Bixi needs to grow—meaning more bikes and a larger service area—in order to survive

Bixi needs to grow—meaning more bikes and a larger service area—in order to survive

Bixi bikes in Toronto (Image: Gary J. Wood)

Ever since its inception in Toronto in early May, the Bixi bike-sharing rental program has been a hit, growing from 700 trips in its first week to more than 28,000 trips a week by the end of the same month. The obvious question is what to do now. The Toronto Cyclists Union says the next step is to add more bikes (no surprise there) despite the fact that Bixi is underused by the standards of, say, Paris, where the Velib “freedom bike” program racked up roughly six rides per day in its first month back in 2007.

According to the Toronto Star:

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 [Jared] Kolb [director of membership and outreach at the cycling advocacy group] 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.

The more-bikes argument makes good sense because Bixi operates as a network rather than a more discreet bike rental service: in other words, it becomes more useful as more bike lock-up stations are distributed throughout the city (in much the same way the Internet became more useful as more people signed up for email accounts). Even with its limited existing network, Bixi already has the potential to reshape the way people commute. Take, for instance, the guy the CBC interviewed earlier this month, who takes the GO Train into Toronto, then rides a bike to his office at Bloor and Jarvis. In that vein, Bixi could have an even larger impact on the city if it had a wider network.

For our money, we’re pretty sure the Toronto Cyclists Union is right on this one. Quite simply, the city needs more Bixi bikes. And given how unobtrusive the docking stations are—when they’re not getting creamed by luxury sedans, that is—it’s something we think the city should encourage.

More bikes needed to help Bixi survive, says union [Toronto Star]