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Have you tried the Bixi yet?

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Bixi / Crescent & de Maisonneuve

The Bixi, Montreal’s new public bike system, was officially launched exactly two weeks ago. Have you tried it yet?

Being a daily user of the bicycle, I didn’t yet have to rely on the Bixi, but have seen countless numbers of them pass me by on the cycling lane. They are most noticeable by their strong aluminium body and a flashing front LED light (powered by a dynamo). Stations are scattered from Rosemont to the area west of Concordia. They also go far east towards Metro Frontenac and south into the Cité du Multimédia.

To use Bixi, you can either buy a year-long ($78 tx incl.), monthly ($28) or 24-hour pass ($5). Then, you pay another amount depending on the time you spend between stations.

It’s free for the first 30 minutes of each ride between stations. If you decide to keep the bike longer on any single trip, then you will pay a little extra money ($1.50 if you take it between 30 minutes and 1 hour). This is to encourage people to have short trips and return their Bixi if they don’t need it.

Bixi / Crescent & de Maisonneuve

Bixi - Important



  1. I’ve been pleased to see quite a few people using it in the Plateau/Mile-End and up here in Petite-Patrie/southern part of Villeray. Near me there are stations at marché Jean-Talon (on Henri-Julien just south of Jean-Talon), and on Beaubien a bit east of the métro (between St-Denis and Drolet, if I recall).

    I haven’t tried one because I use my own bicycle every day for most of the year, and also because I don’t have a credit card, nor do I want one. But it is one more step towards making the city more cycle-friendly. Perhaps a slightly gadgety one, but its visibility is a good thing, as is the fact that it will mean more people cycling in city bicycles, and in normal clothing they would wear to work, school or outings, not lycra kit.

    Still, we need action on completing a lot of bicycle paths whose extension has been foreseen in some cases for at least 2 decades, including the northern end of the CP rail path, which was supposed to go up to the bicycle bridge to Laval.

  2. I used a bixi bike for the first time today!

    Just a note, I think this sentence should be re-worded:
    “Then, you pay another amount depending on the time you spend between stations. It’s free for the first 30 minutes.”

    The first 30 minutes of travel is free, because the Bixi is meant to be used for short travel. If you go over 30 minutes, then you are charged $1.50 and you have the bike for another 30 minutes. the way its currently written makes it sound as though every trip with the bixi is costing you above the yearly, monthly or daily subscription!

  3. I used one this weekend, and I have to say I was confused about how the fare structure worked. This is what I thought:

    – you pay the access fee (Yearly/Monthly/Daily)
    – use as you wish during that day and pay appropriate usage fees

    There’s a slight caveat. After I used the bike for 15 minutes to get to my destination, I returned it to the nearest station thinking one I was ready to go home, I could get a bike with the “code” I received and bike home before my 30 minutes were over. But apparently once the bike is returned your access is over!

    Still, I think it’s a good step in the right direction.

  4. I bought a membership, and a had a few snafus in the meantime. Words of caution:

    -Print the code. If you forget it, you can’t re-swipe your card again for 5 minutes.

    -Depending on your financial institution, the $250 deposit can take 5 business days to clear. Using it 3 days in a row busted my credit limit and the error message was cryptic. It took over 10 minutes for them to admit maybe there was a problem.

    -When you return the bike make sure the green light goes off. You might even want to take a note of where you left it; I was billed an extra $64.50 for a “6 hour” trip I did not take (mine was returned in < 15 minutes). Charges were reversed, but it’s rather scary that a user error or an equipment malfunction on their part can leave us exposed to arbitrarily large bills.

  5. @Khosrow you can re-swipe your card at any station within 24 hours at no extra cost, and get another code.

  6. I know it’s not clear. When you’ve paid your 24h access, you take a bike, you use it, you put it back at any station. For subsequent trips, identify yourself at the pay station with your credit card (no extra fees will be charged to your card) and take your new ticket. (Each time your number is god for 5 min) Go see this video that explain it.

  7. @DanielHaran I swiped again, and code some usage time, but I didn’t try the access time. Thanks for the tip.

    I have to say, just the fact that this wasn’t clear from their site or their machines, is a big minus for them.

  8. @Khosrow I didn’t realize I was being charged every day while waiting for the key to arrive in the mail. The amount was not displayed, so I assumed my credit card was going to work as a key.

    Well, the supervisor at their call center told me I should have seen this on the screen, and that it’s my responsibility to read all 47 pages. It’s in there somewhere.

    If they want more people using this, they have to make it way easier, and stop expecting people to read the manual before use.

