Jump on da Bixi bikes in Montreal
comment 4 Written by on July 20, 2010 – 4:13 am

To my great excitement my Bixi key arrived in the post last week. Bixi is the name of the public bike system here in Montreal. (Bike + taxi = Bixi.)

Having paid $28, I can now grab a Bixi from any of the main pick-up points over town and ride for 30 minutes without charge. It’s then an extra $1.50 if I go over that. Or I can dock the bike for five minutes and after that it’s mine again for free.

Having heard so much about these systems, especially the Paris Velib, I am very pleased to finally have the chance to try it out for myself.

To say I am impressed would be an understatement. I have become slightly obsessed. I now refuse to walk or take the bus or metro anywhere. It’s Bixi all the way. When on Saturday night I stopped off for takeaway (a poutine, naturally), just two blocks for my house, I insisted on picking up a Bixi to take me to my door. This probably worked off 0.0001% of the poutine grease.

I am sure the novelty will wear off, but Bixis have certainly helped me re-find my bearings and make me feel very settled.

Bikes are the local choice for get around Montreal’s compact city centre. The authorities have recently ploughed $134 million into improving the cycleways and there are now 2,400 miles of trails. 70% of residents don’t own cars and there is very little traffic on most of the residential streets.

In winter, they have to find other means. The Bixis are only outed for half the year. Cycling on ice is much less fun.

Although using them only in summer means the docking stations can be solar powered, which is admirable.

Of course, nothing is perfect and there are a few drawbacks. Sometimes you come to a stand and found all the bikes are taken, or all the rows are full so you can’t drop it back. On my way to the Toi Moi Cafe in Mile End (where I am right now – great terrace, huge selection of coffee), I got stumped twice by having nowhere to park. Luckily, there are a lot more stations in the city this year so I got luck on the third try and I only had to walk a couple of blocks back.

I’m going to keep on Bixi-ing until the end of August, so I’m sure I’ll find plenty more pros and cons.

On Friday night, I was singing its praises over dinner at this good-value, family-run Portuguese restaurant (Chez Doval) in front of some friends, when one alerted me to a video a friend of theirs had made: an unofficial Bixi anthem performed in a reggaeton style while wearing vintage Montreal Expo tracksuits. What’s not to love? I think I just found my soundtrack to the summer.

And on that fine mock-reggaeton note, I have finished my coffee and I am now going to Bixi home…

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4 Responses to “Jump on da Bixi bikes in Montreal”

  1. I have never heard about this before.. it’s genius. Fresh video too!

  2. Ace, isn’t it? Wish Buenos Aires had them, but I’d fear the traffic…

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