Bixi goes bust: Future of Vancouver bike share program uncertain
Bixi bike share systems have already been set up in Boston, London, New York, Toronto, Montreal and others. (CTV)
CTV British Columbia
Published Monday, January 20, 2014 2:54PM PST
The Quebec-based company tasked with providing bikes for Vancouver’s new bike share program has filed for bankruptcy protection.
Bixi faces $47-million in debt over its public bike system in Montreal and the city refuses to lend it any more money to keep its wheels spinning.
Montreal propped up the bike rental company with $37-million in loans just two years ago.
Bixi also owes millions to the city of Toronto.
The bankruptcy news throws the city of Vancouver’s bike share program into uncertainty.
Vancouver’s bike program was initially supposed to launch early this year but was delayed over Bixi’s financial issues.
Late last year, Non-Partisan Association councillors said Bixi’s economic troubles were a sign Vancouver should put the brakes on the program temporarily.
But Councillor Heather Deal said Vancouver -- unlike other cities -- wouldn’t take on a contract with loan guarantees, so it would be protected.
Vancouver’s bike share program was due to have 250 bikes equipped with GPS and 25 stations.
It would eventually see a total of 1,500 bikes at 150 stations, which would be located every two to three blocks and feature helmet dispensers for safe riding.
Memberships would cost $95 per year, $20 per month or $5 per day, and the city would receive 50 per cent of the profits.
Bixi started in Montreal five years ago but quickly expanded to the U.S. and Australia.
The company has apparently been looking to sell off those operations to raise capital, but has been unsuccessful in finding a buyer.
With 14 operations in different municipalities, critics say Bixi has spread itself too thin, and doesn’t have a viable business plan to sustain the operation.
New York and Chicago are withholding payments totalling $5.6-million because of delays and glitches with Bixi software that's affecting their bike-sharing programs.