  9. They’re fun, and handy in many cases, but the bikes are likely not as comfortable or efficient as a commuter bike properly sized to yourself.

  10. The system is amazing and will only get better as more stations and bikes are added. I have the one year key/pass and it’s kind of the easiest thing ever.

    I got my pal Dave to rent a bike for the day Saturady. The interface on the machine is impossible for people to figure out. Absolutely cryptic in all respects. 47 pages? get with it Bixi, put some stickers on the station clearly explaining everything in a paragraph or two.

    Other than that, can’t wait till the system expands!

  11. I love Bixi. Super awesome! I wonder, however, why it’s not integrated with the Opus card. Seems like an ideal match, and exactly what the STM was going for with the Opus idea. Ah well. The bikes are great, the stations are all over certain parts of the city and the price is right.

  12. I love it! I was down in Vieux Port on Sunday and BIXIs were everywhere. A couple visiting from Germany asked me to take their photo while posing on theirs.

    Give the BIXI people time to iron out the bugs, it’s only been 2 weeks. People are so impatient and want everything to work perfectly from the moment of inception. Not a very realistic attitude.

  13. I have my own bike, but I got a year pass to give it a try. It’s very expensive, and the daily pass is even worse…

    I’ve tried it once, it’s a beautiful bike, in great conditions, but you can’t go too fast, just 3 speeds, you’d feel like a hamster! They are a bit over-sized too…

    However, what I really love about BIXI is that you can lend it to friends who don’t have one or are visiting town, that’s the main reason I got a year pass

  14. I, too, have my bixi key and I’ve been using it almost every day since I got it — trips I used to do on foot are now done on bike in no time flat.

    Strangely enough, while I prefer riding more bent over than upright, and I own a bike that is properly sized for me and lighter and more comfortable and more responsive and with more gears than the Bixi, I actually find the Bixi so incredibly easy and convenient that I’m sold. There’s a great sense of satisfaction of pulling up to a station, putting the bike in, and just walking away.

    Yesterday, I left Place Ville Marie at 4:56, got a bixi across the street, and was home in the Latin Quarter by 5:04, bike safely stored at the station at the corner. Last Friday was a different story: I left at 5:30, had to get home for a 6:00 massage. Nary a Bixi in sight downtown — I finally found one in the station behind the Bay. And when I arrived home, not a space to be had. I guess everyone leaves downtown and heads over to the Latin Quarter for a beer on Fridays :) I just waited with my Bixi at the station looking dumb and bingo, someone came along and freed up a spot. Still quicker than walking, but not by much.

    Yesterday, the only spot available in the station at work refused to turn its light green, so I left the bike anyway, went upstairs, and phoned Bixi. The nice woman told me: Bien, selon mon ordi, le vélo est toujours en circulation, donc je vais envoyer mon technicien voir la station. Par contre, je ne sais pas combien de temps ça va prendre… vous pouvez laisser le vélo là, mais c’est pas barré. Si ça ne vous dérange pas, la meilleure solution serait de le déplacer dans une station avoisinante — il y a 3 places de libre à la station une rue à l’ouest.

    I actually liked the simple, home-made approach — it’s our fault, so don’t worry, but you can help us out if you want… so I went downstairs and moved the bike :)

  15. I ran in to a friend at the corner of de Maisonneuve and St-Laurent yesterday. We spent about 45 minutes sitting on a bench there catching up and watching the bikes go by on the bike lane. I was blown away at how many Bixi’s we saw go by!

  16. I have to admit I was pretty excited to try bixi out on my way home last night, only to discover that there are no stations in the South West at all.
    I suppose that its outside the pilot area or maybe that Saint Henri is considered a bad part of town, but it would be nice to see some stations over on the west side. There don’t even appear to be any planned on the roll out.

    Anyone know why?

  17. The map I saw of phase 2 only had new stations going north and further east (I think there were a few further west deeper into Outremont but I don’t remember for sure). It probably mostly has to do with west of Atwater being much less dense and populated than the north and east ends, where they would be more heavily used.

    Westmount, being a separate municipality might have something to do with the program not being extended west of downtown as well (that, and the city’s history of NIMBYism perhaps extending to the Bixi program much the same way it fought the construction of a Metro station and leaving the de Maisonneuve bike path open year-long).

    The hill separating Little Burgundy and St-Henri from the rest of the city might make those neighbourhoods look as if the Bixi wouldn’t be heavily used but they did put stations in Griffintown and Old Montreal so I’m not sure about that.

