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The Biggest Bike-Share Beneficiaries Won’t Be Cyclists

5:09 PM EST on February 27, 2012

This column on the "super-users" of Boston's Hubway bike-share system was a breath of fresh air after reading some of our local NYC coverage depicting bike-share planning as a raging conflict between car owners, pedestrians, and bike advocates.

Writer Jonathan Simmons does a quick profile of the Hubway customers who use the system more than anyone else:

With Hubway set to reopen next week, I was interested in hearing from the Gold Club riders (the 6 men and women who logged the most trips on Hubway) about their experience with biking around town. Here’s what I learned.

To begin with, none of these Gold Club members are what you’d describe as a “hardcore cyclist.” Typical of the group was Andrew Schwartz, who prior to joining Hubway had not ridden a bike in years. Likewise, Caroline Fridmar (who racked up 166 trips on Hubway last year) is a self-described “casual cyclist” who likes to pedal from her home in the North End to her job as a concierge at the Ritz Carlton. Hubway bikes are so comfortable that she often wore high heels and a dress for her commute.

Here's the thing about bike-share: Whether you consider yourself a cyclist or not, it provides a convenient way to make trips in a city environment. In fact, the people who get the most out of bike-share are the subscribers who have no bike of their own. You can have an unlimited Metrocard and still get a lot out of bike-share -- using it to make trips that start or end where the transit system doesn't go. You can own a car and still get a lot out of bike-share -- making short errands without the hassle of searching for parking.

In some ways, the same goes for bike lanes and bus lanes too. They're not only for the people who already bike and ride the bus. They're for the would-be cyclists who need the streets to be safer and the would-be bus riders who need bus trips to be speedier in order to switch modes.

Bike-share is going to make it more obvious that providing new transportation options is not a zero sum game where one interest group has to lose in order for another to gain. Once the system goes live, the biggest winners are going to be New Yorkers who aren't cyclists.

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