By Daniel Haran.
If you care about cities, sustainable infrastructure, solar energy, life-logging and product-service systems, the Bixi is worth learning about. It is billed as a fourth generation bike sharing system: portable, solar-powered and wireless.
While it has many problems that have been discussed, I want to cover 4 elements that qualify this system as bright green.
Social Engineering wrought large
There’s already been one accident involving a Bixi rider, and the media has been focusing on the dangers of riding without a helmet. No doubt someone will die riding a Bixi, and the media will declare it some kind of bixipocapypse.
Melora Koepke writes that after the introduction of the Vélib’ in Paris, “Parisian motorists seem to have learned to share the road with cyclists and even respect them.” The same will happen in Montreal. Motorists will change their habits, making all cyclists safer—whether or not they’re riding Bixis.
Despite the media, the perception of cycling as a normal mode of transportation will keep on increasing.
Solar with immediate payback
While our parking kiosks also have solar panels, the Bixi stations are a lot more conspicuous:
Wireless communication and solar panels allow for faster and cheaper installation of stations. So fast that they plan to install temporary stations during special events, something which would be otherwise cost-prohibitive.
Even regular stations get moved. Due to higher than expected demand, a the Bixi station for the Mont-Royal Metro was expanded and moved behind the entrance. Examples like this change the way the ROI for solar technology gets calculated: the cost of saved kilowatt-hours is a small fraction of the cost of installation.
Conspicuous solar infrastructure, off-grid in the heart of the city. Planners from around the world will be looking at the Bixi and integrating this lesson. The meme will spread.
Product Service Systems
Renting rather than owning is not a new idea; We’re used to video rentals, laundromats, libraries, gyms, and taxis. Bixi stations every 300 meters are a high-profile and novel example, creating a teachable moment to talk about car sharing and co-housing.
For those who would compare the bixi to a cheap bike, it’s worth repeating that sharing is often more convenient. Take a bus to get to work in the morning because it’s raining, and you can still bike back at the end of the day. This will change the way you move around the city in surprising ways, just like a cell phone changes how you coordinate social activities with friends. We routinely defer making plans with friends until we’ve arrived near a meeting spot.
Now it’s transportation that’s getting untethered.
Life logging: making the invisible visible
I’ve used a lot of buzzwords already, but this hardly gets a mention in any of the reviews. When you buy a monthly or yearly membership, Bixi tracks all your rentals and that information is available to you on their website:
Bixi is new, and it shows here: there’s no easy way to get all the information. To make matters worse, Bixi’s administrators have sued one developer for unauthorized use of their data, so creating mashups is risky. Whether they’re logging for fitness, weight loss, pure curiosity or an obsession with pretty graphs, a lot of people would like to have their personal data.
To the extent that such applications can encourage more people to use and continue using the Bixi, its administrators should encourage it.
Bixi is a great idea that incorporates many elements of the future we want. Energy efficient, green infrastructure that encourages use rather than ownership. I hope bright green folk will help this meme spread.