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For the record, it all started in Montreal, where a company called Bixi introduced a service called, coincidentally, Bixi Montreal, in 2009. It's since spread to a number of other cities in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Go Canada!
I find initiatives like this rather inspiring because bike sharing services like this provide a new, inexpensive, easily accessible way of getting around the city. Urban transportation has for so long been dominated by the almighty car that it's refreshing to see a humble bike assert its place in the asphalt jungle. For folks afraid to leave their own bikes locked outside - and let's be honest, even if I take my deliberately old, beaten-up "beater bike" downtown for a meeting, I still worry when it's locked, alone, to a pole - a service like this could be an ideal solution for ad hoc, worry-free pedalling.
It isn't a perfect solution by any means. There have been conflicting reports in recent years about the service's financial viability, and the decidedly non-eco requirements to truck trailers filled with bikes from station to station to ensure even distribution. The automation-heavy solution also doesn't always work as it should, leaving riders either unable to get a bike on the road, or unable to check one back in when they're done.
These are all very real challenges, but at the same time nothing is ever perfect. Complex systems take time to mature, and we'll never improve city life if we don't push the bounds every once in a while. I'm glad a bunch of Montrealers chose to do just that. And I'm glad folks around the world are now benefitting from their efforts. Ride on.
Your turn: would you support something like this in your area?