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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Seeing Toronto by Bixi

By Michael Fonda - Chicago

All of Avison Young gathered in Toronto last week for our Annual General Meeting. I’ll let Mark Rose or Earl Webb blog about company performance and our upcoming exciting announcements. This blog is about how my colleagues, Christine Choi and Hugh Williams (pictured) , and I used our free time on Saturday to experience a little Toronto serendipity.

Leaving the Royal York Hotel on Saturday morning, we decided to walk north to the University of Toronto campus. On our way we stumbled upon a Bixi bicycle docking station and decided to bike rather than walk. Looking like the tourists we were, it took us a fair bit of time to figure out the process of renting a Bixi. It’s actually relatively easy. Insert your credit card (you are charged $5.65 for 24 hour use of the bike); punch the icons on a touch screen; receive a piece of paper with a six-digit code printed on it; punch in the code on the docking station; pull the bike away from the station and off you go (after adjusting the seat height).

We rode to the Annex (a great residential neighborhood close to downtown); dropped in at the Nike store’s Runners Lounge on Bloor Street; visited the Royal Ontario Museum (because Hugh was born in Jamaica and because Michael Lee-Chin, the wealthiest person in Jamaica, is a benefactor of the museum we couldn’t miss that venue); the Art Gallery of Toronto; peddled around the University of Toronto and Chinatown; parked the bikes at a Bixi station downtown and ate lunch at Earl’s (a restaurant not associated with AY's U.S. President, Earl Webb).

The next morning, before our 24 hours expired, we road east to the Distillery District, explored the St. Lawrence Market and ate breakfast at the Le Petite Dejeuner (where we chatted up the talented proprietress, Tonya Reid). After breakfast we rode back to the Royal York, having deposited our bikes at closest Bixi station. We departed Toronto from the Island Airport on Porter Airlines.

Bixi is an interesting concept. Starting in Montreal, Bixi is now in eight cities and will soon be rolling into New York City with 10,000 bikes and 600 bike stations. The company appears to be a private-public partnership with a “green” business model. Read here for a more in-depth commentary on Bixi. Seeing Toronto by bicycle was fun. We met a lot of helpful Torontonians who directed us to restaurants, interesting neighborhoods, and attractions. When we were stumped by quirks in the Bixi process, knowledgeable Torontonians helped us out. Next year’s Annual General Meeting will take place in Washington D.C. Bixi is there and we will be too.

Next time you are in a city served by Bixi, try it.

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