Bixi gets bigger

I first saw the notice taped to the side of the Bixi station on Hoskin Ave and Devonshire Pl, saying that it was going to be relocated to allow for snow clearance. Now Bixi has announced that a total of seventeen stations will be relocated and used to expand the service area of a bike share system that has been unfortunately constrained since its inception to a relatively small area of the city (from Bloor St to the lake on the north-south, and from Jarvis St to Spadina Ave on the east-west). There were a few stations stuck outside of that initial service area. Some, like the one located in Bellevue Square in Kensington Market were only a block or two outside, while others like the one located at the CNE were farther out.

A list of the new stations, and which are to be moved, can be found on the Bixi website, along with a schedule showing when this will happen (relocations started yesterday and continue until Friday). I’ve mapped 15 of the 17 new stations above, leaving off two stations that didn’t fit onto the map: one at Bathurst St and Queens Quay, and one at Wellington St and Portland St.

Locating Bixi stations close to each other and creating a dense service area is crucial for a bike share system that is structured for relatively quick, under 30-minute trips. However, the realization that there are opportunities for stations outside the initial service area, while less densely located, is a welcome one.

When I was in Minneapolis this summer, I used their Bixi-supplied bike share system, NiceRide, to get around. With 700 bikes at 73 stations, NiceRide is a smaller system than Toronto’s (Toronto has 1000 bikes at 80 stations), however the service area for NiceRide sees many stations at the outer edges scattered farther and less densely than those in the central city. This allowed me to venture much farther using the bike share program than I am able in Toronto. Granted, I had to pay careful attention to station location and how long it was going to take me to get there, but I was grateful for these outlier stations in allowing me to explore more of the city. The outlier stations in Minneapolis seemed to be located in such a way as to give access to residential areas farther out from the more dense downtown system.

Toronto has many opportunities for such outlier stations, as those at Sugar Beach, the Distillery District, and CNE show (although the CNE station is the one moving to the Distillery). These stations can provide a different service than the ones in the denser downtown, used by people to reach specific destinations. For example, summer time placement of outlier stations at parks around the city—Trinity Bellwoods is the obvious example—seems a great way to expand service to destinations that are sure to attract riders. They can also, as shown by Minneapolis, be used to connect residential areas that are located farther out.

It would also be interesting to see Bixi Toronto engage in the kind of crowdsourcing that New York did to figure out locations for its gargantuan 10,000 bike Bixi-supplied bike share system, announced in September. Bixi Toronto is up to almost 4,000 members since its launch last spring. I would love to see a map that aggregates data collected from all these new Bixi riders on where they would like to see stations.

I’ve heard some say that it’s not right to call this an expansion because the amount of bikes and stations is not increasing. I disagree. While I agree that the system needs more stations and bikes, the relocation of stations expands the original service area, allowing more of Toronto to share in Bixi. This expansion could attract more riders at the edge who were hesitant to join Bixi, bolstering the case for more bikes in the future. This is a bigger Bixi, and we should be happy for it.


  1. Do we know much about the actual usage of Bixi bikes, and what kind of people sign up? I’ve never tried them, because I honestly find it very expensive (of course, I have a bike myself, but if it was quite cheap, I might sometimes want to take the subway into town, and occasionally jump on one). I did see people on bikes once in a while during summer, but most times I pass by the docking stations, they are all full (which is good in one way, but in another, might indicate under-utilization)?

  2. I worry about the utility of the outlier stations if station density cannot be maintained… mostly because I’ve experienced severe “dock blocking” this summer and found it difficult to find an empty dock near my intended destination in the core. It’s frustrating and inconvenient, but I think the BIXI experience would be much worse if I couldn’t find a dock at an outlier station and had to double back nearly as far as I had already traveled.

  3. The City and Bixi should strike a deal with Astral media to get them to finance station expansion while moving their godawful “info” pillars to bixi stations which are already cannibalizing big chunks of sidewalk space. Sweeten the expansion financing deal with the trade of other existing ad space and bike customization.

    re: dock blocking. Many people don’t realize this but you can get an extra free 15 minutes at a full station.

    Bixi gets an A+ this heavy user in its first six months. I do wonder why the reluctance to expand north of Bloor. Dupont and Spadina seems like an obvious choice with two subway lines, buses, George Brown College, and growth of Dupont corridor.

