Bixi-riding in Montreal. Photo by jonny.hunter.
Rumours have been flying about the impending launch of Bixi, the public bike sharing service, in Toronto. Now, the long-anticipated local rollout appears to be in jeopardy.
This morning, blogs I Bike T.O. and The Urban Country posted calls to action, citing insider knowledge that “someone in the City Manager’s office feels bike sharing is useless and a waste of money.”
Last year, the City began exploring the possibility of launching Toronto’s own version of Bixi this spring. A staff report from last May [PDF] recommends the 2010 launch, and says that the rollout could be accomplished “at no cost to the City and without additional advertising within the street right-of-way,” because users would subsidize the service directly by paying membership fees to use the bikes.
“A Toronto public bicycle system is being planned for launch in Spring 2010,” the report says.
For over a month, the City’s Transportation Services department has been in the process of preparing a second staff report, presumably with recommendations for entering into a contract with Public Bike Sharing Company, the Montreal corporation that provides Bixi. Torontoist has learned that this report will not be on the agenda at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting on March 2, meaning that the City won’t be able to begin considering Bixi until, at earliest, that committee’s next scheduled meeting, on April 20, after which the deal will still need approval from City Council.
This makes it overwhelmingly likely that Bixi in Toronto will miss its Spring 2010 launch estimate, though whether or not the service will launch later in the year (or ever) remains unclear.
Bixi launched in its home city of Montreal in 2009, and then quickly spread to Boston, Minneapolis, London, and, recently, Melbourne, Australia.
The Urban Country and I Bike T.O. are urging cyclists to send form letters to their local councillors, in protest.
: The National Post is now reporting that the reason the City’s negotiations with Bixi are stalled is that the City is being asked to back the program financially. The City entered into negotiations with the understanding that Bixi would be paid for entirely with user fees.