Two Cycling Innovations for Greener Cities

I recently read about a couple of interesting bike-related innovations. The first, via Mark Evans, is Bixi Bicycles. They’re a Montreal-based commuting bike rental service, kind of ZipCar for bicycles. They’ve papered downtown Montreal with stations where, using a key system, you can take and return bikes. It costs $78 for a yearly subscription, with trips under 30 minutes free. Longer trips start at $1.50 for the first hour, and increase from there. It’s a service I would have considered using for local trips when we lived in Vancouver.

For longer, sweatier commutes, I read about the Green Pod on Springwise:

About the size of a parking space for one car, the Green Pod comes in two configurations: one with a single shower and changing room along with 10 lockers and parking for as many bicycles, and the other with double those facilities. The pod features a solar hot water system, electronic locking system, LED lighting activated by motion sensors, timed showers and a grey water treatment unit that discharges grey water into green areas. The unit can be integrated into indoor or outdoor applications, and it operates on a 12V DC system that can be powered by solar panels on the roof. Also part of the pod is a self-cleaning mechanism that can detect when no one’s inside and lock its doors for some self-cleaning, according to a report in Catapult. Access is via swipe card for registered users.

It’s developed by an Australian company, and definitely looks designed for warmer countries. Hopefully they’ll design something that’s a little less gappy for us Canadians.

Photo by TMAB2003.


  1. Bixi is roughly based on VeLib (Velo Libre) which began in Paris in 2007 (, with one important distinction – Velib is a P3, while in Bixi the *city* is funding it. Gutsy move to make, I really admire Montreal for that. Other cities around the world are picking up on the idea quickly – this article on the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)’s website highlights a similar program now underway in Buenos Aires: I expect NYC, Vancouver may be next in North America. ITDP has some great stuff on it from all over world – good ideas have no boundaries.

    I heard about self cleaning toilets on timers in Australia – the door is on a timer and swings open in like 2 minutes, and as soon as the use exits it gets sanitized. Very cool.

  2. Gutsy is one way to describe Montréal’s funding model. Vélib’ had startup costs of more than $100 million, and they lost 30% of the bikes in the first year.

    The Montréal program is only 30% of the size of Paris’ project, so it should only cost $30 million.

    Bonus: these systems pretty much depend on the jurisdiction not having a bicycle helmet law in order to drive reasonable usage rates. I’m not particularly fond of BC’s helmet law, so I suppose I should support a system like this for Vancouver in hopes it’s a way of overturning the helmet law.

    Vancouver has some self-cleaning toilets, interestingly operated by CBS/Decaux, which I think is related to the JCDecaux that runs Vélib’.

  3. Actually, Vancouver City Hall hosted a Bixi demo here in Vancouver in early June, because they are considering the program here. Not sure if you knew that and I just missed it.
    There was a demo day at City Hall for civil servants to get the planners to try it out (or anyone else in the area), and then they moved the big heavy thing over just west of Science World on the seawall for a public demo for a few days.
    The locking mechanism is so strong the Bixi guy told me they’ve never had a bike stolen in Montreal. And because they don’t take cash (credit cards only), there’s less likelihood of anyone not returning the bikes.
    If I remember correctly, that was what went wrong when they tried it some years back in Portland.
    I haven’t heard anything about how much of a success the demo here was considered to be. Apparently there was quite a bit of pre-demo skepticism about it working in Vancouver because of our hilly-ness… but It would be interesting to hear from the city where this is at.

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