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We used to watch jealously from the sidelines as people zipped around us on the streets of Paris on their BIXI rented bikes. Then BIXI came to Montreal, and we wondered when we’d see the bike-sharing program on our hometown streets.

A year later, the BIXI bike-sharing program has finally arrived in Toronto, offering access to an active and green alternative form of transportation. We have a love affair with BIXI. Why? Because it’s cheap, fast, easy, and cool. You can stylishly borrow a bike in 3 easy steps:

1. Pick a bike from the nearest BIXI station, insert your key, and take the bike.
2. Ride away! The first 30 minutes of any trip is free.
3. Return the bike to any network station when you’re done.

The global phenomenon, which is now established in Minneapolis, Washington, London, and Melbourne, is thrilling because it means more people are getting on bikes and getting off of oil. Montreal has always been a leader in urban street style, but they’ve set the bar high on this one; by the end of the summer of 2009, the city had already installed 5,000 bicycles and 400 stations.

Check out how many stations the city has now; this unbelievable map shows how easy it is to use the system – with this many stations, you’ll be able to pick up and drop off a bike just about anywhere. Ride to work, ride to school, ride home – it looks to us as if BIXI is more efficient (and a whole lot cheaper) even than public transit. Plus, if you live in Montreal, it’s easier than ever to bike to work with BIXI corporate incentives.

On a mobile phone?

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Mr. Something Something & Elaine

BIXI was unveiled in Toronto at the end of July 2010, with one major catch: in order for BIXI to become a sustainable feature of Toronto’s landscape, 1,000 new members need to sign on by November of 2010. Have you signed up yet? It costs $95 plus tax for an entire year of a BIXI membership (that’s less than a month on Toronto’s transit)!

Sign up today to get the system officially rolling in our streets, so that we can elevate our coolness factor to Montreal’s, and have biking as a permanent part of our city! We’re counting down until this kind of idea hits the rest of Canada. Here’s hoping that one day, our traffic jams will look like this:

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, exercising your pedal power is key. Enter our contest to nominate a bike riding hero, highlighting the challenges they face and how they overcome them. Let us know about your ride to work, how you envision a better biking future, or your efforts as a bicycle innovator, using bike-powered solutions to change the planet. Contest details, prizing, and more information can be found here.

GreenHeroes.tv is all about saving the planet, one story at a time. Do you have a great story to tell about how you’re helping to make the world a greener place? Enter the contest to nominate a friend or yourself – you could be one of Canada’s next GreenHeroes!

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The Green Heroes team hit the streets of Toronto for the last Pedestrian Sunday of the summer months, in search of fashionable people with practical tips on staying chic on the bike ride to work. While at the event, we met with the head of the Toronto Cyclists Union, Yvonne Bambrick, who works with the bike union to provide a unified voice for cyclists in Toronto through outreach and awareness. Yvonne took a moment to talk to us about the joys of biking, the benefits to ourselves and the planet, and how easy it is for each of us to pick up a bike and ride to work.

Yvonne has been biking since she was a child, strapped on the back of her father’s bicycle. To her, biking has always been a normal thing, and so, it was a normal extension for her to start biking to high school at age 15 from her East York home to downtown Toronto. She loved biking for many of the same reasons as us – she found it easy to get around, convenient, and inexpensive.

Yvonne points out that she is not anti-car; in fact, for a time, she was working in Montreal in jobs that required her to own and drive a car. But when she decided to do her Masters degree and sold her car to move to Australia, she never looked back. She recognizes, “Cars are tools. We need to re-assess and evaluate how we use the car tool, considering overall the negative effects from production through to use and disposal and everything involved.”

Now reliant primarily on her bike, Yvonne does things differently, explaining, “I have changed my lifestyle accordingly and I have chosen the kinds of jobs that don’t need it, and I have chosen where I live accordingly as well.” Most of the GreenHeroes team is already committed to riding their bikes to work and around the city, but Yvonne reminded us just why we keep at it. It’s one of the most efficient ways of travel, because unlike inefficient transit systems, you’re guaranteed to arrive at your destination at a predictable time.

Forget sitting in a line of idling cars; we’d rather be exercising, minimizing our environmental footprints, and having fun cruising around the city. We get to make our own efficient routes, and relax along the way. Did we mention the cost savings? Riding our bikes means we avoid the costs of a metropass and car payments, insurance, gas, parking, tickets, and repairs. Instead, our dollars can go straight into the local economy as we wine and dine around town. As Yvonne explains, “the benefits are collective and not just individual, and that’s the beauty of being on a bicycle.”

Chic Tips

Think you can’t be chic on a bicycle? Think again! Bikes are sexy (everyone is talking about it), so if you plan on biking to work, you’ll be right in style. Try some of our collected favourite tips to stay chic and comfortable on your ride. And comment below or enter our contest with your own tips!

John Bessai, GreenHeroes Producer:

1. Avoid having your fancy pants getting stuck in the chains of your bike. Use Velcro straps to hold back your pants, and get the added fluorescent bonus provided by some brands of the strips, to keep you safe!

2. Stow away a plastic bag in your bag so that, should the heavens decide to open up while you’re shopping, your seat will stay nice and dry and protected for your bottom

Anna Denkers, Bikes to work:

3. Why not wear a pair or bike shorts under your skirt? That way, you don’t have to worry about your skirt flying up as you pedal your way down the streets.

Simon Strauss, Toronto Cyclists Union, Board Member:

4. These days, helmets are the coolest things to hit the streets. Skip the old-school head covering, and go for something a little more skater-chic.

Yvonne Bambrick, Director of Communications, Toronto Cyclists’ Union:

5. Plan your route in advance, and choose your preference on how you get there: fastest or safest. If you haven’t biked in a while, try new routes with a buddy, and try practicing routes on the weekend. There are also great resources, like this handbook, available to help you.

6. Purchase a skirt guard for your bike to protect your skirt from the back wheel, so you’ll always arrive in style, with a full skirt in tow.

7. Attach flowers onto the front of your basket. It makes everything look prettier, so maybe you’ll smile more, and make others smile too. Plus, it’s a theft deterrent. It takes a certain type of person to make off with flower-loaded bike. You can pick some up on the cheap at your local dollar store.

Aviva Friedman, GreenHeroes Team Member:

8. Pack a change of clothes. If your work has a shower, great! If not, try finding a gym nearby where you can go to have a quick rinse-off, or just take a few extra moments to cool down

Melanie Redman, Social Mission Collaborator and GreenHeroes Team Member:

9. Attach a detachable wire basket onto the back of your bike, for better balance. That way, when you go to purchase fruits and veggies from the local market, you can easily pop off you basket and use it for shopping!

Practice dismounting in a skirt. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro!

Do you ride your bike to work? Do you hop on your bike when you need to get somewhere? What are some of the benefits you’ve had from biking, and how do you see a better biking future? Share your story here for your chance to win a prize in our contest!

Don’t forget to leave a comment here and on the Pedal Power campaign page!

GreenHeroes.tv is all about saving the planet, one story at a time. Do you have a great story to tell about how you’re helping to make the world a greener place? Enter the contest to nominate a friend or yourself – you could be one of Canada’s next GreenHeroes!

Watch and learn about our celebrity GreenHeroes

Read our blog to keep up-to-date on GreenHeroes Campaigns

Follow us on Twitter

Become our fan on Facebook