BIXI: Montreal’s Wireless Public Bicycle System
Despite being a planning student, I’m no fanatic of technology or industrial design. Whether the new technological wonder is a laptop or cell phone, what’s so great about this year’s model as compared to last year’s anyways? I tend to prefer the simple pleasures of a good book and a rocking chair, or a bicycle.
The bicycle may be evolving.
I had the pleasure of attending a presentation about BIXI, Montreal’s new public bicycle system, at last week’s annual conference of the Canadian Association of Planning Students. All eyes were on the shiny bike in the centre of the room:
The three-speed bike looks tough as nails, with moulded metal guards encasing the chain, brake and gear mechanisms. It weighs a sturdy 18 kg (39 pounds!) That weight may not pose a problem in flat central Montreal, unless the cyclist decides to ride up Mont Royal.
Besides looking sharp, the bikes are uniquely designed to resist theft and vandalism, problems that have plagued the Velib bicycle rental program in Paris. Parts are all unique to the BIXI model, meaning that the bikes cannot be repaired with generic tools. Stolen parts would not fit any other bike on Earth.
It is when the presenter from Stationnement de Montreal described the flexibility and wireless capabilities of the public bike system as a whole that I most seriously doubted my comprehension of French vocabulary.
The bike rental stations will be solar-powered and modular, meaning that system managers can relocate stations as needed according to real-time demand. Likewise, program members will be able to check bike availability at their local station online in real time.
Most outrageously, members’ online profiles will contain automatically updated personal stats, including calories burned, kilometers travelled, and GHG emissions avoided.
The most efficient method of human transport is becoming a carrier of information. I only wish I could be in Montreal this spring to see Canada’s first public bikes take to the street. This must be how design and technology junkies feel all the time.