30 September 2009

Bixi Bike Boston

Bixi bike in use
At the Mayor's Cup criterium race I got to try Bixi bikes, the bikes currently proposed for the Boston Bike Share program. Having just returned from France I can't help but compare them to the Velibs. They do compare favorably, holding their own, different but as good. Velib has less obvious branding on the bike itself, and more plastic, making it "cuter". Bixi has some qualities of its own which I will outline below.

Bixi bike basketThe basket system is less obvious than Velib's, but perfectly functional. It's two bars with a set of pegs on which you strap an elastic band in myriad permutations depending on your needs. My purse did not shift at all on my test ride.

The distance from the handlebars to the seat was much greater than Velib. I'm 5'8" and I felt the Velib was somewhat compact for me, however I felt that I was stretching to reach for the Bixi handlebars. These bikes are North American-sized! My 6' dad will love it, my 5' mother-in-law will not.

Bixi bike measured seat postThe measured seatpost - what a brilliant idea! Once you know your Bixi seatpost height you can set it easily each time you pick up a bike.

The integrated tail lights are a nice design point, though they may be too low to the road. At least they appear robust. The front wheel has the same Shimano dynamo hub as is used in all the French bike shares, I don't know much about this rear hub.

Bixi bike unlockHere is the access point for your bike. You insert your key and when you get the green light you pull your bike to remove it.

Bixi bike member card
This is the key that you would insert into the access box to check out your bike. It's larger than Velib's proximity card, but not too large. Is it a more reliable system? I don't know. I don't think the Bixi agent knew that her manicure was going to end up on the internet!

Bixi bike stationHere's the bike station. They say they can set these up in 20 minutes, and could thus move more at a moment's notice to, say, Fenway if needed. Though I'd be pretty bummed if my favorite station suddenly disappeared. We will need an application for the iPhone like they have in Paris, giving real-time status updates for the nearby stations.

Bixi bike locking mechanismThis triangle-shaped piece is what locks into the station. You roll the bike in between the upright bars in one fluid motion (3 points for your field goal!), and there are pins that then lock around the triangle. This is a *much* more robust system than Velib where a bent locking piece had us looking for a crowbar just to be able to return the bike. You can see in this photo that they don't use the Schwalbe Marathon tires used across France, it is some sort of generic.

My overall impression was of a true North American bike - less chic, more practical than her Parisian sister, and still something fun to ride. A subscription would cost $70-$80/year and I would happily pay that for access to these Bixi bikes, assuming I had access to stations where I need them.


Anonymous said...

Great review. Do you know how long it will take the city to get them on the streets?

Great smile on you too!

Charlotte said...

Thanks Anonymous!

My understanding is that they're not 100% decided yet, Bixi is still drawing up a package for the city however, we should have them next spring!!!! (2010)

JPTwins said...

Yes, thanks for the good coverage! My only question is why would YOU want to join, when you have your own bike that you enjoy (and prefer) riding? I can see getting it for friends and family to use, but otherwise, this seems to be for people who don't bike to work, don't have a bike or tourists?

you are part of a minority who rides pretty much every day.

i'll try and convince my wife to use this when she's jetting around downtown, since i can't seem to convince her to ride in from jamaica plain...

2whls3spds said...

I will be interested to see what they can do to hit the extremes of the public sizing. I am 6'-2" and ride a 65cm road frame, my bride is 5'-2" and rides a 40-43cm depending on the reach. Sounds like Bixi might be a tad off on both ends of the scale. I realize they have to try and hit the average sizes, and IMHO any bike share is better than no bike share.


MamaVee said...

You know, being that I tend to train it to the city instead of biking due to time and such, I would love this. I would totally subscribe to it. However it looks like the bikes would be too big for me as I am 5'1". That is a real bummer.

Da Goof said...

Did you see the price subscription/fees at the Montreal Bixi site?


0-30 minutes included
31-60 min. + $1.50
61-90 min. + $1.50 + $3.00
every additional 1/2hr + $1.50 + $3.00 + $6.00/.5hr

I hope they put these all over the area. If you go to lunch, shopping, or event without an access point nearby the meter can run up pretty quick.

Also it looks like they pick them up and store them December through April.

Aside from these nitpicks, I love the concept. I'll never see them though since I'm at the wrong end of the state.


Charlotte said...

JPTwins, you are right, I do love riding *MY* bike. This is a bike for people who bike to work so long as there is a station at both ends. The stations are essential!

