Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Bixi Troubles Shouldn't Be Allowed to Make it Pedal Backwards

Montreal's popular bicycle rental program, the Bixi, has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. A few weeks ago, the city of Montreal was asked to guarantee $108 million in loans in order to allow the semi-public Bixi agency to expand into other markets. Since then a series of bad news has come out, including yesterday's charges by a former city councillor that the agency has been been badly managed from the beginning.

Sounds rather disturbing. Municipal mismanagement is far too common around here, but I certainly hope the current kerfuffle doesn't lead to Bixi's downfall. Not only is the system used by thousands every day, but its presence seems to have raised the "cool" factor of bike riding in general. This is all to the good when it comes to making a city workable. Getting people on bikes--or on foot--is making a huge difference in reducing traffic snarls at a time when we are paying for decades of inattention to our infrastructure.

Hmm, that makes me think: wouldn't it be simpler to do things right from the first, be it maintain roads, bridges and water systems or set up alternative transit initiatives like Bixi?


lagatta à montréal said...

Not only do Bixi's play an important part in the "cool" or cycle-chic factor of cycling, they also play an equally important role in traffic calming - bicycle traffic that is. They are slow, stately upright bicycles in the Dutch or Danish mode, more directly inspired by the Parisian Vélib (and like Vélib, they do have speeds, as like Paris, we do have significant hills). Speed-demon cycling is not nearly as dangerous as its infernal-combustion counterpart, but it is menacing to pedestrians and to less aggressive cyclists.

Bixi should be an investment in increasing cycling's modal share, and also in steering away from the macho culture of lycra and gear found in North America (and also in Australia, and to some extent in the UK).

Training, touring and taking part in human-powered athletic feats are all admirable, but urban cycling must espouse a slower and statelier rhythm.

Anonymous said...

If you read the Auditor's report, you wil see that Mayor Tremblay rushed the Bixi bike program in order to have it ready before the last election.
Obviously, do it right was not a priority!
Jimmy Z.