  4. Stian says “I’ve never tried them, because I honestly find it very expensive (of course, I have a bike myself, but if it was quite cheap, I might sometimes want to take the subway into town, and occasionally jump on one).”
    I actually thought the same myself and really only joined because it seemed like such a good idea and ought to be supported financially. I have used my Bixi FAR more than I had expected – about 70 trips since May – and find I almost always use it for one-way trips. Sometimes because I have walked “out” and feel like a change on my return trip or because I cycle out to do some shopping and then take the TTC home as I am carrying too much. I have yet to exceed the 30 minute ‘free’ (or pre-paid) cost though once got it back in 29 minutes and 47 seconds! If I want to go “cycling” I would normally use my own bike but for short trips Bixi is great and having the stations moving further out from the centre is excellent news.

  5. The most western dot on your map is in the wrong spot. You have the station at the corner of Bloor and Palmerston, while it is actually going in at the corner of Bloor and Euclid

  6. Looking at their website, I’m surprised that there aren’t more bikes located at Union Station. Getting commuters coming from Union to cycle to their final destinations rather than using the TTC or a cab would not only be a prime market opportunity, but could help to push downtown cycling infrastructure from being a “pinko” issue into one for the entire region; since people who don’t normally cycle downtown because it is too far away could now enjoy the various bike lanes rather than see them as a weapon in the “war on the car.”

    Same thing at Bloor-Yonge, St. George, and Spadina for people coming from the Bloor-Danforth subway and don’t want to be crammed into downtown bound Yonge and University subway trains.

    I count 49 around Union, 26 at Bloor-Yonge (Bay and Church), and 30 between Spadina and St. George. Not sure how to work around space constraints, but I would add at least one zero to those numbers – two if possible!

  7. This is excellent news. Of course I’d prefer them keeping the density, just add stations. But apparently the outlaying stations are in great demand so expanding the boundary makes sense and hopefully they will come back next year and add more stations, both to the core and more outlaying areas. Contrary to what Stian said, I pass by one of the (originally) outlaying station on College everyday, and I can see that it is used by many people, even as the weather cools down.

  8. I had written a long comment and then it got eaten by a database error :(.

    Anyway, the BIXI website tells me I took 177 trips totaling 328km over the season. I used BIXI to commute between Spadina station and Queen’s Park between May and October. I live a few stops west of the current boundaries, so I would take the subway to the nearest BIXI stop and ride from there.

    BIXI was the first time I had been on a bike since my undergrad days more than 10 years ago. Now that I have the taste for cycling, I have thought about buying a bike of my own, but the cost of a good bike (I don’t want a beater), coupled with the risk of theft and the practicalities of storage in my small apartment, keep it from being an easy decision.

    I hope a few more major sponsors will come onboard to help support the growth of the system.

  9. If I lived within the area covered by BIXI I wouldn’t bother owning the a bike. The costs of buying and maintaining a bike add up to about the same as the cost of a BIXI membership.

  10. Sigh… consider yourselves lucky: here in MTL all the Bixis here are gone for the winter, bad timing given what lovely weather we’ve been having. 

    And I have my own bike that fits me better and is considerably lighter and that I no longer use because Bixi is so much more convenient: no need to lock it up, no need to fix flat tires, no need to worry about that kerchunk-kerchunk the bike’s been making recently, no need for tune-ups, no need to ride home in the rain. And it’s so convenient for short hops — I could walk the 12 minutes to my asian or latino grocery stores, but it’s so much quicker on Bixi. Plus it’s a great option for mixing modes of transit: I often like taking the bus instead of the métro so I can see the city, for example, but my bus home leaves from the eastern edge of downtown — walking across downtown is possible but takes oh, 25 minutes or so. I wouldn’t take one bus across and then wait for another up. And if I were to take the métro, I’d just stay on it all the way. But add Bixi and it’s the perfect distance — in just a few minutes of sailing through stuck traffic, I’m at my bus stop and feeling refreshed and all eco-smug, too. Plus, late at night, Bixi is great for getting home once the métro closes — it puts the night bus network within easy reach.

    But again, sigh. Now that winter’s here and Bixi’s gone for us, I’m rediscovering how much bigger the city is without it.

  11. They’ve doubled the distance from my workplace to the nearest bike rack, going from 700m to 1.5km which out of a commute of 5km is entirely unreasonable. I would like to see a voting system for the location of the bike racks, sadly it doesn’t seem to be in the plan. I like the principle behind bixi, but they make it hard for me to support them.

  12. @Geoff Coulthard – have you called bixi and asked them why they moved it so far out? How do you know whether they asked for nearer spots and were refused by the City for instance?

Comments are closed.