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Fate of BIXI bikes to be determined in fall

Bixi Toronto is struggling to meets its debt payments to suppliers. Cyclists ride past a Bixi bicycle stand in Toronto, Ont. Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The fate of Toronto's troubled BIXI bike-sharing program will have to wait until the fall, but there are strong signs that the city is preparing to come to its aid.

The mayor's executive committee voted late Wednesday night to send the matter back to staff. The directions to staff remain confidential, but after the vote public works chair Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said he is pleased with the outcome.

"We are going in the right direction," he said. "My preference would be for a city agency like the parking authority to take over BIXI," he added, a comment that suggests a deal involving the TPA is in the works.

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Earlier this year, city staff warned that BIXI Toronto Inc., the operator of the program, could not meet its debt payments and owed about $1-million to suppliers. As part of a deal to bring the bike-sharing system to Toronto, the city agreed to backstop a loan for Bixi, an action that will leave taxpayers on the hook for about $3.9-million if the operation goes under.

Mr. Minnan-Wong has suggested the city redirect money intended to build automated public washrooms to cover that loan. Without its debt obligations, he says the BIXI says is close to breaking even.

Before the meeting, Mr. Minnan-Wong indicated he would present that recommendation during the closed discussions of the bike program.

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