Bixi launches spring season early after successful winter pilot project

Although some snow is forecast this week, Bixi spring has begun. This is the earliest seasonal debut in the bike-sharing service’s 15-year history.

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Montreal’s toughest cyclists already know that winter’s salt, ice and snow can take their toll on a bike’s chains and gears.

However, Bixi, the not-so-little bikes that could, performed better than expected during its first full winter outdoors.

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Christian Vermette, CEO of the nonprofit bike-sharing service partially funded by the city, said he was surprised by how well the bikes performed during the pilot project.

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“We replaced the chains anyway, so that wasn’t a problem, but we were very, very surprised and happy with the response of the bikes,” Vermette said. “So far we haven’t had any problems.”

A white man in glasses and a suit is standing at a podium.
Christian Vermette, CEO of Bixi, talks about the new season on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

Obviously, the warmer-than-average temperatures helped, but the winter test was so successful that Bixi intends to have its bikes back in stock next winter, and the company is considering expanding the territory. A decision on next winter will only be made after last winter’s full report has been prepared.

Although some snow is forecast this week, Bixi spring has begun. The bikes became available at stations in central parts of the city on Tuesday afternoon, and next Monday, about 85 percent of the bikes will be at their stations ahead of the official opening of the Bixi season on March 15. April. It is the earliest debut of the season for Bixi. in its 15 years of history.

Memberships for the Bixi Spring/Summer/Fall season are now on sale at a reduced price until April 15, and year-round Bixi memberships are in the works. Last year, those who wanted to ride bikes during the winter had to purchase monthly memberships or pay as they went.

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Bixi was also surprised by the enthusiasm of Montrealers after the official end of the season. Here are some stats shared at Tuesday’s official launch:

  • Last year, there were 576,000 users of the Bixi service, representing almost one in four Montrealers.
  • There were 53,000 unique Bixi users during the winter period after November 15, logging 467,000 trips in total, double the company’s estimate.
  • About 65 percent of those who rode Bixi during those months did so in winter for the first time.
  • About 24 percent of last year’s members have already renewed their seasonal memberships, which is about double the usual number.

The winter Bixis, equipped with studded tires and additional grips on the pedals, will be taken out of circulation in the coming days and will continue to be replaced by normal Bixis until April 15.

This year, Bixi will begin phasing out all of its original bikes, including those that were part of the original fleet when it launched 15 years ago. It will take approximately seven years to replace the entire fleet with bicycles made in Quebec by PBSC Urban Solutions, and the bicycle parts will be recycled when they are removed from circulation. Their frames will be melted down so the material can be reused.

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Sophie Mauzerolle, a member of the city’s executive committee responsible for mobility, said Bixi has helped spread the love of cycling to all Montrealers, and the Plante administration is working to make cycling even more attractive by adding significantly to its bicycle network.

A brown-haired woman dressed in pink is standing on a podium in front of a bicycle.
Bixi has spread the love of cycling to all Montrealers, said Sophie Mauzerolle, member of the city’s executive committee responsible for mobility. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

This year, the city will focus on building more dedicated bike lanes that have physical separations from cars.

Among the projects in the pipeline for this year are:

  • Second phase of the Henri-Bourassa boulevard. REV
  • A protected bike lane on Terrebonne Street in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce
  • Extension of the safe bike lane on Côte-Ste-Catherine Rd. to Mount Royal, a project that includes renovating the intersection of Parc Ave. and Mont-Royal Ave. to make it safer
  • The first phase of the Jean-Talon REV, a long-term project that the city intends to connect with the eventual extension of Cavendish Blvd.

Bixi intends to share more information about its winter season and the impact on operations once its internal teams have completed a full report. Technically, the pilot project will run until April 15, the start of the season.

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