Enjoyed a fantastic long weekend in Montreal to see Betty M Park’s (literally) ass-kicking documentary, Mamachas del Ring, make its North American premier at the Montreal World Film Festival. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Québécois city ever since spending a glorious collegiate summer there once to escape from the high NYC humidity and rents. It’s got the perfect combination of greenery, waterfront and urban density that reminds me a lot of a francophone Barcelona. While the winters are notoriously harsh, Montreal summers are usually known for endless sunshine without the icky stickies. As a result, there are a million festivals happening there throughout the summer months that attract a ton of visitors from around the world.
One of the first things I was curious to check out was the city’s new BIXI system of public rental bikes that launched in May of this year. The system is currently in Phase II, with more bike stations being installed to cover a larger part of Montreal. Montreal was the pilot city for BIXI’s urban bike-sharing system, and its success has led to recent mandates from both London and Boston to begin operating similar bike systems in those cities. Paris currently boasts the largest network of public bikes, with its system of 20,000 bikes operated by Vélib’.
As you can see from these photos, the bikes look great and are super durable. Their convenient placement outside metro stops and large public facilities like the convention center and public squares make them ideal alternatives to taxis. Not only is it a great transportation solution for locals, it’s a great option for tourists who may not want to bother booking bike rentals in advance. You can just rent a bike on a whim if you happen to come across a docking station, and park it at another station near your destination. The price for usage subscriptions is $5 per day (at a pay station), $28 per month or $78 per year — which includes the first 30 min of bike rental for free, followed by $1.50 for the next half hour, and $3 for the half hour after that. The price can go up to $6 per half hour if you don’t return the bike after 2 hours. This is intended to prevent people from holding on to the bikes longer than they need to and to ensure that as many bikes as possible are available for circulation throughout the day.
I can’t wait for NYC to introduce a similar system. Even though I recently bought my own bike, I would love to have the freedom to pick up a bike at point A and drop it off at point B and just take the subway home if I want to. It also solves the problem of being constantly worried about someone stealing your bike while you’re indoors. Not only is it environmentally friendly, it also promotes physical exercise and makes the city more walkable/bikeable by reducing congestion and prioritizing people over cars. Like Zipcars, I’m sure these types of public sharing systems will become the norm in most cities over the next few years.