The wheels of change are spinning in Montreal, and this time, they're winter-proof. BIXI Montreal is pedalling into uncharted territory with a pilot project. For the first time, you can ride regular BIXI bikes all year long, even when Jack Frost is nipping at your nose.
An extended BIXI season begins on November 16 across a 150 km² area in Montreal. You'll have access to 1,500 regular bikes sporting winterized tires and non-slip pedals. Electric bikes, however, will not be available until they return in spring.
Can you use BIXI in winter?
The BIXI Montreal pilot project, spanning seven boroughs, will let you use the bike-share service through April 14. More than 150 stations will stay in operation until mid-December, providing a smooth transition into the new system.
Stations are strategically positioned near year-round bike paths and by orange and green metro lines throughout Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Villeray – Saint-Michel – Parc-Extension, Mercier – Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Rosemont – La Petite-Patrie, Plateau-Mont-Royal, Ville-Marie, and the Sud Ouest. The network lets cyclists use plowed bike paths and is situated away from main roads to avoid car traffic.
A map of the winter bike BIXI stations that will be available during the winter.Courtesy of BIXI Montreal.
When some stations are removed mid-way through winter, they'll be greyed out on the BIXI app. Those that stay in operation will be cleared of snow regularly, ensuring a 130 cm snow-free perimetre. Some stations will get priority clearing, depending on popularity and traffic.
Winter BIXI memberships and rates
For those looking to continue their BIXI adventures past November 15, monthly memberships remain valid. New users can join with a monthly membership at $20 (+ tax) for 30 days or opt for a one-way pass at $1.25 plus tax.
Seasonal memberships concluded at 11:59 p.m. on November 15 and will resume only on April 15, 2024.
Gearing up for winter biking in Montreal
As daylight savings steal away the sunlight, wearing bright colors is the best fashion trend on two wheels. To ensure visibility in the darker winter months, Vélo Québec suggests dressing lightly enough for winter biking that you feel slightly chilly when you leave your house but have space to warm up as you pedal. Too many layers could you leave you sweating after a bike trip, which doesn't bode well with the cold.
The cycling advocacy group suggests a thin tuque under your helmet and a neck warmer. A winter helmet, like those used in skiing, equipped with earmuffs and compatible with ski goggles, is best for regular winter cyclists. Ski goggles are a must-have for protection against freezing winds or snow.
A Montrealer bikes in the winter on a road behind cars.Marc Bruxelle | Dreamstime
For upper body attire, a cross-country ski jacket with good ventilation is ideal, but a regular winter jacket works too. You'll want to layer up with a base layer in extreme cold. Protect your hands with warm mittens, or add thin gloves inside for extra cold conditions. Wear waterproof, breathable pants over warm layers for lower body protection, and opt for warm winter boots that fit comfortably on the pedals.
Vélo Québec advises starting with short routes, multilayer clothing, ski goggles, and good mittens for effective braking. Visibility is key, so make sure to be seen.
24/7 service, come rain, snow, or shine
BIXI's year-round service will be available 24/7, weather permitting. In severe conditions compromising safety, service may be suspended, with announcements on Facebook, Instagram, X (Twitter), and their homepage. Stations will appear grey on the BIXI app during closures, with updates posted when service resumes.
BIXI Montreal confirms the viability of winter biking in the city, despite the cold and snowy conditions. "Montreal typically sees average temperatures ranging from -6 to -15 degrees Celsius during winter months," they note. The city receives an average of 200 cm of snow in December, translating to approximately 6.5 cm per day. BIXI also references insights from other cities with similar winter conditions, stating, "We've contacted Chicago, Boston, and Washington, as they more or less experience the same reality as Montreal."
BIXI Montreal is a non-profit organization that manages the city's bike-sharing system in several areas, including downtown Montreal, Boucherville, Laval, Longueuil, East Montreal, Mount Royal, Terrebonne, and Westmount. As of 2023, the BIXI network stocked 10,000 bikes, including 2,600 electric bikes, across 884 stations.
What are the rules for BIXI?
Renting a BIXI bike in Montreal is a straightforward process, but it's important to keep in mind a few key rules. Firstly, while Quebec law doesn't require standard bicycle users to wear helmets, the SAAQ strongly recommends them for added safety.
When you rent a BIXI, you can keep it undocked for up to 24 consecutive hours. The time limit allows for extended rides across the city. But the responsibility for the bike's safety lies with you, and it's advisable to dock it at a station once you're finished riding. If a bike isn't returned within 24 hours, it's presumed stolen, and you could be charged up to $2,000.
Billing for BIXI bikes is based on the duration of use, except the first 45 minutes for regular bikes if you're a member, which are free.
You can use the BIXI app to buy a one-way pass or membership, then scan the QR code on your chosen bike, or use a terminal with your credit card to get a five-digit unlocking code. Once the bike is unlocked, you're ready to explore the wonderland that is Montreal during the winter on two wheels.
BIXI breaks the ice
Over the past few years, BIXI Montreal surveys have found nearly 40% of users were eager to ride through the colder months. That enthusiasm, coupled with Montreal's extensive network of snow-cleared bike paths, suggests that BIXI's year-round service is more than just a cool idea — it's a practical solution for many.
By keeping their wheels turning all year, BIXI is adapting to the seasons and giving cyclists the opportunity to embrace winter riding in a whole new way.