Bike sharing for Bixi-less suburbs
Nicki Thomas, Staff Reporter
Before Bixi, Alexander Labayen devised his own public bike system.
Stash some bikes near Roncesvalles Ave. Lock one up near Casa Loma. Keep another over by St. Lawrence Market.
“You never know, you might be with a friend and you just want to ride around the city,” said Labayen, 35, the force behind the urban bike blog, 416Cyclestyle.
Since then, Labayen has ditched downtown for Etobicoke. With little hope that Bixi will ever expand to his current community, he’s come up with another way to bike share.
If you’re in the neighbourhood and you need wheels, just borrow some of his.
It’s a pretty informal system. He’s got about 20 bikes parked in his garage, hanging on the walls and stuffed in the rafters. There are a couple of logbooks, where he might write down who borrowed a cruiser and who took off with the training wheels.
Most importantly, it won’t cost you a dime.
“If you have something, share it,” said the married father of two. “It doesn’t have to be on a big scale. You don’t have to have 20 bikes in your garage to do something like this.”
While Labayen brings bikes to his suburban brethren, the city is mulling over how to expand Bixi. It currently has 80 stations between Jarvis St. and Spadina Ave. and from Bloor St. to the lake. A proposal from the Toronto Cyclists Union would see the borders expand to High Park, Broadview Ave. and Dupont St.
City staff has until September to figure out how to expand the program, which recently hit its 100,000th ride.
At question is who is responsible for approving and paying for an expansion — the city or Bixi — and what revenue and ridership targets warrant an expansion.
Andrea Garcia, spokeswoman for the Toronto Cyclists Union, is a public bike share system expert, who wrote her thesis on the topic. She’s never come across a Bixi-type program in a suburb. But she applauds Labayen’s do-it-yourself system.
“We’re all for any program that’s going to increase the visibility or uptake and awareness of cycling,” she said. “We think anything like that is great, especially in areas like Etobicoke where the cycling ridership is slightly lower.”
Labayen said he’s seen the cycling culture in his Markland Woods neighbourhood change over the years. There are more cyclists using the new bike lane on Renforth Dr., more families taking rides through the neighbourhood. He believes that cycling begets cycling, which is one reason he’s keen to have as many people as possible on bikes.
“A lot of silent advocacy is just seeing people riding a bike. If you show people they can do it, then they do it,” he said, adding that it’s also the best way to see your neighbourhood. “That’s all I’m giving people. Another way to figure out the bits and pieces of their community.”