More bikes needed to help Bixi survive, says bike union
Bixi bike stands are now a regular sight in the downtown core, but advocates say the number and size of the service area needs to expand if bike-sharing is to be the wild success it has become in cities such as Paris. (Rick Eglinton/Toronto Star file photo)
One month in, the Toronto Cyclists Union says the Bixi cycle-sharing program should triple the number of bikes and expand the current service area beyond the downtown core.
The number of rides has increased quickly. “In the first week there were 700 trips; by the last week of May there were 28,000 trips (per week),” said Jared Kolb, director of membership and outreach at the cycling advocacy group. Most of the demand comes from the edges of the service area, along Jarvis, Spadina and Bloor.
If the bikes can reach more people, then memberships will grow, he said.
In Bixi’s home city, Montreal, the program is popular, but could potentially cost taxpayers millions. The city’s auditor general recently released a report saying the program suffered from poor planning and administration, lack of accountability and an illegal profit-making structure. Jacques Bergeron said the program is running a $5 million to $6 million operating deficit and owes $37 million to the city. Toronto officials say this won’t affect Bixi here, since it is a separate corporation from Montreal.
The cyclists union is praising the 73,000 rides taken by users of Toronto’s fledgling program from its start on May 3rd through to June 19th. Toronto has 1,000 bikes on the road.
That translates to under two rides per day per bike — far lower than some other bike-share projects. But it’s still early days, and Kolb defends the number, saying May’s rains kept the numbers down.
He and Councillor Mike Layton argue that putting more Bixi bikes on the road and widening the service area will boost numbers.
Bike-sharing programs that are successful do seem to have many more bikes available than Toronto.
The Paris Vélib “freedom bike” program got 1.8 million rides in its first month in 2007, with about 10,000 bikes. That’s about six rides per day per bike.
The program hit the 100-million ride mark this month, after nearly four years in operation. There are between 80,000 and 120,000 rentals per day, with 20,000 bikes.
Closer to home, Montreal has close to 30,000 members and 18,000 rides per day on average. With its fleet of 5,000, that comes to about four rides per bike a day.
Bixi Toronto has 2,240 subscribers and 7,000 one-day users, said John Mende, the city’s director of transportation services. 6,000 members are needed to break even, he said.
“Bixi is limited for visitors to our city who want to visit neighbourhoods like Little Italy, Queen West and Liberty Village,” said Layton. He has received calls asking for an expansion to his area (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), which begins just where the Bixi region ends.
The cyclists union wants to go back to the bigger area the city had originally planned for Bixi, bounded by Dupont St. to the north, High Park to the west and Broadview Ave. to the east. Currently, the boundary is Bloor St. to the north, Spadina Ave. to the west and Jarvis St. to the east.
--Alyshah Hasham, Staff Reporter
Bike-sharing around the world
Started in 2009
Plans to have 175,000 bikes by 2020
Between 80,000 to 120,000 rentals per day
Started in 2007
Achieved 100 million rides in June 2011
73,000 rides between May 3rd and June 19th
2240 subscribers, 7000 one-day users
Started in 2011
18,000 rides per day on average
Started in 2009