Ever a proponent of eco-friendliness, our buddy and AR team mate, Dave Lighthouse Lilley, sent us a note last week about a bicycle commuter program operated by Cyclochrome in Montreal called Bixi.

No doubt about it! Bicycling is enjoying increasing popularity in Montréal and BIXI is certainly one of the reasons why. More and more people are adopting the bike as an alternative means of transport.

The basic premise is by installing automated bike rental stations all through the city, people can rent a bike from one location and then return it to another without any hassle. The byproduct – a healthier, happier community to live in and visit. The key to success for program like this for me would be convenience of rental locations, and it seems Montreal and Bixi have done a pretty good job. By Dave’s description he has co-workers who have been using the service all summer and found it to be perfect for day to day use.

Bixi Dock Map

Bixi bike docks can be found on average every 300 meters, with no less than 300 stations planned around the current service area, spreading out a fleet of over 3000 bikes! That’s an astounding number of bikes when you think about it, and the service area will only grow from here. Right now the core service area spreads out from the University of Quebec campus.

So, what does this service cost? According to the website, a $78 annual fee gets you started. There is also a pay as you go credit card option for non-subscibers but reading over some of the reviews and comments on the various blogs, this option can get pretty expensive if you plan on keeping the bike for most of the day.

The plethora of bike docks aside, the bike design itself is also going to have a huge impact on the long term success. I had to admit that when Dave first told me about it, I was picturing the huge bike lockers I saw in Tokyo, Japan. They are a nation of mass transit, and people powered transportation, the good ol’ shoestring express and the bike being most popular. The bikes in these lockers were your run of the mill single speeds, not unlike you might find today at a garage sale or outside a pawn shop. My point isn’t to slag their bikes, but instead to point out that if the bikes themselves aren’t robust enough to hold up to constant use/abuse, the Bixi business could fall apart along with the bikes. Looking at them though, it’s easy to see that these bikes were built to stand the tests of time. Rugged frames and very basic components come together to make it look pretty much blast proof. That said, even the toughest equipment wears out and breaks down after awhile, but Bixi is ahead of the curve here by offering a bike mechanic course to high school students who upon completion of the course are rewarded with paying summer jobs as bike technicians. Very cool, indeed.