Toronto's cycling infrastructure department is trying to drum up interest in the planned Bixi bike-share program, saying it is concerned about the relatively low number of people who have signed up for annual memberships so far.
The Bixi (bicycle taxi) bikes are slated to debut on Toronto streets in May, but the city first has to ensure it has at least 1,000 annual subscribers to the service by Nov. 30.
So far, the program has only registered 375 memberships, a number that is "discouraging," given Toronto's 2.5 million residents, said Rose Malcolm of the city's cycling infrastructure department in an email.
David Windle, who uses his bicycle regularly, is balking at the $95 annual membership fee. The fee is too high he said, especially as a bicycle can be purchased for just a little more.
"If it's up in place and you see how this works, then you may want to jump on it but for now — like wow."
Sonya Bartlett, who doesn't regularly bike, said the program is unlikely to entice her to travel the city's roads on two wheels.
"Actually I'm completely terrified of biking in this city," she said. "Because I know so many people who've been hit by cabs, or have had their bike stolen or have had their tires slashed for no reason, so I just walk."
City 'fairly confident' it can reach goal
Dan Egan, the manager of Toronto pedestrian and cycling infrastructure programs, said he's nevertheless "fairly confident" the city will reach its goal.
"The really critical thing is that we have approval to launch the program only if we hit the milestone and I don't think people really understand that," he said.
"They feel like the program is going to launch anyways so they might as well wait until the program launches until they sign up. We will continue to sign up members after we get to 1,000, but we need that minimum threshold to even get approval to launch the program."
For a fee of $95 per year, $40 per month, or $5 per day, residents and visitors would be able to use a bicycle. For rides up to 30 minutes, there are no additional fees. Rides that take between 30 minutes and 60 minutes will cost an extra $1.50, while rides from 60 to 90 minutes will cost $3.
Annie Schacker is one of those who has already signed up for an annual membership, saying it's money well-spent.
"Every year I have to take my bike for at least one tune-up, which costs me $80 a year. So I'm not going to have to do that anymore," she said. "I've had one bike stolen so far this year — not going to have to worry about that any more."
The city is guaranteeing a $4.8-million startup loan for Bixi, but is not directly funding the program.
When the program gets off the ground, the city hopes to have 1,000 bicycles operating out of 80 stations in the downtown core.
A Bixi system has also been set up in Montreal, where around 5,000 bikes are available for use at 400 stations.