September 16, 2015
This post is part of the summer stories.
Today's Story: Bixi
One of the things I love about Montreal is how bike-friendly the city is.
Designated bike lanes abound and you don't even have to own a bike, you can subscribe to the bike sharing service called Bixi. Bixi is a combination (a portmanteau) of the words bicycle and taxi, though there isn't much taxi-like about the service.
Bixi stations exist all over the city, especially in the city core and surrounding arrondissements. There is one a couple blocks from our house. The Bixi app is an indispensable tool in finding these Bixi stations.
We purchased a Bixi subscription which gives us a "key" we can use to unlock a Bixi bike from the station. We are then required to return that bike to a Bixi station, anywhere in the city, within 45 minutes.
What this means is that we can't take the bikes out of the Bixi service range for hours and hours. Well, we could, we just would be charged extra money. However, after you return one bike you can use your key to pull out another. So, although one ride can only last 45 minutes you can keep exchanging bikes at the stations for as long as your trip takes you.
Our subscription key allows us unlimited bike access, with each ride a maximum duration of 45 minutes.
If you are just visiting and don't need a season, half-season, or monthly subscription you can also get a one-trip rental, 24 hour or 72 hour rental period. (Again you have to return the bike to the Bixi station after x amount of minutes, but you can pull another bike out if you have time left on your rental period.)
We didn't ride bikes when we lived on the peninsula and as the kids have outgrown their old bikes we haven't replaced them. Which means we landed in Montreal with one serviceable bike that is an ok fit for the kids and I, as we're all about the same height. We got that bike all tuned up so at least one of us could hop on a bike to get around our neighborhood and the city but with the Bixi service we haven't even used that bike.
We're not a biking family, and the only people who really want to bike are Damien and I. So we share the Bixi key. I use it when I want to get out on my own, when I want/need to go to the Plateau or downtown. Damien uses it almost every other day as part of his "commute" home from whichever Starbucks he worked at that morning. (Damien is self-employed and works at home but goes out every morning to work in a cafe environment as a change of pace and also as a destination for getting exercise.)
The bikes are kind of heavy and only have three speeds but I love the freedom of the Bixi. You don't have to lock and unlock your own bike, you just "pull up" to the Bixi station.
I fell in love with Bixi this summer but I also just fell in love with biking in Montreal in general. To bike in Montreal you don't need a special cycling "uniform". You don't need to dress like a cyclist.
People bike with babies, dogs, musical instruments, veggies, and even furniture. People bike wearing shorts, skirts, high heels, and black dresses.
When you get on a bike in Montreal you wear whatever you're wearing, to go wherever you're going, to do whatever it is you need to do. And if you think the right pant leg of your business suit might get caught in the chain you secure it with an elastic around your calf. Cycling is the means, not the end. (Except for the athletic cyclists who you do see cycling for the sport.)
I know some of you have considered visiting Montreal. If you do, Bixi is a fabulous way to get around the city. It's cheaper than transit, and you see so much more of the city when you bike than when you drive. And it's just so much fun.
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