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Monday, June 27, 2011

BIXI wants to grow, but is it profitable?

CANADA - Toronto's BIXI program has been active for over one month now (it started May 3rd) and according to the Toronto Cyclists Union the cycle-sharing program should triple the number of bikes and expand the current service area beyond the downtown core.

But is there the profits to support such an expansion?

In the first week BIXI was active there was 700 trips. By week 4 there was 28,000 / week.

Most of the demand comes from the edges of the service area, along Jarvis, Spadina and Bloor, thus furthering the logic that BIXI should expand in those regions.

Meanwhile in Montreal the BIXI program owes $37 million to the city and is currently running a $5 million annual deficit. Not that long ago Montreal was running a profit, but has since flip flopped into deficit (possibly due to over expansion into regions of the city where most people don't use bicycles).

So Toronto needs to learn the lessons taught by Montreal. Expand SLOWLY, and only into regions where demand can be shown.

It should be noted that May was very rainy and renting bicycles very much depends on the weather conditions, so those numbers are expecting to rise dramatically during the summer and autumn, before dropping off suddenly in winter.

So far Toronto BIXI has served up 73,000 rides in its first six weeks of service, with only 1,000 bikes on Toronto streets.

Successful bike-sharing programs often have a lot more bicycles than a mere 1,000. ie. The Paris VĂ©lib “freedom bike” program got 1.8 million rides in its first month in 2007, with about 10,000 bikes. But that in PARIS, a city known as a mecca for artists and tourists. Its to be expected to have much higher usage.

Paris hit the 100-million ride mark earlier this month (June 2011), after nearly four years in operation. Paris now has an average of 100,000 rentals per day, with 20,000 bikes.

Montreal's BIXI program currently has almost 30,000 subscribers and 18,000 rides per day on a fleet of 5,000 bikes.

BIXI Toronto so far has 2,240 subscribers and has had 7,000 one-day users, but that isn't enough to support expansion. 6,000 subscribers are needed just to break even.

So Toronto needs to wait a bit longer before they start expanding rapidly. A little bit of expansion in the desired areas would be okay, assuming it drives up usage. If it doesn't BIXI should wait until they reach above the 6,000 mark.

Other bike-sharing programs around the world:

Hangzhou, China
50,000 bikes
2,050 stations
Started in 2009
Plans to have 175,000 bikes by 2020

Paris, France
20,000 bikes
1,800 stations
Between 80,000 to 120,000 rentals per day
Started in 2007

Toronto, Canada
1,000 bikes
80 stations
2240 subscribers, 7000 one-day users
Started in May 2011

Montreal, Canada
5,050 bikes
405 stations
30,000 members
18,000 rides per day on average
Started in 2009

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to find a bicycle mechanic in back-water towns

Dear Bicycle Mechanic!

I am writing a cyclists guide to Route 66 in the states for a publishing company in Switzerland. I wondered if you would have any information on how best to find a mechanic in back-water towns on North America. Is there a data-base? A secret HQ?

Any advice you would have would be very much appreciated.

Thank you
Be well
Jessica Mijnssen

Hey Jessica!

I recommend Google Maps.

You just choose your city / town and then appropriate keywords... ie. Denver bike shop, Denver bicycle shop, Denver bicycles, Denver cycling, Denver bicycle mechanic, Denver bike mechanic, etc.

And be sure to double check when trying "bike" that you're not getting motorcycle mechanics.

I then recommend that you compile a list of bicycle shops along Route 66 and make that "database" as it were available online. I would be happy to publish your results along with any links to your book.

:)


Dear Bicycle Mechanic!

Thank you so much for your help. I have, indeed, been led astray by "Bike shops" that lead me to motorized vehicles.

I'll be in touch!

Be well
Jessica

The Battle for Bike Lanes in Toronto

CANADA - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford seems to have a love / hate relationship with cyclists in Toronto.

Believe me, the feeling is mutual.

Unlike Stephen Harper who sits comfortably in his PM office looking out his Ottawa windows at the peasants below now that he has his dreaded majority government and can do whatever he wants, Rob Ford cannot do whatever he pleases... he has to get everything past Toronto City Council first.

As part of his agenda Rob Ford wants to do the following...

#1. A Separated Bike Lane Network in Toronto's downtown core.

Note: Its confusing what this might actually be. One idea is that it will be separate bi-directional bike lanes (a two-way bike facility on one side of the street). One proposal is to convert the existing bicycle lanes on Bloor St. East, from Sherbourne Street to Broadview Avenue, into separated bike lanes in 2011 (1.6 km at a cost of approximately $50,000). This trial would then determine whether it could be used in other places across Toronto.

#2. Development of 100 km of off-street bike trails.

Note: 30 km of new trails already began construction in 2010 and will open in the summer of 2011.

#3. A Bikeway Trails Plan to continue developing bike trails in the future.

#4. Fixing gaps in the Bikeway Network. Ford wants on-street connections to be completed, provided they don't interfere too much with the flow of traffic.

#5. Bike Lanes to be Removed, at a cost of $210,000.

Note: Local councilors apparently want some bike lanes removed. They are: Pharmacy Avenue, between Denton Avenue and Alvinson Road, at a cost of approximately $120,000; and Birchmount Avenue, between Kingston Road and St. Clair Avenue East, at a cost of approximately $90,000.

#6. Modify Existing Bike Lanes.

Note: They want to modify the Dupont Street at the Lansdowne Avenue intersection in order to improve traffic flow and capacity at the intersection (cost: approximately $8,000).

