Montreal's public bike system faces uphill battle

Montreal is incurring major expenses trucking its rentals back to the city outskirts, which are much higher – and thus less appealing for cyclists – than the downtown area.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Every day hundreds of bicycles are driven up the hill here – in trucks. The transport of 5,050 bicycles takes place 24 hours a day, says Alain Ayotte, president of Montreal’s Public Bike System Company, known as Bixi, which runs 405 solar-powered, credit-card-operated bicycle-rental stations here.

Bicycles are moved up because Montreal’s downtown is at the bottom of a hill – so cyclists park there, leaving no two-wheelers on top of the hill. Mr. Ayotte says this is not because people are too lazy to cycle uphill. Rather, he explains, it is because everyone goes to the same place at the same time.

The Canadian nonprofit recently exported its bicycle system to seven other cities worldwide. In Montreal, however, the government has had to loan the company millions of dollars to cover expenses. Some say it might have been cheaper to simply buy everyone their own bicycle.

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