    One place I think a Bixi rack would be very useful is around the Lionel-Groux metro station so people commuting to that station could take a bike up into downtown or vice-versa.

  18. If you sign up for a monthly pass right now, you effectively get 2 months for the price of one. (It’s free until June 30 for people with a monthly pass) $14 a month…not bad!

    Special conditions for the setting-up period

    30-day subscription: the period starting from the activation of your BIXI-key until June 30 is offered to you free of charge; your subscription will expire July 31 (or 30 days after you activate your BIXI-key, if you activate it after June 30).
    1-year subscription: the period starting from the activation of your BIXI-key until July 31 is offered to you free of charge; your subscription will expire July 31, 2010 (or 365 days after you activate your BIXI-key, if you activate it after July 31).

  19. I tried it. I ordered my key for a 1 year subscription.

    The system on paper is awesome. Can’t wait for all the stations to be online. That’s when the full power of the network will be felt by Bixi riders. Once they have a few months to fine tune the amount of bikes per station, its gonna be great.

    I have a strong feeling that once people start to understand the power of one-way bike trips, Bixi will be very sucessful.

    However, as it is today, there are still a few (easily fixable) wrinkles in the system.

    BTW, they really need to put neighbourhood maps on the pay station indicating nearby Bixi stations.

    Some brief text with instructions wouldn’t hurt either.

    Here’s my own experience:

    1- Picked up a Bixi corner Brebeuf/Saint-Grégoire. Swipe my card, print the ticket, punch the numbers. GO!

    I like the bike. Pleasantly surprised. Was expecting it to be heavier. Could use a fourth “overdrive” gear though. If you’re going downhill even slightly, gravity is doing all work and you can’t contribute much. :-)

    2- Pedal to downtown. Get to the station near La Baie. Click. Green light. *Poof*. Its like I rode my bike, but it magically evaporated when I got to my destination! I *love* that feeling of freedom.

    3- After catching a movie, try to Bixi back home… that’s where the problems started…

    Find a single bike left at a station on Sainte-Catherine. Do I punch the same code I was given? I dunno. No instructions on the pay-station or the ticket. Try to punch the code. Nothing happens. Go to the pay station, swipe my card, get a new code… struggle to get the paper out of the printer… try again. Turns out it’s a dead keypad on the single bike that’s left (doesn’t beep when you hit the keys).

    Walk to nearby station back to La Baie… is my new code still valid? Try it. Red light. No go. Swipe my card. “Transaction refusée”. WTF? (Forgot my phone home, so I didn’t bother calling customer service).

    Ride the bus to Laurier metro. 3 Bixis await. Cool. Swipe my card. Get a new code. Yay!. Try the code. Red light. No go. Bike #2. No go. Bike #3. No go.

    Next day, hoping to Bixi to the Metro… no bixis left at the station near my house. The other ones aren’t installed yet… Doh!

    So there you go… lots of wrinkles to iron out (esp. for casual day-pass users), but I still think Bixi will be a huge success.


  20. I got all excited and started a Bixi Fan page thing:

    It’s quite hack right now, but I’ve been pretty obsessed with Bixi ever since it started and hope this wet paint page will become a forum of sorts where people can find all things Bixi. I’ve already uncovered some cool Bixi mapping apps people have made, etc. Anyone can join and add to it. It’s really just a Bixi Wiki. Hope you enjoy it.

  21. I don’t think St-Henri being considered a “bad” part of town has anything to do with the lack of Bixi — first of all, it’s hardly the bad part of town it used to be.

    One of the keys to success of such a program is having many stations close by, so that people can actually find and park the bikes. So instead of covering more area but with infrequent stations, they had to choose somehow, and I’d say they chose well, and not just because I have one at the corner of my street. Le Plateau, Le Village, Old Montreal, and downtown have good and consistent density, but also boast many points of interest that can attract people from outside these areas. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love St-Henri and would love it if Bixi went all the way to Atwater Market, for example. But for now, oh well.

    As for the psychology of closely-spaced stations encouraging use: until Bixi came along, I was happily walking to work, 15 blocks or so. Last Friday, I was a little ticked off at having to walk all of 4 blocks to find a bike; when I want my Bixi, I want it now! Completely irrational, but there you go. However, imagine if the next station were 7 or 10 blocks away… only to be full or empty as well. Would I use Bixi? I doubt it.

