Monday, May 16, 2011

Capital Bixi opens Wednesday

The NCC has announced that the Bixi bike-sharing program is coming to the Capital. Well, coming back, that is. There was an NCC-led four-station pilot of the programme in 2009, with two stations in Ottawa and two in Gatineau. One of the stations was across from Confederation Square (not to be confused by the building, school or park of the same name), next to the National Arts Centre and within view of the Chateau Laurier:

They planned to have it back in 2010, but there were no bids to the RFP. The NCC planned to team up with the Cities of Gatineau and Ottawa to have a 50 station, 500 bike system this year, but neither city wanted to put the money towards it. Ottawa instead decided to put the money toward a pathway tunnel under Somerset, a decision I supported, though it would of course have been nice to fund both. If you follow me on Twitter, You'd have seen my photo from Saturday of where the tunnel will go (I plan to do a proper write-up of it eventually). Anyway, here's a photo of the other 2009 station on this side of the River, in the Byward Market.

This post is really just an excuse to post my photos of the 2009 Bixi project, since there seems to be a dearth of them, like everyone forgot about it. My alternate goal is to get a quick post up since I'm so pressed for time. I hate to say it, but the trees are in the way of this shot of the Bixis within view of the Peace Tower, Parliament Hill and Confederation Square.

Since the budget is a third of the full buildout, there will only be ten stations this year. Three will be on the Gatineau side and seven on the Ottawa side. As of writing, the locations aren't yet posted to the Capital Bixi website, though they are selling subscriptions to the true believers. With only ten stations, they'll all have to be downtown, so they likely won't be used for commuting but instead for circulation during the day and maybe for tourists visiting downtown.

As you may know, I run the hugely popular bike parking compound at Bluesfest, and in 2009 two people parked their Bixis with us for the duration of their show. Because the system is designed for short trips, the pricing on the rentals grows by bigger chunks the longer you have them out. So these two must have paid a fortune to park with us! (Wouldn't have been a problem if there were a Bixi stand at Bluesfest!)

I'm not exactly sure how the economics of it works. Like, is the price of the contract just to provide the service for one year, and the same size system will cost the same next year? Or will the same investment allow us to order 10 more stations next year, now that we've already gotten 10?

If it's the first kind, the subscription model, then the City's decision to invest in a capital project is definitely the better one, since the tunnel (and the pathway they'll build next year to connect with it) will be around for many years.

The 2009 system had "Ottawa-Gatineau" printed on the chainstays of the bikes. Given the branding of the website, I wouldn't be surprised if this were changed to "Capital" this year. In Montreal, it says--no surprise here--"Montréal". See my post on Bixis and Bike Parking in Montreal from my trip there last year.

It feels as though it were just a couple years ago when Paris hit the news with its revolutionary bikeshare idea. Montréal's Bixi is a major contender, with a massive presence in Montréal and the company winning contracts to provide the service in cities around the world. But looking back to the late 1800s, the proliferation of streetcars from the first city to nearly all cities happened just as fast. It just goes to show that sometimes a fad is just a good idea.


  1. I saw some of the new bikes this morning. You're right, they say "Capital" with an extra e for the French. I was surprised to see that they're bright red (much prettier than the grey) and covered in Telus advertising.

  2. I think "covered in advertising" is a bit strong. But I am all for corporate sponsorship in cases like this. We need them. I am also pleasantly surprised by the colour scheme. Very nice for the nation's capital!