Monday, June 13, 2011

A Non-Beer Sidenote To Mondial Montreal

We hear news that NYC will get a Bike Share program in 2012. In May 2009 Montreal began the Bixi Bike bike sharing program. We looked at the program and decided that this was how we'd try to get around during Mondial.

Verdict: it's awesome!

You can't really do much better economically. It costs $5 a day, or $12 for 3 consecutive days. That's it. But you don't just keep the same one bike over that time. You only keep it for up to 30 minutes, and then return it to a bike depot, located everywhere. Well, everywhere that you might bike to within in 30 minutes. If you go over 30 minutes there are nominal extra charges ($1.50 for the first extra 30, $3 for up to 90 minutes, etc.).

But the idea is to free yourself of the hassle of having to lock up your bike. Basically, you grab a bike, go to your destination, get rid of the bike, then pick up another bike if you need it. Kind of like free love in the 60's, from what I'm lead to believe, but with bicycles. (You can't get pregnant from a bicycle seat, right?)

The bikes are kind of clunker three-speeds with big cushy seats and fat tires -- basically, slow cruisers. You're not going to go very fast on them (unless you're going south on Rue Berri between Rue Sherebrooke and Rue Ontario!), but they work for the 20-30 min. utilitarian ride. They have build-in front and rear lights, and a rack with bungies on the handlebars that allows for the convenient securing and toting of bags/backpacks.

You use a credit card to get authorized. They hold a $250 deposit for up to 10 days (though they just held it for 3 days for me). Every time you pick up a bike, you use the same credit card as your key. The kiosk gives you a numerical code, you punch that into any of the bikes docked, pull out the bike and go. You don't need to use the credit card when returning -- you just dock the bike and you're done.

There is an app for the iPhone that allow you to see where the closest stations are, AND how many available bikes/open docks are at each location! I couldn't find a Blackberry app for that, otherwise, we would have had an even easier time.

We biked all around the city, day and night, and found it to be extremely convenient and frugal. Granted, there will be times when you have to try 2 or 3 locations to either find an available bike or an empty dock to which return a bike. Example: Friday night when we tried to return a bike near CHEVAL BLANC. The closest location had only one empty dock, so I let B.R. take it and I went off to the next station. After all, how could I not be chivalrous, considering where we were going? Then the nearest station was also full. Damn. So off to the next not-so-close depot. Also full. (Below.)
Luckily, there were LOTS of empty docks right around the corner at another location. So, yeah, on some trips you might break even on the convenience, but on most trips, the time and money savings are well worth it. 

We Bixi-biked almost ALL of our trips: to the Fest, to restaurants, to brewpubs, to shops, to the bank. We biked to the Metro/subway for long trips. The few times that we didn't bike were to and from the train station at the start and end of the trip, and when the quantity of beer consumed made biking a bad choice.

And if you're out and about stuffing your gut with beer and poutine...
a little bike ride isn't such a bad thing!

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