30 pm
I am from Toronto but live in Montreal and a BIXI subscriber. Montreal downtown is far more bike-friendly than Toronto downtown. There are more dedicated bike lanes that are physically separated by concrete from the main road. Given that downtown Toronto is far more densely populated than Montreal, I don't think the current state of bike lanes will be enough to support BIXI. Drivers are going to get frustrated as there will be an onslaught of new inexperienced bike riders who won't obey traffic rules or respect streetcars/buses.

Furthermore, you will find very quickly that if you are one of those working the regular 9 to 5 hours, you can forget about using BIXI. By 9am, all the bikes in your neighbourhood will be gone. If you're lucky to get one, you will have a hard time finding a spot to dock it at your destination because they will very likely be full. And by 4pm, vice versa.

Nonetheless, I hope BIXI will be successful in Toronto because I will be moving back soon. But I would be wary of biking downtown unless the bike lanes are vastly improved.
ch replying to a comment from kch / July 29, 2010 at 02:43 pm
Completely agree!
Toronto needs to make the city more bike-friendly before deciding to bring in something like the BIXI.

The reason the BIXI so successful in Montreal is because the city is bike friendly, and assuming it would be similarly successful in Toronto is a bad idea.

Let's hope this will help push the government to make the city more bike friendly!

to "Will Fail", the BIXI is certainly not only in the downtown area of Montreal, it extends quite far, and it's super successful, it's obvious.
J / July 29, 2010 at 03:00 pm
The reason why Toronto doesn't succeed as much as it should is because its filled with those who think it will fail.
MR Bike / July 29, 2010 at 03:07 pm
I would like to be able to use the bikes without having to commit to an annual fee.

I own my own bike so would not need to subscribe, but I have friends come from out of town constantly and since biking is the best way to get around, it would be great if they could just swipe a credit card and be able to get from A to B for a flat rate with those of us who have an account or their own bike.
JC / July 29, 2010 at 03:54 pm
Where are all the police bikes from the G20? Can we please share those?
Gabe replying to a comment from MR Bike / July 29, 2010 at 03:54 pm
Once up and running, there won't be a need to commit to an annual fee. They're just looking for 1000 annual subscribers to demonstrate enough demand to actually go through with the program. Once in place, you'll be able to swipe for unlimited 24hr access (30 min at a time, of course) for $5 (at least that's the price in Montreal, not sure if the TO daily price is set).
Zed / July 29, 2010 at 03:57 pm
Another review - it appears the program is not a go ahead as yet
Marc replying to a comment from J / July 29, 2010 at 04:37 pm
No J, you can only be positive and supportive for very long. Toronto just cannot get things together. It's the leaders, the politicians and the system that are the problem. The people want things to be innovative and move forward, but isn't being allowed time and time again.
ao replying to a comment from kch / July 29, 2010 at 04:57 pm
as someone who bikes daily in downtown toronto, and recently visited and biked through montreal, I want to reassure you that biking in here is not nearly as scary as it seems. In fact, for me there were things about the montreal bike lane system that made it scarier. The separated bike lanes with both directions of bicycle traffic in one relatively narrow strip, for example, made me far more uneasy than biking along say queen or dundas, or up and down yonge, none of which have bike lanes at all, but where you are always moving with the flow of traffic. which is not to criticize the montreal system, but to suggest that it's more a matter of what you are used to. I only started biking in toronto about a year ago, and was terrified at first, but got comfortable quite quickly.

