Montreal introduced a new self-service, bike-rental system on Sunday modelled after the highly successful Vélib' program in Paris.
So far there are only 40 of the bicycles available — the city calls them BIXIs, a mix of bicycle and taxi — but the plan is to have 2,400 BIXIs in service by next spring. In Paris, the Vélib' service provides more than 10,000 bicycles.
"It's not for long trips. You ride it and you return it, and [for] the first half hour there's no charge," Mayor Gérald Tremblay said Sunday.
"We sincerely believe that a lot of citizens who are not presently commuting with a bicycle will use the bicycles," he said.
The service will cost $28 a month, or $78 for seven months. Users can buy a day pass for $5.
Montrealer Michel Gourdeau won an online contest to name the bike service.
"Well, I'm a user of bicycles myself, and I thought it would be a good idea to participate and try to find a name that is special," he said.
Gourdeau felt BIXI had "a nice international feel to it."
The city will deploy a squad of BIXI experts to explain how to use the rental service over the next few months.
When it's fully in service there will be 300 BIXI stations around the city where the bicycles can be rented or returned.
The $15-million system is being paid for by Stationnement de Montreal, the company that manages the city's on-street parking.
It hopes to recoup its investment through the membership fees.
The bikes are designed entirely in Quebec, and are made of 100 per cent recyclable aluminum. The bike parking stations are powered by solar energy.