BIXI Bicycle Sharing

Organization Sponsor: PBSC Urban Solutions- Public Bike System


Program Description

BIXI Montreal is a great example of how to make  urban cycling a more practical and attractive transportation option. BIXI makes it convenient for commuters to cycle rather than drive, especially for frequent, short trips. It is a turn-key service that is inexpensive and replicable across many countries and cultures. In addition, by making cycling more chic and attractive.

Before launching BIXI in 2009, PBSC created a blog and held a contest to name the system. BIXI was ultimate chosen for its combination of the words "bicycle" and "taxi."

PBSC developed design criteria for the system. BIXI had to:

  • Enhance the urban landscape, not be an impediment
  • Be practical and aesthetic, with sturdy and sleek, modern-looking bikes
  • Ensure that all components were easily transferred to different locations and that the technology platform was easy to set up.

PBSC hired Quebec-based Michel Dallaire, an award-winning industrial designer, to design the bikes and docking stations. Dallaire's personal experience with Paris's Vélib bike-sharing system helped him design the BIXI Montreal system, keeping in mind Montreal's climate.

Each BIXI station consisted of a pay station, bikes, and bike docks, which were fitted into modular technical platforms powered by solar energy. The platforms served as the base and electronic ports for the wireless communication system that operated the pay stations and bike docks. Stations could be installed, expanded, configured and removed in about 30 minutes, and were monitored by a real-time management system.

The bikes were made of rust-proof aluminum instead of steel. "I like to compare the bike to a tank because it's almost indestructible, can go everywhere and it is fast," says Blain. "The bike design is curved to represent a boomerang, which is the main principle of the bike-sharing system: you throw it and it will always come back to the same point."

How BIXI Works

The BIXI system made it easy for even the most casual user to choose cycling as a transportation option. In particular, BIXI offered excellent connections between transportation modes."With BIXI, a lot of people start from their home, take a bike and go to a major bus or subway train stop, to then take them to work.

To get a bike, users:

  1. Went to the pay station and inserted a credit card. The system provided an unlocking code, which was valid for 5 minutes.
  2. Entered the code on the keypad of the bike dock of their choice, which released the bike. The 30-minute allotted time began.
  3. Returned the bike to any BIXI station in the city when they were done.

The BIXI system won several awards, including being named on the best innovations of the year (2008) by Time Magazine, an Edison Award (Gold) for best new product, and the 2009 Transportation Association Canada's Sustainable Urban Transportation Award, among others.

Program Approximate Cost: 

Pricing for the Montreal BIXI system fostered use for short trips. A BIXI user could purchase online a year-round membership ($82.50), a monthly membership ($31.25) or an occasional membership ($5.00) with unlimited trips of 45 minutes or less (i.e., the user had to dock the bike at a station within the 45 minute allotted time or was charged extra), or could choose to purchase a 1-day or 3-day access at the station.

the total infrastructure cost per bike at between $4,000 and $4,500, but noted that because the system is customized, the price can vary.

Funding Sources: 

Primary sponsors included TELUS, Desjardins and Rio Tinto Alcan; the bikes and docking stations carried the logos of these companies.Since inter-modality connectivity was an important consideration for the Montreal BIXI system, PBSC also partnered with local shops and other organizations, like Communauto (car sharing) and the Societé de Transport de Montreal (STM), to offer discounts to BIXI members.

Strategies For Sustainability: 

BIXI Montreal members and users were the main financial revenue stream for the system. The three sponsors contributed about 50% of PBSC's revenue.

Impact Of Program: 

The system was specifically developed to augment Montreal’s existing transit system and between 2009 and 2013 Montrealers made more than 13 million trips with BIXI. BIXI has had a major impact on cycling in North America. 

As the system was being developed, the parking authority created the Public Bike System Company (PBSC) to manage, operate and further develop the system in Montreal. PBSC has since become a private company, offering its bike-sharing expertise to cities around the world.

With 20,000+ trips per day in Montreal, other cities were starting to see that BIXI as a low-cost and is an easy way to implement active transportation.

By 2013, BIXI Montreal had 5,120 bikes and 411 stations, and more than 13 million trips had been made since its 2009 launch.

Typical daily BIXI Montreal usage was as follows.

  • 21,000 trips per day (27,000 on sunny days)
  • Average use time: 13 minutes per day
  • Average distance: 2.5 km (1.6 miles)
  • Each bike made an average of 6 trips per day
  • Each day, BIXI users cycled more than 48,000 km (more than the circumference of the Earth!)
  • 90%+ trips were made by BIXI members.
Evaluation Tools: 

Based on the data gathered from the surveys, BIXI erected the first stations in areas nearest the target audience's home and work, including major transportation hubs and was soon fielding requests for new stations throughout the city (in 2012 alone, PBSC received 800 requests).

Each year, at the end of the season, BIXI also surveyed its members to measure satisfaction levels and canvassed them for their ideas on improving the service.

Key Elements Towards Success: 

The docking station was designed to use the same amount of space a car does on the street, so the stations could be easily installed on main plazas or directly on sidewalks.

The stations were entirely modular; they could be mounted and removed quickly without any alterations to streets or sidewalks. Almost all of the components for the Montreal BIXI system were made in Quebec—the bikes were built in Chicoutimi, and one of BIXI's sponsors, Rio Tinto Alcan, provided the aluminum.

"The stations are entirely powered by solar energy," says Blain. "Everything's wireless, we have almost no impact on the environment, and can install a station pretty much anywhere in the city."

BIXI had a wireless communications network that PBSC used to track real-time data on the:

  • Number of bikes at any given station
  • Functional status of each bike, the solar panels, and the electronic components of the system
  • Traffic and usage patterns of stations and bikes, and
  • Location of every station and bikes in docking points throughout the system.
Challenges To Meet Them: 

Due to the city's harsh winter climate, BIXI operated as a seasonal service from mid-April to mid-November. (Some BIXI systems in other cities operate year-round.)In our first year, everybody would come into the downtown area by bike but wouldn't go back home by bike because of the hills,"Now that we're in our fifth season, people take the bike and go pretty much everywhere. They've gotten used to it, they've learned how to bike in the city and they love it." (Overcoming Specific Barriers; Building Motivation over Time)

Length and Stage of Project: 

A bike-sharing system first came to the attention of the City of Montreal in 2007 when it was working on a new transportation master plan. BIXI Montreal was launched in May 2009.

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