Have No Fear Bixi is Here (to Stay?)

English: Bike sharing system in Toronto

English: Bike sharing system in Toronto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I had written a blog article a few weeks ago about the Toronto Transit Union’s poor reception of the bike-sharing program, Bixi. The TTC had argued that Bixi does not align with their mandate and therefore, could not be financially supported. Cyclists across this city were disappointed by this dismissal of such an incredible contribution to our city’s cheapest and most eco-friendly transportation. However, there is great news for our green travellers: Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has persuaded three developers in her ward to contribute $1 million to the expansion of Bixi!

Currently, Toronto has 80 Bixi stations largely concentrated in the downtown core. This generous contribution from builders will enable 20 additional stations to be built. Neighbourhoods beyond the city centre will now have the chance to benefit from this community-focused and green-conscious program. What is really interesting is there appears to be a direct trade-off between vehicle and bike rights going on. These developers, in exchange for their Bixi donation, were allowed to build fewer parking spaces than city rules require. So hopefully, the residents in these building will be bike-friendly.

Wong-Tam does not want the growth to stop there. She argues that, if every ward was driven to do this, even Etobicoke could be riding on Bixi bikes in the not-faraway future. While it is not feasible for Ward 27 to fuel the entire program, Wong-Tam explains that expansion is occurring across the entire city. Developers are interested in different wards around Toronto; therefore, it should not be difficult to gain more funds to offset the potential green issues associated with large-scale development.

On the other hand, Mayor Ford has made his stance clear stating that, “the program is a failure and should be allowed to vanish from the Toronto landscape.” Therefore, it will be up to councillors to push for legislation that urges new developers to donate to the sustainability of bike sharing in Toronto. Arguably, he has a point and it is the same one that the TTC put forth. Currently, Bixi is being burdened by almost $4 million of debt. However, I would argue that the more the program is expanded, the more value it will have for all of Toronto.

Commuting to work from outside of the downtown core is a nightmare. Making bikes available to those beyond the city’s central limits will decrease traffic, increase exercise and benefit an even larger population of the city. All I can say is bring on the development if it brings on the Bixi!