bike sharing

Bike sharing pioneer Bixi seeks bankruptcy

Bixi, which runs the bike sharing system in Montreal and sells the bikes, stations and software to other cities, has filed for bankruptcy.  The city has taken over the operation of the local network at an estimated $1.5 million cost. Like most bike share hosts, Montreal has thus far refused to contribute to operating costs. But if we consider the usage, about 2 million trips per year, I agree with the new mayor that $0.75 per trip is a great investment for a healthier, more accessible city. Let's hope support remains high among residents for continued operation.

Every city that has implemented a bike sharing system (as far as I know) has done it the same way: rely on a private company to run it, refuse to spend any public money on it, then complain about the over-reliance on advertising, station placement and failure to reach low-income and minority communities.

Perhaps it's a small issue: if you can make it run well without city funds, well, more money for schools and libraries. Except what happens when we use a federal grant for a new library building but then expect managers to solicit sponsors to help pay for books and computers? Same with bike sharing: at some point ad revenues decline and things fall apart. Like bus routes, many stations will be critically important but never profitable. But social equity and environmental justice goals don't easily mesh with running a business.

If we are serious about encouraging bicycling as healthy and effective transportation, cities should start funding and operating bike share as a public service, integrated with other modes of transportation. The Montreal mayor's comments are encouraging, as Bixi certainly is a fantastic public service worth paying for, and Montreal's transit agency STM has put together a plan for running it. After all, bike sharing only supplements the trains and buses that form a comprehensive, useful transportation network for maximum mobility.

Episode 36: Open Streets Minneapolis

As cities respond to growing calls for safer streets and more open space, many have begun holding a series of Open Streets events where streets are closed to cars and opened to everyone else (people, bikes, skates and other non-motorized users). In most cases there is special programming including vendors, music, demonstrations and fun activities, but a few just put up some cones and let people have the street. And of course marathons, road races and charity walks are some examples of active use of streets and highways. For more info and a sampling of what different cities are doing, check out this Momentum Magazine article, the Wikipedia page and the Open Streets Project directory. Read all about the history of ciclovias (open streets) at Ciclovias Recreativas de las Américas. I took to Lyndale Avenue South on a beautiful Sunday in late June for Open Streets Minneapolis. This episode features "in the field" interviews with some of the organizations tabling as well as regular people trying out activities such and the pop-up cycle track and the slow race. Organizations represented are (in order): Metro Transit; Minneapolis Public Works Dept; Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition; Spokes community bike center; Bike Walk Twin Cities (Transit for Livable Communities, Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program); Nice Ride bike sharing; Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; Hennepin County Medical Center; Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.  The morning event I spoke about is the Brompton US Championship (photos).

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Episode 33: Grease Rag Minneapolis bike collective

I'm back with a tour update and an inspiring interview with a member of Grease Rag, a Minneapolis bike group offering education and support to women/trans/femme cyclists. The growing collective hosts several monthly open shop nights around the Twin Cities as well as day and overnight rides, discussions and other events which build community and connect people with helpful resources in a positive environment.  Lowrah joins me to share her biking story and discuss approaches to supporting new and current cyclists. Learn how we can all be more welcoming, supportive and sensitive to the tension that various forms of privilege can create.  Find out how you can get involved at or on Facebook or Twitter.

Livable streets advocates always seem to think that for political reasons they need to make clear they're not anti-car. But I am. I hate cars with a passion. Cars are entirely responsible for the dismal state of our built environment and its negative effects on society. Sure, they can be useful for moving big stuff, but virtually all car trips are totally unnecessary and millions of us do just fine with bikes and buses. My case for why these dangerous steel boxes have to go, finely tuned while navigating around them on my peace-loving bicycle. Also see Right of Way and 50 Reasons Why Cars Suck.

Speaking of bicycles, I will be in Minneapolis next weekend for the Brompton US Championship, a folding bike ride and race that promises to be a fun time. It takes place June 22 and 23 at the Open Streets event in Uptown.

Gareth wrote in from Toronto about the latest mayoral scandal (background) and prospects for a sustainable transit funding plan.  Meanwhile the TTC wants to absorb and expand the city's Bixi bike sharing network but Mayor Ford is again being an obstacle.  In New York, residents and visitors (including me) are already enjoying North America's largest bike share system, CitiBike: blog, video, interviews with idiots.

Music comes from Rock The Bike's Pedal Powered Stage (video) at Sunday Streets, May 2011, San Francisco.

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Episode 31: Nice Ride: Bike Sharing in the Twin Cities

Visiting the State Capitol

I stopped by the Nice Ride Minnesota offices near the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis.  Nice Ride is a bike share system now in its fourth year of operation and its second year in St Paul.  Anthony Ongaro and Mitch Vars discuss the state of the system and how it is helping to make the Twin Cities a happier and healthier place. Later we dream about moving Nice Ride bikes by bike, and Executive Director Bill Dossett explains the evolution of the local bike network and shares his favorite places to ride.

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Episode 30: Madison B-Cycle bike sharing

In cities of all sizes there is a new public transportation option that is convenient, flexible and inexpensive. Bike sharing allows you to have a bike when you need it and forget about it when you don't, without the hassles of parking and maintenance. Madison B-Cycle City Manager Claire Hurley explains how bike sharing works, who uses it and why it makes the city more livable. We also talk about utility and recreational bicycling in one of the most bike friendly cities in the country.

Madison B-Cycle was one of the first bike share systems in the United States. Bike sharing has been wildly successful in cities of all sizes and is rapidly expanding across the US and Canada. Check it out when you visit one of these places, and advocate for bike share in your own city. Follow the Bike Sharing Blog to read about international systems.

A few days later I completed a Tour de B-Cycle in which I toured the city by visiting all 32 stations in one day. The second half of this episode features a selection of audio from the adventure.