Bixi green effect 'exaggerated'Canada
The Montreal Gazette
Alexandre Boivin takes a Bixi bike instead of the métro at Victoria Square on Wednesday. Eighty-six per cent of Bixi trips replaced walking, or rides on personal bikes or public transit, according to an online survey.
MONTREAL – Bixi’s environmental benefits have been “grossly exaggerated,” with the vast majority of trips taken on the bike-sharing service actually replacing other “green modes” of transportation, McGill University researchers have found.
Eighty-six per cent of Bixi trips replaced walking, or rides on personal bikes or public transit, according to an online survey of 1,432 Montrealers conducted this summer by researchers at McGill’s School of Urban Planning. Another four per cent of trips wouldn’t have been taken without Bixi.
Of the rest, eight per cent replaced taxi trips and two per cent replaced car trips.
That contrasts with the impression Montrealers might have of Bixi, hailed last month by Greenpeace as a tool to fight climate change.
Bixi’s website appears to assume all Bixi trips replace car rides when it calculates the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions the service has helped eliminate. The Bixi site suggests 909 tonnes of GHGs were eliminated thanks to 3.6 million kilo-metres travelled by Bixis in its first four months of operation in 2009.
“It doesn’t mean Bixis aren’t useful,” said Julie Bachand-Marleau, a master’s student who conducted the research with professor Ahmed El-Geneidy and Jacob Larsen, a research fellow.
As of August, 2 million trips had been taken on Bixi – whose prices encourage short rides – since its launch.
Though those trips didn’t help reduce transportation emissions as much as one might have thought, Bixi’s popularity suggests there are significant benefits to users in both convenience and mobility, the researchers found.
Bachand-Marleau noted survey respondents pointed to Bixi’s usefulness for one-way trips and the practicality of using it in conjunction with public transit as the service’s key selling points.
About one-third of survey respondents were Bixi users.
Bixi spokesperson Berengere Theriault said the greenhouse-gas emission figure is an estimate calculated to show how much they would be reduced by if all Bixi trips had been taken by car.
“We have never said they were official calculations, but rather an overall representation and estimation, to give an idea,” she said, adding Bixi has not surveyed users to determine how many car trips have been replaced.
The aim of the McGill survey was to gauge interest in integrating cycling and transit. Many cities are mulling such a marriage as a way to reduce congestion, air pollution and sedentary lifestyles.
The survey found most respondents – 63 per cent -favour combining cycling with transit. But there’s a split in how they want it done, according to a paper about the findings, which the researchers hope to present to a transportation conference in 2011.
People who occasionally cycle and use public transit said they like the idea of bringing two-wheelers on to buses, metros and trains.
On the other hand, those who use the two modes of transport more frequently would rather see more and better secure parking for bikes at transit hubs such as métro and train stations.
The survey results indicate that in Montreal, “the ideal would be that many different measures be implemented at the same time,” Bachand-Marleau said. Apart from extra parking and allowing more bikes on transit, she said, the Société de transport de Montréal could make it easier for bikes to get through métro turnstiles and install racks in some metro cars.
Currently on the métro, bikes are allowed during off-peak hours and only on the first car of a métro train; a maximum of four bikes are allowed. Bikes are permitted on two of five commuter train lines, only at off-peak hours.
As for Bixi, the service is well integrated into the metro system, with many of the bikes located near métro stations, Bachand-Marleau said. But Bixi is “concentrated in central Montreal so it can’t be used for trips that have a destination outside downtown.”
At the Société de transport de Montréal, “promoting intermodality” is a priority, said vice-chairperson Marvin Rotrand. “It can encourage potential customers who might now take their car to say: ‘You know, I can actually bike over to the métro station in 10 or 15 minutes and have a convenient parking spot for my bike, and it’s easy to take the subway downtown,’ ” he said.
The STM added 1,400 bike parking spots to métro stations, bus terminals and bus transfer points since 2008, to reach 2,450, Rotrand said. By 2012, there will be 3,200.
But there is no plan to allow bikes on métros at peak hours because platforms are already jammed, he said.
The STM is testing bike racks on buses but isn’t ready to put them in service, Rotrand said. Results of the tests will determine how the STM proceeds.
The Agence métropolitaine de transport has 1,300 bike parking spots at its 51 commuter train stations and has said it plans to add more.
To read the McGill researchers’ paper, go to montrealgazette.com/metnews
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