Health, News

Bixi Comes To Toronto And Ottawa

Bixi bikesBig cities like Toronto and Ottawa have a lot of traffic. All of those cars, taxis, trucks and buses create a lot of pollution. They also make getting around the city very difficult. There are a lot of traffic jams in big cities.

Some people ride bikes in the city. However, lots of bikes get stolen. Also, it can sometimes be difficult to find an empty spot in a bike rack when you want to store your bike downtown. Those things can discourage people from riding their bike around a big city.

But because biking is a much healthier way to travel than using a car, the City of Toronto and the City of Ottawa wanted to encourage people to ride a bike.

This summer, Toronto and Ottawa partnered with a company called Bixi to offer a new program which lets people rent a bike for short trips. People can ride to from one place to another downtown without having to own, use or lock up their own bicycle.

There are dozens of Bixi stations (or kiosks) scattered throughout the cities, with more than 1,000 bikes ready for people to rent. You must be 18 or older to use a Bixi bike.

The bikes are built especially for Bixi. They have a rack for carrying things, tires made for city streets, and adjustable seats. They also have a low “centre of gravity” which makes them very stable so people will be less likely to fall when riding the bike.

The rider pays for the bike at a station, using a credit card. They pay $5 per bike. They get a five-digit code that lets them unlock a bike. The person can use the bike for half an hour at a time and then it has to be put back in a Bixi station.

So for instance, someone can pick up a bike on Yonge Street in Toronto and ride over to a business meeting on Bay Street, where they can simply drop the bike off. Or, if they’re in Ottawa, they can grab a bike at the By-Ward Market and bike across the bridge to the National Museum of Civilization.

The bikes are meant to be used for short trips; they can be used for up to half an hour at a time. If they are not returned within half an hour, the user is charged an extra $1.50 (31 to 60 minutes). If the station that the user wishes to return the bike to is full, the rider has an extra fifteen minutes to return it to a different kiosk.

If a bike has not been returned for a long time, the bicycle is considered stolen and the person could be charged a penalty of $1,000 on their credit card.

Riders can buy a day pass, which means you can rent as many bikes as you wish in 24 hours as long as you use each one for just half an hour or less.

There are many benefits to the Bixi program. There will be more space for regular bicycles on bike racks. More bikes being used means less pollution and car traffic in the city. And Bixi riders don’t have to worry about their own bikes being stolen.

One less obvious benefit is that it helps some people on welfare get work. Graduates of a bicycle maintenance course at the Learning Enrichment Foundation near Toronto have been hired this summer to make sure the bikes work properly.

Bixi is a Canadian company that began in Montreal. Many of the parts they use are from Canada. Co-founder Michel Philibert says he and his partners asked themselves, “what could be the best bike-sharing system in the world – and we did it.” He said the Bixi system is “green, it’s not too expensive… and it makes the city smile.”

By Elizabeth Peters

Writing/Discussion Prompt
The Bixi program is an example of how “environmentalism” and being environmentally friendly has become more common in communities across Canada.
What environmental programs are already in place in your school and in your community?
With a partner, brainstorm ways to become more environmentally friendly in your school.

Reading Prompt
When a new community program, like Bixi, is introduced, people have different points of view about the idea.  Some people may support the program, while other people may oppose it.  After reading the article, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of this program?

Identify the point of view presented in a text and suggest some possible alternative perspectives (OME, Reading 1.9).

Identify the point of view presented in texts; determine whether they can agree with the view, in whole or in part, and suggest some other possible perspectives (OME, Reading 1.9).

Identify the point of view presented in texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts; give evidence of any biases they may contain; and suggest other possible perspectives (OME, Reading 1.9).

Grammar Feature: Types of sentences
There are many different ways to start a sentence. The most common way is to begin with the main subject of the sentence. For example, in this sentence, Toronto is the subject: “Toronto has a lot of traffic.”
This article shows how you can use phrases and words other than the main subject to begin a sentence. For example: “If a bike is not returned for a long time, the bicycle is considered stolen” and “However, lots of bikes get stolen.”
Complete the sentences below. Be sure to look at the rest of the sentence to know what kind of beginning each sentence needs.
1. _____________________ is a great form of exercise.
2. _________________________, you will help the environment.
3. _______________ has to buy a bike helmet today.
4. ______________________, there are more advantages than disadvantages for Bixi.