#7. New Bike Lanes

A city report recommends new bike lanes at Dawes Road, from Danforth Avenue to Victoria Park Avenue, as part of the Dawes Road Revitalization Project.

So where is the money for all these new separated bike lanes (or scrapping of old lanes) going to come from?

Well Rob Ford has apparently hired scores of Toronto accountants to try and get the numbers to work.

Honestly, he'd be better off hiring IT staff or artists, not for their technical skills, but simply for their imaginative problem solving abilities. Not to diss the accountants, but sometimes certain jobs require thinking outside the box.

Maybe then we could find the necessary cash for such things and stop idiot drivers from parking in bicycle lanes. They're not parking spots!

In other news, want to suggest a new location for a bicycle stand / ring post? Go to toronto.ca/cycling/postandring/.

Also the Toronto Union Station Bicycle Station has now moved to the East side of York Street, just north of 25 York St. at Bremner Blvd. Staff hours are Monday - Friday: 8 AM - 4 PM. The Station will be unstaffed during the lunch hour.

Oh and by the way, the weather is wonderful outside people... get out of your stuffy apartments, your sunrooms, your offices, your basements, or wherever you happen to be and go cycling. There may not be that many beautiful days outside this summer so enjoy them while you can.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Caroline MacFarlane saves Orange Raleigh

ART HISTORY - Awhile back I was coming home from Chinatown and walked by the AGO. En route I noticed the orange painted Raleigh bicycle, shown here. The artist had apparently gone through a lot of effort to protect the bicycle ring stand it was locked to from getting paint on it.

I wanted to mention it on here, but when I got home I promptly forgot about it. (I have so many blog ideas I forget to write about its ridiculous...)

Anywho, it might have been relegated to the back of my mind, but the city officials nearby apparently decided that painted artworks (abandoned bicycles or not) don't belong attached to bicycle ring stands.

They issued a removal order and attached it to the bike, which the artist Caroline MacFarlane later found, got upset about and promptly blogged about it.

Then Councillor Adam Vaughan called the removal order another blow in the “war on creativity.” Picked up by the local mass media, the topic of "war on creativity" got a lot of attention from Torontonians... and around the world.

So much that the city has since backed down on the issue and the orange Raleigh is still there, despite it supposed to being removed yesterday (Monday June 6th).

Discussions are now being batted around about what will become of the art piece. No matter what happens, it won’t be destroyed.

“Whether it stays in front of the gallery or travels around the city, both are options we’re exploring,” says MacFarlane.

Bicycle Mechanic Jobs & Salaries

Bike shops are ALWAYS looking to hire more bicycle mechanics, especially in the Spring. The problem however is the Old Catch 22... they only want experienced mechanics who know what they are doing, don't need to be taught anything and do what they're told.

And because every bike shop is different and follows their own set of rules as to the proper way to fix a bicycle (most of them don't do things "by the book"). Worse some bicycle mechanics who have been at a bicycle shop a long time have some serious ego problems and will deride new mechanics, complain about their lack of skills/experience (even if the new mechanic is actually older or even more experienced) because they see the new mechanic as a threat.

If you were thinking of escaping office politics by becoming a bicycle mechanic, think again. Some bicycle mechanics think the shop is their "turf" and the moment you step on their turf you had better do what they say or they will find some excuse to either not hire you or get you fired.

And for what?

Why would anyone want to go through this nonsense and put up with backstabbing / egotistical co-workers with a serious personality problem like that? For getting paid minimum wage or barely above it (this is true, although it varies from state to state, province to province depending on what the local minimum wage is).

Well as some bicycle mechanics put it, its all about the lifestyle. They just love fixing bicycles.

It would have to be the lifestyle because the average salary for a bicycle mechanic is horrible. Minimum wage or barely above minimum wage. Depending on where you go bicycle mechanics can get up to $30,000 per year in wages... but that is only if you are really experienced and know what you are doing.

Otherwise don't expect much in terms of salary. The good news is if your job resume is good a bicycle mechanic can EASILY find work. Bicycle mechanics are always in high demand. If you don't like a particular shop, you can easily quit and work some place else within days.

But if your resume is short on experience then bicycle shops don't even want to look at you.

I'd argue the best way to get hired as a bicycle mechanic if you don't have experience is to first get training (see my posts about bicycle mechanic schools) and then you have several options...

#1. Go to every bicycle shop near you and give them your resume. Your resume should be based on skills instead of experience. Talk about your ability to fix brakes, shocks, derailleurs, etc.

#2. Become friends with other bicycle mechanics and/or managers. Bug them into hiring you.

#3. Beg the manager to give you a chance. Get down on your freaking knees when you do it just to show them you are serious.

#4. If all else fails, grab your tools and setup shop down the street from a bike shop or across the street and offer "free bicycle repairs, donations accepted!" When the manager of the bike shop realizes they are losing business to you and that all you want is a chance to prove you can do it they will rethink hiring you.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bike Works Community Bicycle Space

June 4th (today) is the official launch of the Bike Works Community Bicycle Space at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto.

Bike Works is a brand new community bike space at Evergreen Brick Works whose main aim is to increase the use of bicycles as a viable and sustainable mode of transportation. It is the home base of our bike program, Green City Cycles.

Bike Works has 3 main offerings to the Public:

1. Do it yourself repair – Come in and use the tools, space and get the assistance you need to fix and maintain your own ride.

2. Rentals - Have someone visiting from out of town? Rent a bicycle for a day and show them our great city and amazing Ravine system trails.

3. Workshops - Bike Works offers basic maintenance workshops and safe riding workshops for the general public. Details at the Evergreen Website.

Check out Evergreens Bike Month Events.

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