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.

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