New Bixi bike rental system hits downtown Toronto.
Toronto - The Bixi Bike Rental System has finally arrived in downtown Toronto with locations from Bloor to Lakeshore/Queens Quay and Spadina to Jarvis. For $5 for the first 30 minutes, you can rent a bike and return to any bike dock in the area.
The Bixi Bike Rental System has been operating for three years in Montreal and memberships have been growing (three million riders in 2010) every year with Toronto being the most recent addition. Toronto has approximately 80 stations and just over 1000 rental bikes, spaced 300 metres (about 1000 feet) apart within five minute walking distance in the downtown core. They currently have rental locations all over the world, in places such as, London, England, Washington D.C., Australia, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Ottawa opening in a few weeks.
They're going fast, and control box will tell you where there are more bikes. Return to any station location.
It's very well organized and well thought out, since it gives you many options when you rent a bike. If there are no bikes at the station you can use the terminal control stand to lo
to look where a nearby rental is available. The same applies when you are returning a bike, if there are no spots available, it will tell you where the nearest station with available space so you can return a bike.
Helmets are not provided, but strongly recommended, and all bikes are equipped with a bell and front and rear lights which come on automatically. For added convenience, there are bungee cord carriers on the front of each bike for carrying parcels.
You can purchase a yearly membership key which allows the first 30 minutes included in your plan, however there is an additional fee for the yearly rate or any single rental and both are charged an additional fee after the first 30 minutes. The yearly membership is about $100 and speeds up the process at the pay station dock, you just plug in the key, wait for the green light and go, since your membership is linked to your credit card.
Currently there is no public offices in Toronto but Michel Philibert, Director of Marketing and Communications for Bixi Bikes in Quebec, says as business grows, there may be offices in the Toronto area in the near future. "It's basically set up as a taxi service on a bike, for short trips between locations, just like a taxi you will not drive around the city all day in a cab, you will take short trips on different taxis, this is the same concept" said Philibert.
If a bike breaks down, they have thought of everything, you just return the bike to any docking station and push the "needs repair" button and it's out of service until repaired. The stations are equipped with solar panels that power the units and info about the rentals and repairs are transmitted to head office immediately.
"The bikes have been made specially for the use of the public bike system, (bike sharing system) and Toronto has the most upgraded bikes in the whole network" said Michel Philibert of Bixi.
"I used the bike sharing system in Montreal and use it whenever I go there, and glad it has finally come to Toronto, I have my own bike here, but I am renting one for my friend Viki, who is visiting and we want to ride around together." said Anne, a Toronto resident renting a bike at the Bay/Bloor docking station.
Give it a whirl, if you can find an available bike, and bring a helmet and your credit card.
UPDATE - May 7/2011 - Just a reminder the $5 fee is for the first 30 minutes. If you go beyond 30, you will be charged an additional fee.
31-60 min add $1.50, 61-90 min add $4.00, every additional half hour, add $8.00. Apparently this confusion arises around the world for the first few weeks, although it is clearly marked on the docking terminals, but everyone just keeps clicking OK. Be sure to read all details, to be safe.