Boston Cyclists Have Big Hopes For Bike Share

By Jess Bidgood and Ben Taylor

April 22, 2011

A biker relaxes on the Charles River esplanade. (mcbrideh/Flickr)

BOSTON — This summer, a new fleet of sharable bikes is coming to Boston. On Thursday, Mayor Menino signed a $6 million contract with Alta Bike Share, declaring, "The car is no longer king in Boston."

The new bike-share program, officially named Hubway, will put over 600 bikes on 61 bike racks around the city. It's a bit like car-sharing service Zipcar, except members of the share can pick up a bike, take it where they need to go, and leave it in any rack they want. "People riding a bike from Dudley Square to Faneuil Hall, they can drop the bike off there, they can walk along the waterfront, to pick up another bike to return to their neighborhoods,” Menino said.
Menino's announcement touched off something of a celebration for dozens of cycling enthusiasts gathered on City Hall Plaza to watch (admittedly, their presence may have also been aided by free burritos). Ranging from young to old, this group of bike devotees might actually be the people least likely to use the share themselves, since many of the bikers already had their own bikes by their sides. But there was broad agreement in the crowd that the presence of a bike share can help Boston become a more two-wheeled city.
Samantha Wexler is the executive director of Bikes Not Bombs, a Jamaica Plain non-profit organization (recently rated the city's best non-profit by the Boston Phoenix) that uses bikes for community development. She said bike-share programs tend to encourage new or uncommitted bikers to look more closely at bikes as a viable transit option.
"People who maybe aren't used to biking in Boston will have an opportunity to try it,” Wexler said. "And the more people that we get on bikes, obviously, the more we begin to change what the city looks like."

Jed Jeng, a regular cyclist from Cambridge, came to the announcement because he's used a similar system already implemented in Montreal. He said a bike share won't just change the look of city transport — but what Bostonians can use it to see. "Hopfully, it'll allow people to take advantage of 'hidden gems' like (Somerville's) Union Square, which aren't really accessible on public transportation,"  Jeng said.
Nearby, 70-year-old Lois Levin talked about how difficult it's been for her to try and make her hometown of Newton more bike-friendly, mostly due to resistance from residents who complain that bike lanes narrow the roadways. She's wondering if the accessibility and utility of a bike-share in Boston won't change minds outside of the city.

And she pointed out that it might be people from outside of Boston who have the most to gain from the bike share, should they be unable to bring bikes into the city with them, but need to make short trips while there. “I would come into town on the T and use the bike share. I’m dying to use the bike share,” Levin said.

For 56-year-old Michael Blythe, news of a bike share couldn't have come at a better time. He lives in Savin Hill with no car, and used to bike around everywhere -— until his bike was ruined by the winter.

"I was going to have to buy one. So this is almost great timing for me,” Blythe said.

The program begins in July. Members can pay $85 to use the share for the year, or $5 per day. Rides under 30 minutes will be free.

Sign Up

Sign-up for WGBH News updates, WGBH promotions, and previews of what's coming up on WGBH TV.




Support for WGBH is provided by:
Become a WGBH sponsor