  22. Population density aside, I’m surprised there aren’t Bixi stations near every metro station in town – it seems like right now it’s more about tourism than commuting which is fine and all, but I live here and have more practical needs. I live in Outremont & work near Vendome metro, it would be great to be able to pick up a Bixi, go to work, and not have to do the uphill ride home. Or let’s say I wanted to go ride around on the bike path in Saint-Henri then do some groceries at the Atwater Market and take the metro home … this would be perfect. That said, at 78 bucks a year unless you don’t have anywhere you can lock your own bike I don’t really see how this is more cost effective than getting even a $200 bike at Canadian tire that will last you 5 years (if it doesn’t get stolen. I also find it peculiar that the west end is being ignored so far. Maybe the co-ordinators figure all those west-end Anglos all drive cars or something.

  23. It is impossible to start such a thing everywhere. It is still sort of a pilot project. I don’t think Montréal cycle authorities think NDG types all drive cars everywhere – after all, some of the most environmentally-progressive city councillors were from that part of town. But as has been said, Westmount is a huge obstacle to anything between NDG and the city centre. They also dismantle the extension of la piste Claire-Morrissette, cruelly harass cyclists and drivers of non-posh cars etc.

    Modern Canadian Tire bicycles are utter crap.

    Certainly hope it will be extended to the west end, and elsewhere.

    Remember how restricted CommunAuto was at first, it has a far greater geographical reach now. The system is rather similar.

  24. For everybody suggesting getting a cheap bike instead of a Bixi subscription, the whole point of Bixi is not having to come back to your bike once you park it.

    Like riding Bixi from work to Happy Hour then riding the metro or a cab home. You can’t do that with your own bicycle.

    Or riding downtown to one end of Ste-Cath… walk and shop all the way to the other end, then pick a new Bixi there and ride home.

    I gave a bunch of other examples in the other recent Bixi entry on this blog.

    Also, I dare anyone to use a Canadian Tire bike as a regular commuter bike for 5 years. Good luck with that.

    I got a cheap K-Mart bicycle in Australia to commute to work for 6 months and after six months the brakes were completely dead, the gears were slipping, the derailleur was marginal and I had 2 flat tires.


  25. I have used a Canadian Tire bike as my regular commuter bike for 7 years, and given the poor repair of the streets & frequency of bike theft, I stand by my decision. Yes, they are crappy bikes, butI’m not plonking down a grand on a nice bike just to have some creep rip it off and sell it for $75.

    I understand the argument of Bixi’s convenience, but I also think that Bixi would be a lot more convenient if it was tied in to the metro system – of course the boroughs (especially Westmount’s bike unfriendliness) stand in the way of west end integration, but metro property should be more accessible to this kind of city-wide plan, one would think, regardless of larger integration into the boroughs. That said, there’s certainly no reason not to have Bixi stations around Saint Henri, with the proximity of the Lachine bike path, the Atwater market,a alrge student population, et cetera.

    Further, it’s obvious that yes, not everywhere in the island will be part of the initial or even phase 2 rollout – but it is also very obvious that the placmeents favour east and north much more than west and south, and one can only speculate why that might be.

  26. I’ve noticed they’re putting in a missing piece — a big panel that for now is blank but I assume will hold a map and some better instructions on how to use the system.

    And on, they have a nice little thank you to all of us who have had problems during the set-up period and offering an extra month on our subscription, now isn’t that nice of them?

    Plus, they say that if you arrive and the station is full, you can type your bixi key number or swipe your credit card and get an extra 15 minutes free to find a new station; I did it for the fun of it last Friday, even though I had only used 20 minutes, and it did indeed give me an extra 15 minutes. But they also say “Check the pay station to find out in real time the number of free bike docks at neighbouring stations” which I couldn’t figure out at all.

  27. …and as for the nasty insinuations that the west and south parts are underserved for political or linguistic reasons: oh, just stop it, will you? It’s a pilot, they had to choose somehow, and I say they chose well.

    I absolutely love Montreal, but I so wish that the we’re-so-discriminated-against mantra on both sides of the linguistic line would just go away.

  28. BIXI looks to be very nice! You pay $5, but you have the first 30 mns free. Unfortunately, BIXI is a damn trap. I gave it a try and got charged $22.50 for…2H and a half! Quite expensive!Then, I wanted to subscribe to a monthly pass, thinking that in that way I wont be charged for any extra fees, but only $28 for the whole month. Surprise! The $28 gives you only the benefits of having…A key! Except that, you still have to pay the regular fees like anybody.

  29. ^^ JF, Bixi is meant for short rides. As long as each one of your rides is 30 minutes long – or less, you will not have to pay any “regular fees”.

