When Gérald Tremblay,
the mayor of Montreal, inaugurated North America’s first large-scale
bicycle-sharing system on Tuesday, an uncooperative microphone forced
him to shout to the crowd in front of city hall.

Fortunately, the computer-chip based, solar-powered, WiFi-enabled base station that’s the heart of the Bixi system worked flawlessly when Mr. Tremblay set off on a ceremonial first ride.

As explained at the Web site of the city’s parking authority, which oversees the program, it works like this:

bike share

user takes a bike from one of the stations, pays at an automated pay
station, and drops the bike off at any pay station in the network. The
bike becomes another mode of urban transport unto itself, a practical,
economical, ecological and healthy alternative to energy-guzzling

Bixi is nothing if not ambitious. The service is starting out with
3,000 of the specially designed bicycles distributed among 300
closely-spaced stations in its downtown core. But while it was directly
inspired by Vélib, the service that started in Lyon, France, before moving to Paris, Bixi differs in many respects.

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