By most accounts, Bixi — Montreal’s much-loved bike-sharing service — is a runaway success.
It has thousands of impassioned riders who use it to get around for 7 months a year. It has boosted cycling culture and encouraged more bike lanes and safety measures to be put in place. It has gotten otherwise inactive people exercising more. It frees up road and transit capacity, it’s good for our health, it’s good for the environment, and — for a time — it was good for our city’s image. The bike’s designs won awards and were sold and adopted in a dozen other cities around the world. For a time, Bixi was Montreal’s darling.
Ah, but here’s the rub: It’s not making money.
In fact, it was bleeding so much cash and had racked up so much debt that it had to file for bankruptcy and get taken over by the city.
And that is a very, very big problem for Bixi. So big, in fact, that you merely have to mention the word “Bixi” to just about anyone, and the first thing they’ll say in response is “they’re in financial trouble, aren’t they?”
The thing is, those folks aren’t wrong. Bixi isn’t profitable. But does that mean it’s not successful?