Last June, a few months after its official launch, I signed up for Bixi – Toronto’s Bike Share program. I wasn’t a full believer, wasn’t sure how useful Bixi would really be, but with a $100 price tag for the year it seemed like a worthwhile experiment. Now that I’ve been a year with the program, I thought I’d do a quick round up review to share my thoughts on the program.
Bikes (4 / 5)
Bixi bikes are a 3 gear model that works well for urban cycling. Though I’m used to riding a road bike around, I actually quite like the heavier, stockier bixi bikes. I like the black colour choice that makes for a sleek ride, and I love that there’s a little “basket” area on the front that is the perfect size for carrying six beers.
My only complaint is the seemingly huge gap between Gears 2 and 3. First gear is so light its basically useless in flat down town Toronto and 2 isn’t much better unless you’re riding straight up hill. 3rd gear marks a huge shift up from second that often leads me switching back and forth, not finding a good place to be.
Docks (4.5 / 5)
Though others have reported the irritation of showing up at a station that either has no bikes or no empty docks, this has happened to me only several times, and always when i was nearby another available station. Of course, this could always be better, but certain docks will always be tricky. Union Station during rush hours. St Lawrence Market on Saturdays with people biking down, buying groceries, and taking another method of transit back.
In terms of usability, after 1 initial failure, I’ve had no trouble docking or undocking the bikes. There is a bit of a learning curve, but I recommend a method of lifting the back wheel off the ground and pushing the bike into the dock as the most effective method.
Coverage (3 /5)
Coverage is probably the number 1 complaint I’ve heard for Bixi, and probably my number 1 complaint as well. Starting off, the coverage area was quite small, and living on Sherbourne I was at the far eastern edge. At the beginning of the year (I think), the coverage area was expanded, moving several underused stations from the inner zone, and expanding the system one major block in either direction (east and west). I think this expansion came with mixed results. The expanded coverage area is great, but leaves some areas without overflow docks. In addition, the docks on the edge are sparser than I would hope for. For example, there are two docks on Parliament street at Gerrard and Dundas, but nothing to the north. This leaves Cabbagetown basically unserved – that makes little sense to me.
Customer Service (2 / 5)
Customer service is where Bixi really drops the ball. In several cases where Bixi has moved docks, they have only notified people through their Facebook and Twitter pages, leaving the non-followers out of the loop. Bixi needs to learn to better communicate with their customers and PUT SIGNS UP! People who use the docks will see the moving signs in advance.
In addition, Bixi is really slow in getting keys out to people. My key took nearly a month to arrive – weeks after they said they mailed it. This lead to me having to call several times and talk to surly employees who kept insisting the key had been sent. I think Bixi straight up lies to its customers about when it sends out the keys. I know Canada Post isn’t always great, but from the number of instances reported on the fb page and elsewhere, this seems like a widespread problem most likely to do with Bixi itself. A lack of communication on this leads to anger and frustration in customers before they even start riding! This could most certainly be improved upon.
That all being said, the last time I called support because my bike didn’t dock properly, the guy who helped me out was very friendly and competent and my issue was resolved within minutes, so maybe they are improving.
Overall (4 / 5)
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my experience with Bixi and I would highly recommend it to anyone who both lives and works downtown. More popularity will lead to a wider coverage area, so that just leaves customer service to improve upon.
Unfortunately, these days I’m working in an area of Toronto that will never get Bixi, nor would I recommend it to. This makes Bixi less useful for me and leaves me unsure if I will sign up again. That being said, it’s still really useful for visiting friends, running errands, and days when I am too lazy to walk.