Today's the Day! Bixi Bike Sharing Debuts in Montreal

It seems like it's been a long time coming: in North America, where no bike sharing plan has gotten near the grandeur and style of Paris' Vélib (except perhaps the forthcoming Bcycle), we've been waiting to see exactly how cool Montreal's much-anticipated Bixi will be. And now it's here! C'est parti! With nearly 3,000 bikes and 300 stations, Bixi is just an eighth the size of the Parisian scheme and doesn't currently plan to go year-round. Still, it's a welcome addition to the world-wide bike sharing family.
Bixi - the Bicycle Taxi bike share
The name for Montreal's scheme is derived from a contraction of the words "bicycle" and "taxi" and is noteworthy for its solar-powered bike stations. Subscribing to the service will cost $78 per year, quite a bit more than Vélib's 30 Euro ($45) annual subscription fee, and for a much horter year. Bixi's first 30 minutes will be offered for free and at $1.50 per half hour after that - the per day fee is $5. Bixi bikes are a bit more techie-looking than Vélibs - they have three gears, weigh 20 kilos, and a brushed aluminum finish - but look every bit as cool.

But is it fourth-generation bike sharing?
There are three features Bixi stations can boast that Vélib can't: they are solar powered, are portable (if only by large lorry), and they can be wirelessly controlled and updated. The bikes themselves will also be fitted with RFID tags to help keep track of the bikes. Vélib does use RFID to help the system recognize returning bikes as they are slipped back into the slots. If Bixi can avoid some of the vandalism and heavy maintenance costs Vélib has suffered and still give users a great city transportation alternative it will be ready for the 'fourth generation' moniker. (They'll also need to somehow get around uptown-downtown syndrome, or the shortage of bikes in certain parts of the city at certain times of day while other areas experience a painful overload of bikes and lack of slots).

Bixi is run by the municipal Stationnement de Montreal, another big difference between it and JCDecaux-owned Vélib. Some critics say cities and regions shouldn't give over portions of public space and bike sharing to private companies - it remains to be seen who can run better bike share programs.

Some Montreal merchants are up in arms about the loss of parking spaces Bixi stations represent - but if Denmark's experience is any indication, additional bike traffic tends to boost local merchants' sales more than the existing car parking. Via: The Bike-Sharing Blog
Read more about bike sharing at TreeHugger
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Toronto May Get Bike Sharing - Again
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