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A Torontonian For Biclycle Sharing Programs

March 11, 2010

Can I Please Have My Bixi?

Bicycle sharing programs have been growing in popularity around the world after having been given a huge public boost by the launch of Paris’ Vélib’.  Montreal jumped on the bandwagon with its Bixi (bicycle & taxi) program last summer after installing 400 bike-dock stations which offered 5000 bicycles to peddle-happy commuters and tourists alike.   One year ago, a City of Toronto staff report recommended the launch of a similar program in Spring 2010.  With Spring around the corner, it’s not looking good.  True to the city’s character, the potential for a bike sharing program in Toronto has been bogged down  in endless debates between advisarial interests and financial worry.

I’m just going to come out and say it: “I’m a bike person”.  Not one of those spandex-clad speed racers, or mud-covered adrenaline junkies.  I guess I’m not really even a biking enthusiast, just call me a guy that occasionally likes to ride a bike.  Now, I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to do some travelling abroad.  I have crusied the beaches of Barcelona, whisped past the trees lining Paris’ Champs-Élysées and traversed the cannals of Amsterdam; all done while sitting atop a bicycle seat.  Some of my best memories of Europe came from the view behind a set of handlebars.  In my heart, I always embraced the cities that embraced the bicycle.  Last year, when Montreal (the city of both my alma maters) received the gift that was Bixi, my summer got a little brighter.  Now back in Toronto with the weather getting warmer, I find myself yearning for those clunky, grey monstrosities.

Whats With All The Hate?

Bicycles are an important part of a city’s transportation system and play an important role in a public transit system.  Even though bikes are a part of the system as a whole, for some reason, motorists see any real estate devoted to bicycles as a loss to cars.  This isn’t a zero sum game.  More cyclists = less cars = less traffic.  Next you hear about the shop owners complaining about losing business if there is less space for parking?  Really?  Unless there is a law about carrying a wallet with you when you are riding a bike or your store only sells car air fresheners this type of thinking needs re-evaluation.  Shop owners learned long ago that they could attract dog walkers if they offered a passersby with a place to tie up their pooch and set out a cold bow of water for Rex.  I’d love to see a world in which Second Cups offered me an air pump and and a rail to lock my bike to.

A Declaration!

Riding a bicycle, which was once a right of passage as a child, now seems to be one of the most political acts a commuter can undertake.  For many, a city which embraces its cyclists is something to be revered.  Something which can bring a city international prestige.  While many cities around the world are making real efforts towards promoting the use of bicycles, Toronto’s efforts at promoting bicycles seem to lack true substance and commitment.

Bicycle sharing programs like Bixi have a lot to offer a city.  Montreal decided to jump right in by installing a few hundred bike dock stations along with a few thousand bikes.  They opted to see what happens and to iron out any problems as they arise.  Toronto has decided to ride down a different path by endlessly debating the issue in order to avoid any issues.  Has the city forgotten what it was like to learn how to ride a bike?  Sure, training wheels have some merit and everyone needs someone else to hold onto their seat until they get the hang of it.  Thats all fine and good but you will never learn how to ride unless you have a chance to go at it on your own.  Sure, you might fall a few times, but you pick yourself up and keep on going until you get it right.

Get Out, Ride a Bike and Let Me Know What You Think!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2010 9:35 pm

    Great article. You’re right, there’s always a learning period. Montreal may not have gotten it perfect on their first try, but at least they tried (and succeeded!).

    • March 12, 2010 3:54 am


      Thanks for the comment. I agree that with everything, there is a learning curve and that a bicycle sharing program launched on a large enough scale can only bring positive positive benefits to the city. I heard about the taxis parked along Simcoe St. yesterday. The learning curve applies not just to city planners, but to drivers also.


  1. Bicycle sharing the way to go … « Vote John Richardson – Independent Judgment For Toronto Danforth – Ward 29!

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