Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Back in April 2008 while riding at Critical Mass, two friends decided to go ahead and try to motivate more people to get on their bikes in Montreal. Melanie Gomez and Peneloppe Riopelle got some help from their friend Jean-Michel Simoneau, a webmaster of sorts, to slap together a blog and promote cycling. They called it "À Vélos Citoyens" (To your Bikes Citizens).

They started to post, linked the blog to their Facebook page and even created a group with over 1400 members. Then one day they came up with a scoop on the blog, a spy photo of the upcoming City sponsored self serve bicycle program bike, now known as the "Bixi". A lot of people couldn't wait for this program to get off the ground and there was a lot of buzz around it.

Now here's the kicker, turns out these three people don't exist. An article published by cyberpress exposed the whole thing as a scam. The PR company, who is really behind all this, doesn't think so, they say it was a viral campaign. All of a sudden, the three "crusaders" don't have an account on Facebook anymore and the blog is now labelled as the official Bixi blog. I learned today that this is called "astroturfing" where someone emulates a grassroots movement to sell their stuff.

It's really too bad, the Bixi is a noble cause and I don't feel that this fact alone permits someone to scam people into wanting the product. Right now I feel violated as much as I find the scam absolutely brilliant. I guess you learn something new everyday.

The Bixi program officially started in Montreal on May 12 2009 in the downtown core.

Until next time, ride safe and Godspeed.

Gerry :) (I actually am a real blogger)


Anonymous said...

yeah... bump for real blogger !!

Unknown said...

How is this a scam?? Was the idea not to get more people out on bicycles? The bixie program is indeed getting people outdoors and getting people to stop driving (especially in the downtown area). The cost for renting a bicycle for 1/2 hour is amazing, and with all 300 stations ready by the end of the summer the bixie program will definably cut emissions in the city. Why do you feel violated by this?

Gerry Lauzon said...

The idea of the "scam" was to get people all hyped up and sold on the idea of the BIXI. Apart from the fact that the way it was done is very questionable, it wasn't necessary. The people targeted in that scam were already all hyped up about the BIXI and pushing for it on their own. Creating a fake grass roots movement only managed to piss these people off and rightly so. There's nothing wrong with promoting the BIXI up front, but faking a trio of bike activist is not the moral way to go in my opinion. If you feel otherwise, then it's your prerogative.

Gerry :)

The Frugal Scotsman said...


I can't argue about feeling unhappy about the marketing ploy. It's a grey area: yes, the campaign was a lie, but it did result in an interesting idea, and a probable social good.

Additionally, I read about the BIXI, and I was surprised at the cost of the programme. Is it not somewhere on the order of over C$1,000,000?

Whatever the case, though, I'm glad you're a real blogger!


Ronsonic said...

If you have to lie to get people interested in your product, cause or ideas, they suck.

Or at least you have proven that you think they suck too hard to stand on their own.

History has seen a large number of lies that "serve a greater good." Those turned out badly. Things that are actually good are best served by the truth.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I just left Montreal and used the Bixi bikes! We don't know anything about the "scam" but were very pleased with being able to rent bikes. We returned them before 30 min and then walked some and re rode and so forth. We had 24 hours to ride and once we figured out the system, we had a great time for $5- ea. They did charge 2 security deposits for $215 ea. So we're looking for that to come off our bank statement. The bikes were in great shape, but the return slots only worked about 75% of the time. We had to keep shoving in our bikes and I noticed the stand was starting to crack on many of them. Hopefully, they will solve this. It is wild as there are bike paths and many fast bikers and walkers and cars, but we survived as did everyone else we saw riding. This was all during the Jazz Festival so it was a traffic jam in cars. Awesome idea. I wish Atlanta had a clue about biking. Jean

Unknown said...

I'm happy you enjoyed the Bixi and our city Jean. The article was to point out the sleezy way the ad campaign was done. The Bixi itself is a great idea and it didn't need this kind of under handed approach, it was already a winner before leaving the gate.

Gerry :)

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