Montreal Week: bixying around


Montreal’s Bixi bike share system is serious service. Notice all the red dots marking the location of bike share docking stations. My apartment was just to the right of Parc Lafontaine, with three stations within 100m or so. Only a few select areas of the city are well supplied, where density and urban form encourage biking and walking and discourage car driving.

I’ve previously used Bixi as a visitor, where one has to use the kiosk, insert credit card, key in numbers, and what not. All vaguely anxiety provoking. This time I had membership keys. Just insert in the slot, the bike pops out, and you are on your way in 10 seconds, 15 if you have to adjust the seat:

bixi tags

Yes, stations were sometimes out of bikes. We always found bikes at the next station. There is a tidal flow out of residential areas in the morning and into them at five pm. I was surprised that sometimes there was no station near popular destinations, like the grocery store.


Cycle culture is alive and well in the Le Plateau area of Montreal. At several times a day, it looked like Amsterdam … with steady never-ending streams of bikes going by. It helps that Le Plateau is as the name suggests, flat. Here on the west side of Ottawa where I live, three out of four directions start out uphill: either way is up Somerset,¬†Albert also manages to be uphill whether I go east or west, and Primrose is a staircase sans bike groove. Only south on Preston is flat, ..

And there are things you never see in Ottawa:


Here’s a close up:


A popular cycle cafe with a full bike corral on the street and the boulevard:


(the yellow cross hatch painted on the street is an intersection box, upon which no motorist is to stop their car, as it blocks key sight lines and transfers risk to more vulnerable road users. Think of them as a green “bike box” at intersections, but in reverse, ie no stop zones.


above: I’m a tad dubious about the economics of micro businesses on bikes, but hey, the cost of innovation is small (compare that to the West End Well storefront …).

Throughout the areas of Montreal I was in, bike racks were plentiful, bike corrals (replacing car parking spaces) were ubixuitous, and the simple reality was that cyclists represent business for shops and services, as well as being transportation for business people themselves. There was none of this pursed-lips-and-thinly-disguised annoyance that I see from (some) Ottawa BIA’s toward cyclists.

While I only lived in LePlateau for one week this year (a visited for five days last year) it was enough time to find the Bixi Bike system a real WOW factor of convenience for this type of neighbourhood form and density.

tomorrow: Eric ventures out on those (in)famous Montreal bike lanes …



2 thoughts on “Montreal Week: bixying around

  1. I think walking and biking should be the preferred means of getting around. Cars are definitely a convenience that we need but they don’t add anything to our neighborhoods. I’m all for increasing biking and bike services and reducing the use of autos where ever possible.

  2. Concerning your comment that “Only a few select areas of the city are well supplied, where density and urban form encourage biking and walking and discourage car driving.” This is not entirely accurate. Until recently, Montreal’s Bixi network was the largest in North America, and system coverage is actually quite extensive on the island of Montreal. It is true that the Plateau is particularly well served and station density has diminished somewhat this year as they try to achieve a larger geographical coverage without adding more bikes or stations, but it is still possible to get from one side of the island all the way to the other on a Bixi.

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