Bixi Bikes are a Great Asset for Canada’s National Capital Region

Entering Ottawa
Entering Ottawa from Gatineau via the former Alexandra train bridge with added cantilevered 'shoulders' .

Two years ago, I suggested to a manager at the Westin in Ottawa that they should embrace cycling tourism more, being located right on the canal with its pathways, a World Heritage Site no less. He paused and then asked “But Hans, who arrives on a bike with three suitcases?‘” I had to explain to him that his guests might want to go for a bike ride after a dull day in a congress or perhaps stay longer if they knew about the many local bike routes. Meanwhile, the Minto on Laurier and Lyon has dozens of bikes out for a few years now, free to use for their guests, which my colleagues from out of town really appreciate when they are visiting. Having bikes brings guests to your hotel and they might stay longer once they know of the bike opportunities here.

Entering Ottawa
Entering Ottawa from Gatineau via the former Alexandra train bridge with added cantilevered ‘shoulders’

No changes for 2013

In 2012, CapitaleBixi added 150 bikes to the fleet of 100 and increased the number of stations to 25. This year, in 2013, no changes are coming, other than some tweaks in the locations. Rolling out a system like this is somewhat finicky as you don’t want the stations too far apart: if one of the stations is out of bikes (or full for that matter), you should be able to walk to the next one to pick up or drop off your bike. Just like Vrtucar, one has to add stations like layers of an onion. It is probably not a bad idea to take a breather because comparing data might be easier with the same number of bikes and stations. There was tremendous growth year-over-year. In 2011, we saw about 21.000 rides, this year the numbers doubled, showing a rapidly growing appetite for casual cycling in the region.

Bixi stats
Ottawa-Gatineau Bixi stats: blue bars show the 2011 data, green bars the 2012 ones. July saw nearly 10,000 rides, November still over a 1000.

Bixi 2012 data promising

Two weeks ago Citizens for Safe Cycling organised its second highly successful ‘Spring.Bike.Otawa’ bike season opener and invited a number of local organisations and individuals to talk about cycling. The NCC, a strong promoter of cycling in the National Capital Region as a means of clean transportation for both commuters and tourists, shared some interesting data with us. I copied a handful of sheets to share with those who couldn’t come.

The best day in 2012 was the day before Canada Day, with 499 bike rides.
The best day in 2012 was the day before Canada Day, with 499 bike rides.
Of the subscribers (i.e. members) , 75% is Anglophone, 40% is female. No personal data are collected from the casual riders, who pay 'as they go'.
Of the subscribers (i.e. members) , 75% is Anglophone, 40% is female. No personal data are collected from the casual riders, who pay ‘as they go’.
While the majority of subscribers lives in the down town areas, note that some live further out. Perhaps they arrive by bus and cover 'the last mile' by bike.
While the majority of subscribers lives in the down town areas, note that some live further out. Perhaps they arrive by bus and cover ‘the last mile’ by bike.
The top five stations are all in Ottawa. It comes at no surprise that the Elgin station is busy, with many tourists stomping around. It might also indicate that the choice to pick up a Bixi bike is an spontaneous one,
The top five stations are all in Ottawa. It comes as no surprise that the Elgin station is busy, with many tourists stomping around. It might also indicate that the choice to take a Bixi bike is a spontaneous one, because they are in their face.
Usage of Bixi bikes within Gatineau dropped a bit, in Ottawa it increased. Trips originating in Gatineau with a drop off in Ottawa decreased, trips originating in Ottawa with a drop off in Gatineau increased.
Usage of Bixi bikes grew both in Gatineau  and Ottawa. Percentage of trips originating in Gatineau with a drop off in Ottawa decreased, percentage of trips originating in Ottawa with a drop off in Gatineau decreased too.
Subscribers see three peaks, in the morning, around lunch and at the end of the working day. Casual users peak between 1 and 6 pm.
Subscribers see three peaks, in the morning, around lunch and at the end of the working day. Casual users peak between 1 and 6 pm.

After the second year, some careful conclusions:

Rapidly growing appetite for casual cycling

40% of the trips made by 300 members, 60% by casual users

Casual users cycle longer, likely tourists

Tourists embrace cycling as a means of transport within the city

Tourists embrace cycling as one of the ‘things to do in the Capital region’ activity

The Bixi Bike is growing in popularity in both cities

Percentage of interprovincial drop offs is lower, indicating people chose a tour rather than a destination?

The city and the NCC should expand on this growing interest in casual cycling in their communications towards both commuters and tourists.

2 Comments

  1. Interesting study.
    However, there’s ont point that needs correction: you can’t say that the usage in Gatineau and from/to Gatineau dropped when the total usage increased: 5% usage in Gatineau in 2012 from a total of 44.000 trips is still much higher than 6% usage in 2011 based on a total of 30.000 (total 2011 assumed but not given). You can only say that the usage in Gatineau is growing more slowly than in Ottawa. As a resident of Gatineau, I’d be very careful about the signal such a statement is sending.

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