    The point is that you’re not supposed to keep the bike for 2 hours and a half.

  30. @J.Fish

    Paying under $30 for a half day bike rental (usually tourists don’t rent bikes for more than a couple hours) is a good deal. I think this is just a matter of your perception of what you’d pay rather than a reflection of the current bike rental market.

    As Mark mentioned, Bixi is meant to be affordable to commuters for short trips that are usually under 30 minutes. Tourists are usually willing to pay more, and do. Most bike trips can be made within 30 minutes – up to 8 km at a time.

  31. >> “I have used a Canadian Tire bike as my regular commuter bike for 7 years”

    One bike or different ones? :-)

    >>”I also think that Bixi would be a lot more convenient if it was tied in to the metro system ”

    I dunno… looking at the map, seems that there is a Bixi station planned next to every Metro within the boundaries of Phase I.

    Do you wish that they put Bixi stations next to *every* Metro from the get go?


  32. i tried the bixi system too and now i’m going to my local police station to report a missing bike that i am now held liable for even though i made sure to bring it back to a bixi station, waited for light to turn green and pulled several times to be sure it was securely locked in place. turns out for some reason it doesnt appear in their system. now, over 48 hours later, with no news of any progress from bixis grade a customer service and without any proof whatsoever that i did or did not bring the bike back, the only thing that i can do is to go to police despite bixi insisting that i do not. all i can do now is wait and monitor my credit card statement in case bixi decides to charge me their $1000 penalty. all this for a system that is more costly than using public transit and/or communauto and way less efficiant.

  33. Xavier – 2 bikes, one got stolen. And yes, all the metro stations is exactly what I had in mind.

    Tristou – who said it was linguistic? Projecting much?
    Some of us live in the Phase 1 zone and bike to work in an unserved area, I guess you don’t. I think tying Bixi in to the metro would do a lot more service to people across Montreal than the current plan, which seems to be providing a touristy service to high traffic areas.

  34. @Daniel: If it’s the same map as the pocket map that just came in with my Bixi-key, then: yes, bike paths are shown as purple dotted lines.

    — X

  35. Grey… not projecting, merely affected by the comments others have been leaving on the site. What did you mean, anyway?

    As for having bixis at métro stops: I’m not so sure… if you’re already taking the métro, you won’t take a bike — where would you park it? If you live in Le Plateau and work out by L’Assomption métro, what happens when you arrive and there are no spots left? Peddle madly to the next métro stop, fingers crossed, I suppose, then take the métro back, rather defeating the joys of Bixi. Having lots of stations close together makes the ebb and flow of bikes and spaces possible… otherwise, you get full or empty stations, and ticked off Bixi riders arriving late for work.

    That said, I could see a nice big station at, say, Atwater or Jean Talon Markets, since they’re popular destinations and close enough to get to within the 1/2 hour free time.

  36. I think it’s awesome. The only two problems I’ve encountered was when one of the bike docks at a station didn’t function so I just slipped the bike into the one next to it. Another time, at Mont-Royal metro, there were no bikes available but within a minute someone brought theirs back and I took it. I live in Rosemont and do most of my biking in Rosemont and the Plateau.

    The system really works best if you have a monthly, or better yet, yearly pass. There’s no fumbling with credit cards, getting pre-authorized payments on your credit card or otherwise standing at the station trying to figure the thing out. You just put in your key, take the bike and go.

    It’s works great in high density residential neighbourhoods like Rosemont and the Plateau, and for people who already rely on public transit. I suppose it’s a premium on my STM pass but at 78$ (tax incl.) for a yearly pass, it’s worth it for many reasons. I don’t have to lug my bike up and down stairs at my apartment. I can bike to my destination and the take public transit back if I’m feeling lazy. I’m not stuck on my bike when the weather turns bad.I never have to worry about my bike being stolen. I can bike home from a friend’s house late at night instead of spending money on a cab. I am free to choose my mode of transportation (metro, bus, or bike) at any time. I’m biking more and getting in better shape.

    I’m not the type to give accolades at every turn, but really, BIXI is a great service.

  37. SAME as JULIAN!

    My boyfriend is being accused of taking out a bike with his key late at night even though we were sound asleep and there’s no physical way he could have been there! Now they are saying the missing bike has to be returned or it’s $1000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s ridiculous! As much as I enjoy the BIXI’s now I don’t trust the system! Obviously there is a computer glitch and it’s not our fault but who else can they blame? And what recourse do we have against BIXI? Is it just our word against theirs? I guess this could go to court? Total BS!

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