Monday, May 16, 2011

When it's raining outside...

...I will sometimes look for any cycling information, whether in general or specifically for the capital region; and boy did I find a goooood one! It looks as though Ottawa/Gatineau is creeping ever so gently but certainly towards the 21st century. By that is meant that..yippee.. BIXI is coming to town.

For those of you unfamiliar with what a BIXI is, it means BIcycle taXI and is a new(ish) way to facilitate personal urban transportation that doesn't have the negative environmental impact that fossil fuel burning cars have. The thinking goes something like this: Prospective customers who want/need to get from one place to another can now head up to their nearest BIXI rental outlet and, with a credit card, can rent a bicycle. It's really designed for people who want to travel from one - predominantly downtown - location to another; perhaps as a cycle tourist or even just for some daily exercise without having to rely on cars or buses. I am an advocate of public transit but, face it, who wants to stand around a bus stop and wait for ages for a bus to show up when renting a bicycle at a convenient location precludes all that?

We went to Montreal a couple of years ago and saw BIXI outlets on some strategically placed downtown streets and thought those were such a marvellous idea. Bicycle use is quite common in some European cities (such as Copenhagen) so we wondered why such a thing couldn't happen here. Granted, most European cities are more compact than the more sprawling urban centres here in North America but that doesn't invalidate BIXI as a possibility, especially since, as North American cities go, Ottawa's downtown core is fairly compact. We know this because we have often walked from one end of downtown to the other.

The streets lend themselves well to bicycle use and Ottawa's upcoming conversion of a lane on Laurier Avenue to a cycle only lane is the first step towards proving my assertion. So, it made perfect sense to me, as likely to others as well, that having something like a BIcycle taXI facility here in Ottawa would be quite a boon. This is why I was pleased as punch to have read on website that the NCC, or National Capital Commission, is set to unveil its first 10 rental locations for these simple bicycles on Wednesday, May 18th.

The ten locations, according to the news article, include a number of intersections on Queen Street. Three of those ten locations will be across the river into Gatineau but all of the locations are within the downtown areas of both Ottawa and Gatineau. The rates for renting these simple, basic yet state of the art bicycles are very reasonable. Could you rent any kind of vehicle for $5 for a 24 hour period? Granted, the information on the bikes themselves tends to focus on neat features (eg lighting, covered derailleurs and low seats) there is not much information on such things as how many gears it has. My impression is that it is a single gear bike; however, getting around a downtown area with traffic lights, other vehicles and other obstacles shouldn't require huge amounts of speed.

In other words, if you want a high speed sporty type of bicycle then you'll have to go and buy one.

The site,, features a means for users to type in their current location and to find out what rental sites are closest. The website's identifying logos are colour-coded with active rental locations indicated in red and future ones in a light grey. I typed in a known downtown address and saw that the nearest Bixi rental location is Elgin and Queen. The logo is that light grey which means it isn't in active service yet. That's okay, as none are scheduled to be in service until this Wednesday, the 18th anyway. Still, it's nice to know the website works.

This is something that was long in coming but I am very glad to see that it's here at long last. The National Capital Commission is still indicating that their goal of having 50 rental locations and 500 bikes in the system is still what they're aiming for. This is only 10 sites and 100 bikes...but it's a start.

Am I giving up my trike for this? Not a chance but I am at least relieved to know that the Ottawa/Gatineau area is becoming a lot more cycle friendly.

Long live BIXI!

1 comment: