Thursday, May 19, 2011

Latest obsession: BIXI Toronto

As a bike owner who lives about seven kilometers from Yonge and Dundas, there does not appear to be a reason for me to buy a BIXI Toronto membership. Why pay to use a communal bike in a service area of 2 km by 4 km in the downtown core when I can use my own bike at will? Luckily, I won a BIXI membership, so I had nothing to lose and everything to gain when I received my key fob shortly after the BIXI Toronto launch on May 3.

Since adding the BIXI fob to my key chain, the bike share program has crept into my daily life with ease. While walking to the Eaton Centre, I came across a BIXI station, and it suddenly occurred to me that there was one at Yonge and Dundas, too. So, I hopped on a BIXI bike and the commute to my destination became shorter and more enjoyable than I had anticipated.

Another day, two friends and I were going out to dinner; two of us had bikes, one of us did not. Normally, our choices would have been to walk our bikes, or bike ahead, leaving our friend to catch up on foot or by streetcar. A BIXI station at our starting point, and another right across the street from the restaurant meant that my bikeless friend could ride with us, and not have to worry about locking up the bike once we reached our destination.

A BIXI membership has brought me a level of convenience that I never dreamed of. However, the system is not without aggravation. More than once, I have wandered frantically with my Bixi bike in tow, searching for a station to park it with limited time. The paper map that came with my key fob lead me to a non-existent station once, and the smartphone application has failed to give me the exact location of stations.

The BIXI bikes are heavy as tanks. This makes the bikes durable, but it also makes me look slow and clumsy; with the slightest tilt, the bike succumbs to gravity. Using the "speedy" third gear, I frequently cringe at the annoyance of the cyclists who pass me. On the plus side, I do not fear riding a BIXI bike without a helmet, because the low speed and ramrod straight posture I assume while riding equal safety and vigilance.

At first, I had my doubts about bringing a bike share system to Toronto. Having seen them in action in Montreal and Paris, I did not think Toronto citizens or infrastructure would support it. Yet, as an unexpected BIXI member, I can vouch for its convenience and practicality, and hope for its rapid expansion.