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Do-It-Yourself Neighbourhood Bike Share, by James Schwartz

This great article was sourced to The Urban Country and depicts a p...   

DIY Bike Share

Do-it-yourself bike share - Photo by Xander /

You won’t find BIXI bike sharing in his neck of the woods. In fact, BIXI may never cover his west Toronto neighbourhood. Instead of waiting, ‘Xander set-up his own DIY community bike share system in his neighbourhood to provide his neighbours bicycles for hire:

“Since I had more bikes than I needed for my own family, I started opening up the use of the bikes to people in the neighbourhood who may not have a bike, or a child seat, or just needed something temporary until they got a bike of their own. We have a communal daycare at our house so it’s great exposure for the next generation of cyclists and It’s a great way to meet neighbours.”

Xander’s high tech bike share works on facial recognition. Bike share “members” ring Xander’s doorbell, and if he recognizes the member and knows where they live, he presses a button to open the garage door. The member then grabs a bike, uses it, and then drops it off on his front porch or back yard when they are done with it.

To become a member, a simple phone number/address exchange is usually sufficient (there are no fees). Members bring their own locks and helmets (if required), though Xander does keep some spares handy. If the bike gets damaged or stolen, no big deal – they just need to find another bike to replace it.

The idea was originally inspired by the 2010 Let’s Go Ride a Bike Summer Games task list:

  • Go on a group ride

  • Leave a nice note on a bike, or say hi to a cyclist at a red light

  • Schedule a bike date with a friend or partner — dress up!

  • Recruit a non-biking friend for a ride

  • Ride with your family

Xander comes from a large family and he wanted to supply his extended family enough bikes to do rides at family events:

“Through the multitude of garage sales and donations from neighbours looking to free up space I’ve been able to fix up and supply enough bikes and accessories for at least a family of 10 (including toddlers and kids.) I have yet to get a cargo bike, or a trail a bike, but that is next on my list.”

His DIY bike share gets a steady 10-20 shares per week. In addition to welcoming new families into the neighbourhood, the bike share system allows him to recruit some local high school students as future members.

There are currently 20 bicycles available for hire, and he spends approximately $25 on each bicycle to initially get it up and running. The system itself is revenue neutral however, since members usually end up buying the bicycle in the end, so the profit from the bicycle sale covers the maintenance costs.

Xander’s bike share system is more or less an extension of his website – 416 Cycle Style – where he posts stylish photographs of everyday people on bicycles. His site isn’t officially affiliated with Mikael Colville-Andersen’s Cycle Chic movement, but there are a lot of similarities, and Xander was invited to attend the Cycle Chic Blogger Conference currently taking place in Barcelona, Spain.

Xander’s DIY bike share system promotes a more liveable city by encouraging more people to use bicycles:

“For my community a bicycle can help to replace the little trips that are so often done by car. Especially since we do have bike lanes along our main corridor to schools and grocery.

The more that people in my neighbourhood are exposed to others doing their everyday tasks by bicycle, will help to promote a more liveable neighbourhood and city.

I know people are scared that their bike may get ,“Kenked” (this means ‘nicked’, ‘nabbed’ or ‘stolen’ in Toronto dialect) but the benefits of sharing an experience vs. sharing a bicycle far outweigh the drawbacks.”

Here are a few photos of Xander’s family and his bike share stockpile:

Xander's family

DIY Bike Share

DIY Bike Share

DIY Bike Share

Do-it-yourself bike share – All photos by Xander /

Xander has landed on something special with his DIY bike share. He is drastically improving his community in the short term, encouraging people to use bicycles as transportation in the long term, and he is directly improving his community and city in a large way.

If you have some extra garage space and are interested in starting your own community bike share, send me an email and I’ll put you in touch with Xander to give you some tips on how you too can operate your own bike sharing system.

It’s a great way to connect with your community and shape the path to a better future for your city.

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at

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