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Man behind Montreal bike hire scheme looks to repeat success in London

Bixi scheme provides model for London Cycle Hire Scheme coming this summer

With just a few months to go before the London Cycle Hire Scheme comes into operation, the man who designed Montreal’s Bixi scheme on which it is based has been talking about the success of that initiative.

In an interview with the Guardian, Michel Dallaire said that he believes that the London scheme could achieve similar success as it has done in Montreal, where more than 1 million rides were logged during the first four months of operation, leading to 2,000 more bikes to be put onto the streets for a total of 5,000.

"It has really changed the dynamic of the social community," Dalairs said. "It has changed Montreal. It's more friendly, people are more together - and it is so practical."

Local cycling campaigners agree that the scheme has made a difference. Suzanne Lareau, president of Velo Quebec highlighted that it had encouraged people to take up riding a bike.

"I saw people I knew who I never imagined would be on a bike in town, and some people cycling for the first time," she explained, adding that many of those using the scheme do own bicycles but won’t ride them in the city centre for fear that they will be stolen.

The London Cycle Hire Scheme will not be exactly the same as the one in Montreal, however, where docking stations are solar powered and are shut down in the winter months.

The stations, which hold six bikes, can also be picked up by cranes and moved to where they are most needed, while the ones in London, which will be powered by mains electricity from the National Grid, will be permanent features.

And while concerns have been raised here about the potential for bikes to be stolen or vandalised, those challenges were successfully overcome during the early months of the Bixi scheme, shown in the following video.

The sturdy design of the bicycles themselves instill confidence in users and deter vandalism, said Dallaire, while the Guardian quoted a spokesman for Bixi who said that thefts in the early days of the scheme ran at between 3% and 5%. Dallaire himself was called in to redesign the locking system, and levels of theft have since decreased.

Dallaire himself concedes that he is not himself an experienced cyclist, preferring to spend his spare time skiing, and he admits that his longest bike ride was a “really painful" 36 miles.

Whether we’ll ever see the architect of the London Cycle Hire Scheme try to negotiate the capital’s streets on two wheels is also open to debate, given his comments about the cycling in the city.

"The traffic in London with these huge buses, two storeys high and they drive so fast," he told the Guardian. "The bicycles sometimes are just in front of these big buses and they ride 40km, 50km in the city and of course on the wrong side of the street" – although that would presumably be the right side of the street for anyone driving or riding in Britain.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Damtours | 10 years ago

To Michael Dallaire and bike people who can support us

Saddles type BARCLAYBIKE?
We like to know where you can buy those saddles from barclays bikes in London and what type that is, We built partybikes / beerbikes in Amsterdam and those saddles are sollid and good to use
who can support us in that case, we did send out an email towards velo and the bike builders but no call back.

cheers Ard, Damtours

mr-andrew | 14 years ago

I really hope the scheme takes off, but why so few bikes? Metropolitan Montreal has a population almost 1/2 the size of London's, but has 1000 fewer bikes. Basically, Montreal gets approximately 1 bike per 650 people whereas London works out at roughly half that, with 1 bike for every 1250 people. With an estimated 15 million tourists visiting here every year on top of that, it seems that the service will quickly become over subscribed. That sort of demand can only be good for the scheme, so lets hope it works out.

On the other hand, I'm slightly nervous about the mass of wobblies that are going to be lurching along my morning commuting route. It's bad enough with the sudden influx of fair weather summer riders, never mind lardy American tourists who can't ride. I may start packing a cattle prod.

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