Commentary, Opinion

To Bixi or not to Bixi?

Bixi is my religion – Monique

If taking out your first Bixi is an unforgettable experience in itself, riding one also comes with endless benefits. For starters, the convenience is unparalleled. With hundreds of stops all over the city, you can always find a bike and a place to drop it off. While having your own bike can admittedly have its advantages—like the freedom to customize it to your preferences—the consequence of having to find somewhere to lock it is cumbersome enough. 

Here’s a simple, everyday scenario: You need to get to a restaurant to meet friends in 10 minutes. Walking will take you 25, and biking will take you eight. But wait, you won’t be going back to your place afterward; you’ll be heading to a bar, which you need to take the metro to get to. Thinking of walking? Don’t even bother—the table has ordered their dinner already, and they are all wondering when you’re going to finally download the app. By temporarily renting a bike, you’ll be freed of the responsibility of carrying one around all night and you’ll be on time for your dinner. 

Significantly cheaper than a student metro pass, Bixi allows you to explore the city in unparalleled ways. Tucked away next to the Bixi stop you parked at is your new favourite Mile-End coffee shop (and let’s face it, you’d never make it to the Mile-End from Milton-Parc by foot.) 

Bixi’s infrastructure is a powerful force in the city’s transportation dynamics, alleviating traffic congestion and enhancing urban mobility by reducing reliance on private cars. Bixi’s city-wide station system ensures accessibility for a diverse range of residents, bridging transportation gaps and fostering a more equitable urban environment. Bike-sharing services like Bixi not only revolutionize transportation but also contribute to Montreal’s identity as a sustainable, healthy, and accessible city. If you ask me, there’s no better way to get around than by Bixi-ing—and I will die on this hill––the same hill I biked up with ease, using an electric Bixi. 

Down with Bixis – Liliana
The Bixi bike is a staple of the Montreal landscape, much like the ever-present construction cones and pothole-filled one-way roads that permeate the downtown. Many Montrealers have come to associate Bixis as an integral part of their identity, making the ugly, clunky bikes a centrepiece of their personality…little do they know how much better life could be. Bixi bikes are antiquated, heavy, and an overall stain on Montreal’s otherwise thriving bike scene.

Montreal has long been a city known for its strong biking culture, with over 900 km of bike paths, much of which is regularly cleared of snow to facilitate biking all throughout the cold, dark winters. This culture has flourished since 1975 when activists Robert Silverman and Claire Morissette founded Le Monde à Bicyclette to fight for bicycle-friendly infrastructure; however, the modern Bixi system not only does this culture a disservice, but flat-out embarrasses it. 

Since it first entered Montreal in 2009, Bixi has faced complaints from small independent bike shops and rental agencies who have been forced to shut down as a result of their competition. In 2011 alone, three independent bike stores reported severe impacts on their business as a result of Bixis. After bike rentals fell from 250 to just 10 per year, Roberto Rosenbluth shut down a location of his store Bicycletteries JR

Bixi also receives a consistent stream of bad reviews from customers complaining of hidden fees, shameful customer service, and malfunctioning equipment. Complaints range from bikes being un-maintained and barely usable to overcharging as a result of loopholes that are unclear to outsiders. 

Personally, I have a vendetta against Bixis. I think they’re heavy and bulky, and the first time I rode one, the experience was marred by heavy winds that almost pushed me into Sherbrooke traffic, prompting an angry old lady to yell at me for riding on the street. Personal bias aside, the Bixi system is deeply flawed and is an affront to the beauty that is Montreal’s biking culture.

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