Bike Sharing – A fad or here to stay?

Photo by enedkl from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Photo by enedkl from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

When you Google News ‘bike sharing’, it looks like the popularity of New York’s bike sharing program has caught the attention of many U.S. cities.

While this is all great – it makes me wonder what’s the deal with our own bike sharing program, Bixi, and its $3.9 million debt? And why are we trading toilets to help pay off this debt?

Actually, about those ‘high-tech’ public toilets, I agree let’s sell them. I was once locked in one of those automated public toilets in Australia and continue to fear high-tech toilets. Let’s just keep trusting that if we have to go to the washroom when we are in public, we can use Tim Horton’s or Starbucks…

Anyway back to Bixi… I want to believe that Bixi is a good idea. Really I do. A subscription to Bixi is $96 a year (increased by 2% in April). Or $5 for 24 hour access + a $250 security deposit. If you’re visiting Toronto, I think this is an amazing way to see the city!

But if you live in Toronto and you want to have a Bixi subscription, I would be interested to know who these people are and why they prefer that over the convenience of just buying their own bike. I mean you can get a decent used bike off Kijiji for a nice price and you don’t have to worry about taking the bike to a place where there isn’t a biking station and potentially racking up a larger fee (+$8) for every 3o minutes you’re out past 1.5 hours.

The Globe and Mail wrote an interesting piece saying that ‘part of the problem is that Bixi Toronto, in its current form, lacks the scale to be successful. With barely 1,000 bikes and 80 docking stations, it breaks the cardinal rule of bike sharing: Convenience is paramount. Montreal has more than 5,000 bikes and 400 stations. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that Montrealers were far more likely to use a Bixi when a docking station was located within 250 metres of their residences.

Bike sharing has worked best as a “last mile” connection to public transit, which should make it particularly appealing in Toronto, where downtown condo dwellers in Liberty Village, Corktown or along the Lakeshore remain a good distance from subway lines. That’s why location of docking stations and rush-hour availability are critical to program success.’

The article ends saying it would be a shame for Toronto to bail out of Bixi before it really has a chance to get rolling.

And I agree. Let’s ensure convenience to make this work. I guess we can really start to pay attention to what other cities are doing and learn from them so we can make sure Toronto continues to do the bike sharing thing properly – and not just so we can look sort of progressive.