While our home-grown BIXI’s have taken off in London England and beyond, they have yet to hit the streets in many parts of Montreal, including my ‘hood of NDG.
When guests come to visit or when a show lasts beyond the last metro, it occurs to me just how practical it would be to to tap this service that so many of my fellow Montrealers rave about. Last year we heard that BIXI would hit CDN-NDG in 2010, but the most populated borough in the city is still serviced by a mere 10 stations, all in the area adjacent to Outremont, at least 4 kilometres from where I live.
When I asked the borough when we could expect BIXIs, I was told that the Public Bike System Company, the division of Stationnement Montréal that manages BIXI, had only installed stations in the area adjacent to Outremont because they insisted that the bike docks to be a maximum of 300 m apart. However, BIXI stations were launched in Saint-Laurent, LaSalle, Lachine Verdun and Ahuntsic this summer, proving that there’s more than a little wiggle-room in the 300-meter rule.
I was excited to learn that a neighbour, James Maclean, was circulating a petition to bring BIXI to NDG, and I agreed to accompany him to the borough council meeting to present his collection of over 1000 signatures and get to the bottom of the issue.
Although the petition was well-received, borough mayor Michael Appelbaum refused to give any concrete answer about when we could expect BIXI in NDG. He reiterated the 300-metre rule and insisted that the borough had to wait for Stationnement Montréal to expand the network at their discretion. Yet when I had contacted the Public Bike System Company, I was told that decisions about expanding the bike-sharing network come down to the city and boroughs:
“La décision de prolonger le réseau BIXI dans d’autres secteurs revient aux arrondissements et à la Ville, vu les impacts financiers sur les opérations de la Société de vélo en libre-service,” wrote their customer service representative.
Appelbaum also emphasized that the pilot projects that launched in far-flung neighbourhoods were intended for local trips only and were not part of the core BIXI network. However, the Public Bike System Company in LaSalle assured me that their bikes were part of the central network:
“Les nouveaux projets–pilote font partie du réseau central, et sont donc compatibles avec les vélos du centre-ville,” wrote their customer service representative.
Even if we were adamant about the 300-metre rule, there’s an obvious flaw in this logic: The borough is a continuous territory and we’ve already got BIXI stations in the north-eastern part of the borough. Therefore, it should be possible to expand the network throughout CDN and NDG by placing stations every 300 meters.
The real insight came when councillor Helen Fotopulos asked Maclean whether he had thought of passing the petition around in Westmount. In June, the mayor of Westmount said he was in no rush to bring BIXI to the town, which would leave a 2-km wide BIXI-black-hole between NDG and Atwater.
“That has been a stumbling block,” Fotopulos said.
It’s no easy task for citizens to untangle a decision-making structure split between the boroughs and city, where responsibilities are regularly handed over to the private or institutional sectors. Based on the contradicting responses I received, it would seem even those directly involved in the decision-making don’t know whose court the ball is in. Do we really need to get a whole other city involved, or approach the elusive metropolitan level of government simply to receive a service that other parts of the city already enjoy?
I’m tempted to start waving around my broom but honestly, a 2 kilometer gap can be cycled in under 30 minutes easy. Let’s get on with it already.