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:


BIXI bike.  Photo by Chris Erb of Spacing Montreal

BIXI bike. Photo by Chris Erb of Spacing Montreal

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 reason BIXI will operate seasonally
The reason BIXI will operate seasonally

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.

Plenty more details about the BIXI bicycle and program are available from Michel Dallaire Design Industriel as well as from

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.

 Special thanks to Chris Erb of Spacing Montreal for the use of his photo. Check out his post about BIXI here.

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4 Responses to “BIXI: Montreal’s Wireless Public Bicycle System”

  1. Daniella said:

    Feb 11, 09 at 10:34 pm

    Here’s an interesting article from Treehugger about the French program. Apparently their bikes were also designed to be a deterrent to theft…?

  2. Daniella said:

    May 01, 09 at 6:11 pm

    Here’s another article about Denver’s bike sharing program!!

  3. Daniella said:

    Aug 13, 09 at 2:55 pm

    Here’s another update!! Boston and London are going to use Bixi as their bike provider of choice!

  4. Cathy Anderson said:

    Dec 11, 09 at 9:01 am

    Wireless Public Bicycle System is one proof that technology is really fast evolving. A truly a future gadget. In spite of that having to ride in bicycle is safer and more fun, ayt!