The first big bike-sharing scheme in Canada has started in Montreal:


Three-thousand bikes are available for short-term rental around Montreal’s downtown core.

The bikes, which cost $2,000 apiece, are made of aluminum and are theft-proof, according to their designers.

Some 300 stations have been set up to store and pick up bikes.

I wonder if Montreal is the first because of the success of Vélib in Paris.  Would Toronto be first if it had started in London?

For the story of Vélib, see Price Tags 101.

In one respect, Bixi beats Vélib, notably because of the theft problems in Paris:

The bikes contain a GPS chip, and if rented and not returned will “slow down, and the brakes will lock automatically,” explained Julian Joseph, a Montreal high school student who’s part of a team hired by the city to repair the bike fleet.

The New York Times gives Bixi some extensive coverage, with this interesting note:

André Lavallée, the municipal politician who championed the Bixi, said that the advertising opportunities are more limited in Montreal, while city ownership allowed greater coordination with the city’s bus and subway system.

It was at Mr. Lavallée’s suggestion that the development and operation of Bixi be turned over to the city’s parking authority. While that seems an unlikely choice, he reasoned that it already has the real estate and the infrastructure needed for a bicycle sharing system.

Vancouver has a parking authority too – EasyPark –  which, though somewhat more autonomous, might be a candidate for operating a similar system.  Worth looking at.


  1. Talk about economic stimulus and green jobs! These bikes are made in a plant in Quebec, and if successful, they could easily sell the system worldwide.

  2. Love the idea, wonder why the bikes cost $2000 especially in that quantity. I know they are alumium but so is every bike made these days, even with gps and a small battery those bikes should be closer to the $500 range as they appear quite basic. The cheaper price would be easier to get more cities on board or with the same budget have more bikes. Perhaps someone can bring light to the price, maybe that includes all the infrustucure required as well.

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  4. Hello Gordon:

    What are your thoughts on a recycled public bike scheme where there was still a cost (albeit lower) for sturdy commuter-fied MTBs supplied by a network of neighborhood mechanic/vendors who operated a fleet of bikes in an area. Rather than spending money on expensive infrastructure like computers, etc for a totally self-serve system, customers would have a human point of contact and the economy would have new jobs. I suggest this given my observations at bike shops, police auctions, consignment stores, pawn shops, etc. There is currently an over-supply of serviceable bikes (at least in the Lower Mainland) sitting around not being used IMO. The operators could be private enterprise, a co-op, or contracted through local gov’t.

    I suggest this because I think we miss a real opportunity to put green principles into practice with public bike services, due to the energy and material intensive processes of building specialized bikes and computers to track them and engaging large ad companies to run the whole system across a region. Why not spend the money in our local area on a human being? It’s not as if the hardware won’t get replaced in a few years anyway, meaning more $$$.

    I think the same service could conceivably be offered just as effectively (if not more so) by a human with a mobile phone, web updates, and a bunch of already-made bikes. It’s so au courant I cringe to mention it, but if customers twittered bike locations to the operator, they could maintain a near real-time database of bike locations.

    You could also go one step further and offer a wide variety of bikes, so one could use a road bike for long trips, pannier-equipped bikes for shopping, a MTB for trail days. Just some ideas I’ve been having. Thanks!


  5. Amsterdam stashes rusty bikes by the thousands: pick one up, use it and leave for the next . . . but Holland is flat as a pancake . . .

    So, imagine this: you’ve had a tough day at SFU downtown. It was sunny this morning. Time for home, its six-thirty, dark and your wiped and, hey Vancouver, its raining.

    Okay, now, you’ve done BB and you’re at 10th and Alma looking up and you’re dreaming, sotto voce of course, for the revival of GM and Ford . . . culpa . . .

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  7. France’s Velib a success? Not according to this BBC report:

    “Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen.”

    “The company which runs the scheme, JCDecaux, says it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network.”

    “Hung from lamp posts, dumped in the River Seine, torched and broken into pieces, maintaining the network is proving expensive. Some have turned up in eastern Europe and Africa, according to press reports.”

    “The costs, he said, were “so high that a private business cannot handle it alone, espcially as it’s a problem of public order. If we want the velib set-up to keep going, we’ll have to change the business model,” he told Le Parisien newspaper.”

  8. The BBC’s portrayal of a mortal threat, they say, is best understood as a negotiating ploy on the part of JCDecaux. (Note that the JCDecaux representative is the only source quoted in that story.)

    “Decaux is using media sensationalism in order to obtain more money from the city of Paris,” said Denis Baupin, who as Deputy Mayor for Transportation oversaw the Vélib launch in the summer of 2007.

    “It’s in large part a PR issue,” says Luc Nadal of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. Some aspects of the Vélib contract are still in flux, and the sky-is-falling press coverage gives JCDecaux a stronger hand in those negotiations. “Their bargaining position depends on the public’s perception.”

  9. Just wanted to comment that the BIXI bikes are not GPS equipped and do not “lock up” after 3 hours of use. This comes directly from an interview with BIXI staff, during a visit last month. Also, please note that BIXI has been so successful that the program is expanding early. By the end of the summer there will be an additional 2000 bikes and 100 stations.
    – Adam

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