bike lanes, separated or not, seem, in my mind, to come second in terms of importance to having a critical mass of cyclists on the road, and a level of respect for cycling as a reasonable means of transit. in cities where biking thrives, where it's seen as normal, more cyclists generally translates to better driver awareness (checking before opening car doors, for example) and, often, better behaviour among the cyclists themselves (obeying traffic laws, signalling, etc.). Those are the areas where toronto could really do with some improvement. and my hope is that a bicycle share program (imperfect as it may be) could get a few more people out there cycling, could help legitimize it as a reliable and responsible means of transit, and thereby make this city safer and better for biking.
Bubba / July 29, 2010 at 07:20 pm
Doesn't Montreal have 300 bixi stations? Why only 85 in Toronto?
I don't get it? How are 85 bixi stations going to be convenient for a city of this size.
sasha / July 29, 2010 at 10:46 pm
how is borrowing a bike for 30 mins max convienient - its not!!! Ummm may if your just riding to work and live inside the tiny designated area. BUT it Im gonna ride to a grocery store, or go visit a friend I need more than 30 mins. 15 mins there and 15 mins back leaves no time for anything else. Grow some Balls Bixi Auto share works, Follow their lead...
UMMMM replying to a comment from sasha / July 30, 2010 at 08:18 am
You can take a bike out for a maximum of 24 hours. After that time, the bike will be considered stolen and a fee of $1,000 will be charged to your credit card.
J replying to a comment from Marc / July 30, 2010 at 01:40 pm
Marc, I know where you're coming from. But my point was that there are too many people who automatically assume that things will be a failure. This is done without the facts, or any thought, way too often.
IW replying to a comment from sasha / July 30, 2010 at 02:50 pm
Sasha, I have done over 300 trips by BIXI since I signed up to BIXI Montreal last year. Thus: It's insanely convenient. For about 95% of those trips, I have never needed more than 30 minutes.

Perhaps you have misunderstood: you get 30 minutes PER trip before supplementary charges. You must wait 5 minutes after parking to take out another bike, so you can't just park and take another immediately. However, your grocery shopping probably takes more than those five minutes, and then your next trip affords you a full 30 minutes (before the supplementary charge) to get home.

If you are a subscribed member, you have unlimited trips for the entire operating season. You pay nothing extra provided each trip is within 30 minutes. If you go over that on one trip, you pay $1.50 for an extra half hour, with an ascending pay scale for monopolizing a single bike for even longer. If the station is full, you can get bonus minutes granted to find another station with empty slots, with the aid of the station LCD panel + map, or your smartphone.

If you are a $5 day-pass user, you also have unlimited trips within 24 hours, with the same supplementary fee system for taking long trips. You go to your destination, do whatever you want for however long you want, and then take out another bike at YOUR convenience.

For statistical purposes, the BIXI team assumes the average speed of a cyclist to be 12km/hr. Going by that, it means that if it takes you longer than 30 minutes by bike or 6 kilometres to get to your grocery store or your friends's place, perhaps owning your own bike or using alternative methods of transport would be cheaper/better for you.

"Grow some balls"? How about opening up your mind a little and realizing that this is a great alternative and option, not a substitute for anything. The auto share program in Montreal is actually partnered with BIXI so there are discounts both ways if you use each service.
George / July 31, 2010 at 01:41 am
My family and I are subscribers to Bixi Montreal so we're happy that we have a chance at having this in Toronto too. Hopefully coverage also expands further west and east later.

By sheer coincidence I made a video tutorial today showing how Bixi bikesharing in Montreal works: The bikes are sturdy and unlocking/locking them is easy.
Eric26 / August 3, 2010 at 11:21 am
I was initially quite positive about the project, probably blinded by the prospect of increased bike infrastructure. But even Bixi can't help a city like Toronto, ESPECIALLY when they decide to launch it at 1/3 of its planned size. With Toronto's lack of bike infrastructure and a half-baked Bixi trial that only covers a part of downtown extremely well served by the TTC, I don't see how this can succeed. $107 isn't a very big investment, but it's an amount I would spend if Bixi Toronto was going to survive longer than a year. Very unfortunately, it's not.
Andre McHenry / August 18, 2010 at 10:55 pm
This is a good idea, has been done in Europe since at least as far back as 2006. However, it's not as generous as it should be, to facilitate usage. For example, look at the rates cut and pasted from the City Bike in Vienna:

One-time registration fee: EUR 1.00 (that includes tourists, because I registered when I was there)

The following hourly rates are prices per commenced hour of one hire:
1st hour free of charge
2nd hour EUR 1.00
3rd hour EUR 2.00
4th – 120th hour EUR 4.00 per hour
Flat rate if period of 120 hours is exceeded EUR 600.00

registration fee is very cheap and the FIRST HOUR is free, which gives ample time to commute or get most places in the city.
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