There are many cases where this would be useful to me:

1) friends and family - sure, how many times have I walked my bike to be social, when my friend has wished they just had their bike with them
2) any time I want to go somewhere sketchy - there's a restaurant by the harbor we want to try, but I don't want to leave my bike locked up at that particular place
3) my bike needs a new bottom bracket, (we can't get the old one out!) it's embarrassing to ride right now (creak creak). I could ride my road bike but that's less fun in the city and it's even more of a theft target than my townie, so this could be my "loaner" while my main wheels get worked on.
4) I'm out without a bike and my plans change. Zoom! I'm off on a Bixi.
5) I'm sure there will be more opportunities once the bikes are here, things I'm not thinking of yet.

Da Goof, so long as there are enough stations there's no problem with the pricing. We had no problems in Paris, same pricing scheme, but you can't plan to have the same bike all day.
I agree that the winter hiatus is an issue, but if you've seen the accuracy of Boston snowplows you'd know that we'd lose a lot of Bixi bikes if we left them out. A 3-season bike share is better than no bike share!

Dottie said...

Looks good!

finnigan said...

I was just in Montreal and saw the Bixi stations EVERYHWERE. Near most (all?) of the docks was a city map with all of the dock locations marked, so you know where the closest one is. I don't think that they'd plan on removing *all* of the docks from a given location, maybe just beef up some locations from a stock of spares.

And yeah, I have my own bikes, so probably won't often or even ever use this, but things like this make the city better for all cyclists. And I'm in Somerville anyway; my understanding is that this is Boston only, not a metro region thing?

Charlotte said...

Finnigan, I think this is planned to be a Metro system, if it's just Boston it's bound to fail. We definitely need stations in Somerville!

finnigan said...

Aha - reading the press releases, it's central Boston to start, with a planned expansion to at least Camberville and Brookline

Nick said...

I love this, but I wish the city had found a way to integrate it with the charliecard!

Charlotte said...

Nick, That's a good point. The Velib system looks like a CharlieCard. It would be a natural extension.

jb said...

I was in Montreal last week and used the Bixi just because I was curious. The bikes there had a 3 speed, was that the same on these bikes? I thought they could use a little bit higher top gear.

Also, you didn't have to use the card in Montreal, you could also get a combination for each use, and you use the little "1,2,3" buttons above the slot. I assume the card is for the subscription?

If there are as many stations as in Montreal, this thing will rock! Everyone who comes to visit me will now be able to ride along with me. Please put a station at Sullivan Square!

kfg said...

Does that seatpost go to 11?

Filigree said...

Thanks for this very informative post. I like the look of the bikes and the functionality as you describe it. The price is very reasonable, and I would be willing to pay it in order to support the programme even if my use of the service would be limited. Am a bit concerned about vandalism and the resultant feasibility of sustainable use, but otherwise I am enthusiastic about this happening in Boston.

André said...

Charlotte, a few iPhone Apps already exist for Bixi users, the most popular (and best in my opinion) being Bixou. It uses GPS to give you the status of the stations nearest to you in either list or map view.

I suspect that, as soon as Boston gets its Bixis, Bixou will be supporting them. Judging from the latest update, the developers seem poised to offer multi-city support which means you'll be able to travel with it (to London, Boston & Montreal by next spring).

Jass said...

Charlie Card cannot be integrated. Bixi needs your credit card + identity in case you steal a bike. Charlie provides no such protection.

Charlotte said...

JB, they were 3 speeds.

KFG, I don't know! I should have looked.

André, that's great news. Maybe I'll have to break down and buy an iPhone.

Jass, once we roll out a city-wide bike program a little detail like modifying the Charlie card just doesn't seem like that big a deal. There is personal information stored on the CharlieCards provided by my employer (the monthly subscription cards rather than the rechargables), so it's hardly a leap to Bixi-check outs. We can dream!

cycler said...

Makes me wish I'd made it downtown to see them myself! I noticed that most of the Bicing bikes in Spain seemed a bit on the small side, I guess that they thought for short trips it was less uncomfortable for a tall person to hunch a bit than for a short person to be unable to reach the ground or the handlebars.

Mark said...

Hey Charlotte, thanks for the link to this review from my blog. Just as an FYI, the BIXIs for London were revealed this weekend in a rather dashing dark blue colour with the transport for london logo imprinted on it - very old school and quite dashing, and also cool that they've put the TFL logo on it - elevating the status of our new bikes to the same level as our buses, trains and underground.