By Patrick Kelleher-Calnan
According to Boston bike czar Nicole Freedman, bike share will “take us to the next level” in the quest to turn Boston into a world-class cycling city. Freedman has said bike share would allow users to rent bikes by the hour from stations around the city for a low fee and thus “mainstream” cycling by increasing bike traffic and bringing new riders onto the road. Bike share programs like the one planned for Boston are growing quite popular in Europe, but for the most part are still proving their worth in the cities of the United States.
Though in an interview with the Union Rider Freedman said the city is still “very much in process,” she was able to describe the plan for the initial rollout as it now stands. Boston’s bike share is expected to start with approximately 600 bikes docked at 60 stations, spaced 300-400 yards apart. The city would like to see the program piloted in 2011, but Freedman emphasized that a delayed implementation is preferable to a haphazard one. In order to maintain a certain density, stations will initially be limited to Downtown, the Back Bay, the Fenway, the Longwood Medical Area, and parts of Allston and Roxbury. The ultimate goal is to expand over time, turning into a regional initiative that would include Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline. Brookline’s intention to join the effort was highlighted earlier this month.
The best way to predict the effect of bike share on Boston may be to look at the experience of cities with established or new programs. Sebastian Bührmann, a consultant who has studied bike share in Europe as part of a New and Innovative Concepts for Helping European transport Sustainability (NICHES) commission on innovative transportation policy, points out that bike share programs vastly increase the number of trips taken by bike. He wrote in 2008 that public bikes in Barcelona were being rented up to 15 times per day each, and 75,000-140,000 trips a day were taken on the 20,600 bikes of the Vélib’ program in Paris. According to the NICHES commission, “within the first six months… 2 million trips were taken with the Public Bicycles.”
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