Cycling for a Better World
Using a bike in
Montreal - 2009
In September 2009, I visited Montreal and had the chance to cycle its streets and use
their new bike-share system.
|How the BIXI System worked for me:
(image from the
- The bikes seem well-designed: easy to ride, with three gears somewhat in
the low range to make allowance for the many hills in Montreal, wide tires that can cope
with difficult road surfaces, an easily adjustable seat, simple pedals. I lucked out and
had a new 7-speed model on one leg of the trip and thought it to be great! One thing is
apparent, though - good maintenance of these bikes is key for customer safety and
satisfaction. The bikes I rode were in good or excellent condition with one exception.
It's brakes were marginal - a quick tuning would have fixed it. I doubt that one can rely
on users reporting problems - few folks will take the time and go through the reporting
process, no matter how simple it is. If there isn't a regular inspection of all bikes at
the garage, there should be one.
- The payment system is simple: straight-forward rules with an intuitive pay
mechanism via credit card. Being new to it, I had some minor problems:
- I could not find the dock's keypad for entering the five digit code that associates your
payment with the bike that you have selected. I was looking for something like a phone key
pad - with nine or ten buttons. After three failed tries the machine rejected my credit
card and caused me a minor panic. I tried at the next box station not far away, and there
it dawned on me that there were only three unique digits in the code and thus easily
noticed the "key pad" - it has only the buttons: 1, 2, and 3...
- When not being able to return the bike, it would have been nice if the station would
have told me where the next available stations would be.
- Finding a bike station was easy in the down-town area (Rene-Levesque E and
St. Denis) and there were ample bikes available on the Saturday morning. My route down to
the port and along the Lachine Canal gave me a chance to return the bike and pick up
another one several times without trouble. But a visit to the popular Atwater Market
ran into trouble. The bike station there had no empty docks and thus I could not return
the bike. Neither could I park it and visit the market because there is no lock on the
bike. I waited for a while, beyond my grace period and started to rack up extra minutes on
my credit card. After a while, I followed two cyclists who had the same problem but they
knew where the next station was. It turned out that that one was full as well and so was
the one beyond it. I ended up returning to the core of the city and I returned the bike
outside the train station at Place Ville-Marie.
The problem seems to be caused by pattern of travel to this attraction: the
market is a popular destination for BIXI users and thus "everyone" is there at
the same time thus overloading the facilities. It may be smart to visit such places
choosing a time that avoids the "rush".
I commend BIXI
for their website and clear info at the bike stations themselves. A nice added
touch is the Google map with up-to-date info on bike status for each station. I sure could
have used an internet-enabled cellphone!
- Cycling safety is generally good because motorists seem to be aware of
cyclists and are tolerant of the sometimes generous interpretation of traffic rules by
cyclists. There is less tension on the road - I saw none of that testosterone-laced
attitude of Toronto's drivers towards cyclists. I guess Montrealers are more mature.
As an out-of-towner, I realized that at times I was not familiar with the
written and unwritten rules of the road. But because of the usually well laid-out paths
and the tolerant attitude of fellow road users, I never was in trouble and felt safe at
all times. Click here for the link
to Bixi's advice on Montreal's traffic rules...
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