Montreal company to equip Minneapolis bike-sharing program

It’s looking more and more likely that a European-style bike-sharing system will launch in Minneapolis this year, potentially as early as this summer. Nice Ride Minnesota, the non-profit created to implement bike sharing in the Twin Cities, announced last week the selection of a Quebec-based company to supply equipment.

Minneapolis will use the Montreal BIXI system, created by Public Bike System Company, for its bicycles and kiosks. PBSC also will provide customer service, parts supply and technical support. The BIXI system is already in use in Montreal, where last spring PBSC installed 5,000 bikes throughout the city — the first large-scale bike-sharing system in North America. Boston and London also have signed contracts with the company, and Melbourne, Australia also has reportedly expressed interest in the BIXI system.

Time magazine placed the BIXI system at No. 19 on its list of top inventions of 2008.

Nice Ride Minnesota expects to ultimately have about 1,000 bikes in 80 kiosks throughout Downtown, the University of Minnesota campus and Uptown, according to a statement. Of these proposed kiosks, 65 should be in place by June 2010.

The solar-powered kiosks are free of any electrical connections, so they can be picked up and moved to accommodate changing patterns of use, as well as be removed for winter storage, if necessary. Users pay a subscription fee — ranging from $1 per half hour to $50 per year — that allows them to check out a bike from any kiosk with a swipe card. Subscribers sign an online agreement, and the system keeps track of who has each bike at all times. Bikes are equipped with fenders, a chain guard, LED headlights and taillights — each powered by a front-hub dynamo — a three-speed hub gear, drum breaks, a kickstand and a bell.