The Bixi conundrum

Academia has once again nit-picked at something that has helped bring positive change to the urban landscape.

In a survey conducted by researchers from McGill University’s School of Urban Planning, the city’s rent-able Bixi bikes have caused an 86 percent decline in other environmentally friendly modes of transportation, such as the use of personal bikes, public transportation and good, old-fashioned walking. There was a two percent decline in car trips, and an eight percent reduction in taxi use.

These revelations were presented to the public in the Montreal Gazette earlier this month. While researchers have claimed that Bixis aren’t a bad thing, they believe that its environmental benefits may be an  exaggeration.

Hailed by Greenpeace as a great tool for fighting climate change, Bixi bikes have lead to a decrease in the use of public transportation, taxis and car use and an increase in physical activity. So what’s the big deal, McGill?

“They say that the ‘environmental’ effect, in terms of carbon emission reductions, is not the most important effect of the Bixi phenomenon. They certainly do promote healthy living, spread the idea through tourists, and put pressure on cycling infrastructure to expand even more, which are all good and have an overall ‘greening’ effect, though not immediately measurable in emission reductions,” said environmentalist and McGill alumni Tomas Urbina.

Some direct benefits of using a Bixi are not having to worry about having your personal bike stolen, their abundance in economically unfavored regions and its popularity amongst tourists who opt for a spin rather than a cab.

“I think they are quite green, but could be greener. The trucks that drive them around use gas and should be electric. Also, people using bixis make more room on other public transport, making it more accessible and less crowded. True that it is not used yet as a car-replacement, but that will come soon enough with more infrastructure, especially in places where car use is prevalent (e.g. people in a suburb driving to a train station),” said Montreal activist Donovan King.

While it’s great to analyze and assess how new programs are faring, it would be more beneficial for urban regions and bikes in general, if research went into implementing car-free regions of a city, for example. This study highlights some important statistics, but it exacerbates a cyclical problem regarding the environment.

Beneficially-green initiatives are beaten down and taken apart while businesses and restaurants in cities are not obliged to recycle. The Eye of Sauron needs to find a new Mordor to terrorize in the search for its precious ring of criticism. There’s a lot more potential for change if we choose to study local habits that are having a direct negative impact on the planet, like the non-recycling bars, restaurants and offices in our concrete jungle. You know some of these places. Talk to them about doing what makes sense. Make sure to ride a Bixi there, and bring some academics with you.

Where is my next preciousssss......

One comment

  • It would be great if you could take out a Bixi without needing a credit card. More people would use them for sure. I understand the insurance factor, but there are clearly technological ways of tracking missing bikes that could be implemented and who wants to steal a Bixi anyways.

    Also, if Montreal could somehow convince Westmount to allow them (didn’t work so well with the metro, but anyways) the network could be extended to NDG, where a lot of bike users live.

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