And They're Off! Boston Bike Share Launches

By Jess Bidgood

Jul. 29, 2011

BOSTON — Boston's landmark bike-sharing program, Hubway, is live. On Friday, its first full day of operation, over 600 bikes were ready in kiosks around Boston, waiting to be borrowed, ridden and left at another kiosk in the city. Supporters say the program comes with social and environmental benefits and represents progress in a city that was once famous for hostility to bikers, although opponents argue that the influx of bikes on Boston streets could make roads more dangerous.

The Hubway inaugural ride kicked off on Thursday as Mayor Menino looked on. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

Hubway was formally launched Thursday, with a couple hundred volunteers riding the bikes from City Hall Plaza to their first kiosk.

After Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino sounded the foghorn that launched the ride, he touted the program's environmental benefits. "Boston is, more now than ever before, becoming a real cycling city and we're really enjoying that. It's good for the carbon footprint, good for the environment, it's the way the younger people in our city want to travel to work," Menino said.

One of those young people is Gil Park. A student at Emmanual College, Park said he'll be signing up for Hubway because it's perfect for his lifestyle — and eliminates some of the downsides of bike ownership. "I've always wanted to get a bicycle, but I was also concerned about theft and all that concerned, so I think this is very valuable for students," Park said.

It's not just potential members who are jazzed about Hubway. George Ulrich, of the Mass. Cycling Union, says he probably won't need Hubway because he already takes his bike everywhere, but he thinks the program will have external benfits for cyclists like him. "It's going to be adding a lot more cyclists to the city and I think that there's safety in numbers. And I think that to have more cyclists on the road, we're going to be able to get more respect from the car riders," Ulrich said.

Boston City Councilor Mike Ross is a pretty serious cyclist himself, but he says Hubway solves a problem that his sportier bikes don't. "The bikes that I have, they're not meant to wear with a business suit, but these bikes, their gears are protected and you can literally be wearing anything and be anywhere and get on one and use it as a commuting tool," Ross said.

Ross hopped onto one of the bikes for a test run, accompanied on another bike by Councilor Felix Arroyo.

He said bikers need only to be sensible in order to stay safe on Boston streets. "Stop at stop lights, stop at stop signs, be courteous… and what will wind up happening is people will get used to this just like anything else," Ross said.

Menino says the bikes represent a huge step forward for Boston. "People said Boston would never do it because we're a city of the past. We're not a city of the past. We're a city of the future and this proves that we're a city of the future," Menino said.

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