Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Bixi Bikes Coming to Vancouver

We're thrilled to see progression in the plan to introduce Bixi bikes to Vancouver as the Velo-City Conference was attended late last month: 

Bike share is coming to Vancouver, and we must make it work

The international Velo-City conference is underway in Vancouver as of Tuesday morning and I arrived in time to hear an inspired talk by urban cycling advocate Gil Penalosa. Judging by the Twitter activity throughout the morning, Penalosa's message excited the full house in attendance at the Wall Centre. While Penalosa's full presentation — available here — is fast-paced and rich with detail, it was nicely summed up by an Australian delegate named Stephen Yarwood.
Given the way the Vision council have married themselves to the cycling issue, it was perhaps predictable that the site of the Velo-City conference felt like an offsite City Hall. Mayor Gregor hung around to do interviews while his chief of staff parked himself in front of the venue most of the morning. Even Penny Ballem paced around the site. The always affable Jerry Dobrovolny, Vancouver's Director of Transportation listened intently to Penalosa's speech, which he quipped might put him out of a job. Penalosa's message was to be bold, to be fearless in the face of public opposition, and to make cities as safe as possible for cycling with many miles worth of separated bike lanes. Vancouver, said Penalosa, has not been nearly bold enough when compared to cities like Chicago.The real star of the show that morning, however, were the over 600 Bixi bikes shipped in for the conference and parked in front of the Wall Centre convention facility. Bixi is the Montreal-based bike share manufacturer that will be providing the two-wheeled transport for Vancouver's bike share program. The operator for the Vancouver bike share will be the Alta company based out of Portland, Oregon.
I had the pleasure of having my first bike share experience, after I signed an insurance waiver and gave conference organizers a stamp of my credit card. To get access to a bike I simply inserted the card provided by Velo-City, waited a few seconds for the light to turn from red to green, and pulled the bike out while slightly lifting the rear of the bike from the seat. With my complementary Lazer bike helmet strapped on I took a short ride downtown. 
The Bixi bikes are beautiful machines. They are definitely more sturdy than your typical hybrid or road bike, and sport wide tires with a street-friendly tread. The seat is wide and comfy, something many casual riders prefer. 
The seat post – which I got a blurry image of – is easily adjustable, and thankfully you're not able to easily slide the seat and post right off the bike. That would be a big target of theft otherwise. 
My demo bike was a three-speed but the bikes on order for Vancouver's bike share will be a seven-speed bike to better manage our city's hilly terrain. The gear changer is located in the right half of the handlebar, and the left side has a small bell you can ring with your thumb when needed. There is a small amount of space over the handlebars to locate a small basket if necessary. 
The brakes are built into the wheel hubs, and while you're riding enough power is generated to run safety lights embedded into the frame of the bike, improving your visibility in traffic. Overall it's a solid and comfortable ride, but the slightly heavy frame had my quadriceps burning up a few hills. For all my Bixi bike images see this Flickr set... Read the full story at City Caucus

Bicycle sharing programs have been active in many cities throughout the globe, much like car-shares and other eco-transportation services that are new to Vancouver. As part of Vancouver's Greenest City Action Plan we are expecting to see a significant increase in bicycle transportation services and improvements. The increase in bikes and bike lanes pose a natural deterrent to motor vehicles as those that are inclined to choose cleaner modes of transportation can with ease, and those that prefer to utilize motor vehicles may chose to go elsewhere. The city's green transportation initiatives focus on walking, cycling, transit, and greenways. By designing streets with pedestrian priority, expanding the bicycle network, improving public transit, and increasing public green space, one can imagine a healthier, greener city in the future. Bixi is expected to be active in Vancouver by 2013.

Watch here to learn more about Velo-city Vancouver: