Boston Gets Serious About Bike-Share

menino.jpgThat’s Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in the blue track suit. Photo: Boston Globe.

The AP reports that Boston is looking to launch a bike-share program — and not the skimpy, half-hearted variety:

The city has put out a request for proposals to create a bike share program. The proposal envisions a network of 150 stations scattered across the city with 1,500 bicycles available to students, commuters and visitors with the swipe of a card.

Officials eventually hope to expand the network to 600 stations in the greater metropolitan area with 6,000 bikes.

Talk about a turnaround. Boston streets didn’t even have any bike lanes until last year. But Mayor Thomas Menino has become an avid cyclist himself, and the city’s first bicycle coordinator, Nicole Freedman, is not short on ideas. Good thing they’re not afraid to succeed. The Boston announcement stands in marked contrast to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s plan for a pilot bike-share with — count ’em — 50 bikes.

For Boston (population ~ 600,000), a system with 1,500 bikes would merit comparison to the flagship bike-share systems in Europe. Barcelona’s Bicing, for instance, launched with 3,000 bikes and about 200 stations for a city with more than twice the residents and a land area about 25 percent bigger than Boston. Bike-share is more ubiquitous in Paris, where Vélib supplies about 20,000 bicycles to a city of just over two million inhabitants. (Matthew Roth at Streetsblog SF has a great post about ideal bike-share specs, and promo site B-Cycle provides a slick way to see the optimum numbers for your hometown.)

Elsewhere in the U.S., Minneapolis plans to launch a 1,000-bike system later this year, and Denver has a 500-bike system in the works. In New York, DOT signaled its interest in launching a bike-share system last year, but nothing so specific as Boston’s RFP has been released.

  • When I lived in Boston and worked for the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, that organization and the city were particular hung up on the idea that bicyclists were just fine and didn’t need any physical infrastructure accommodation beside a few bicycle racks. It’s great that they hired a serious coordinator and are moving now to install a built bicycle network, of which this bicycle sharing system will play a key role.

    Bravo Boston.

  • I love the idea, but I find it is putting the cart before the horse. We really need to concetrate on building safe bike networks in our cities first. Then create the bike share program. If it is not safe to ride, most potential users won’t bother. But if you have a critical mass of cyclists in a safe and well thought out network, I would assume you would see a large increase.

    I applaud the effort.

  • brent

    I actually think adding a couple thousand bikes to our local fleet would result in a safer network. When cyclists are numerous, the streets seem to have a way of self organizing into safer routes. Then its just a matter of restriping a few lanes.

  • shishi, if there isnt anybody riding, theirs no support for safe bike networks. Why pay for something no one will use?

    Also, Ben, save the enthusiasm for when the winner is announced. Its entirely possible they will chose a plan with 100 bikes.

  • I think this will be great for the Boston metro area, but only if they bring the surrounding towns of Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline on board and implement a single system that spans all four municipalities. Sure, Boston may only have 600,000 residents, but if you add in those other 3 cities and towns, the number jumps to almost 850,000, and considering how they interconnect geographically, the system would be far more appealing to riders if it was usable everywhere.

  • Ian W, the project is dot the entire region inside 1-95. The article is incorrect, the city did not put out the RFP, the region did.

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