Cycling in the City: Bixi for Beginners

A fleet of Toronto Bixi bikes await rental.
Last year, Bixi launched in Toronto with a fleet of 1,000 bikes, peppering our downtown core with clunky but convenient rental bikes to take you from the Eaton Centre to the Lakeshore to Yorkville or even Kensington. While we may have the smallest fleet despite the size of our city and perhaps the priciest rates, it’s a great system that I’m glad to support. Here are some tips I’ve developed during my first year of membership to help you take advantage of Bixi or to try it for the first time.

  • Know the rates – Subscribers with a yearly membership rarely look at the rates but it’s a good idea to keep them in mind while you ride. Regardless of whether you have a yearly subscription or a day pass, every Bixi user gets to take a bike out for 30 minute increments for free. Once that trip extends to 30-60 minutes you get charged $1.50 and each ride that is 60-90 costs an extra $4 and so on. The point of Bixi is to get from location to location, short distances, not to have one bike with you all day long. Need to get somewhere more than 30 minutes away? Drop off your bike about 20/25 minutes in and get another and you’ll never pay extra fees again. I never have.
  • Toronto Bixi Rates

    Rates for the Toronto Bixi rental system

  • Check your bike – Before you take a bike out of a dock, check for flats, make sure the bell works, check the brakes and make sure the gears actually shift. There’s nothing worse than finding any of the those things out when you’re mid-journey. If you do notice any of these problems, hit the little monkey-wrench button on the bike and staff will take care of the bike asap. I’ve not noticed a broken one in any of my local stops last for more than a day.
  • Know your route – This goes hand-in-hand with knowing your stops, but it’s also important to know how you’ll get from point a to point b. The city doesn’t have a lot of bike lanes and while some people are comfortable driving in multi-use lanes, others may not be so. The City of Toronto produces a cycling map every year with bike lanes indicated (or lanes with sharrows) and google maps also offers this option.
  • Know your stops – Know the closest dock for the location you’re going to and at least one more just in case it’s full. This is something I can’t emphasize enough. The best way to check is the Bixi website or third-party apps like SpotCycle because you don’t want to find yourself circling like a lost bird. Also, if there are any parades or street festivals going on, they may temporarily move the stations
  • Have a backup plan – One unfortunate thing about Bixi racks is that in this changeable city with construction, parades, street traffic and festivals, Bixi racks tend to move a bit. The Bixi Twitter and Facebook page are good place to go for updates when racks have been moved, this is especially important for those racks on the periphery of the downtown area. Nothing worse than getting to the end of the Bixi zone to discover the rack has moved and you have no idea where.
  • Ride like a bike – Bixi’s are bikes. Ride like one. Don’t think because it’s a slow-moving cruiser you can coast on wide sidewalks, get on the road and ride.

The best part about a Bixi is seeing how the bike can help you with your day-to-day in the downtown core. Despite being a cyclist myself, there are inclement-weather days I leave my bike at home but have the comfort of knowing a Bixi is just a block away.

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