If you were in Boston last summer and fall, then most likely you noticed the silver and green bikes people were riding all across the city. This was not an exceptionally popular brand of bike: it was Hubway, Boston’s very own bike-sharing program, which has been sponsored by Boston-based New Balance.
What is bike-sharing? It shares its DNA with programs like ZipCar: you pay to use something, but only when you want to use it. This way you can avoid having to store your car (in the case of ZipCar) or your bike (in the case of Hubway). By sharing in a system with other members, costs can be kept low and you can get added mobility only when you want to pay for it.
Bike-sharing has been implemented in cities across the US and around the world in varying degrees. Boston’s relatively new system is made up of 600 bikes at 60 stations throughout the city. Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC has a system of 1200 bikes spread across 140 stations. While these are both great systems, they pale in comparison to the system in Hangzhou, China which sports 50,000 bikes at 2,050 stations.
Why is bike-sharing important? It makes it much easier for a broad range of people to use bikes to get around. Not everyone has space to store a bike indoors or wants to have to find a safe place to park a bike when it’s not being used. Also, by putting more people on the roads in bikes, we get safety in numbers. We can get drivers more used to seeing cyclists and more aware that they should expect to see cyclists when they are driving in Boston.
This same idea of getting more people on bikes is behind the city’s effort to dramatically increase Boston’s bike network. The Boston Bike Plan is the city’s blueprint for bringing bike accessibility to every neighborhood in Boston. Boston currently has 103 miles of bike facilities (45 miles on-street, and 58 miles off-street). The Bike Plan would expand the system to a total of 320 miles. It is an ambitious plan, but with the backing of City Hall has a great shot at being fully implemented.
Working in conjunction with one another, Hubway and the Boston Bike Plan will radically change biking in Boston, putting more cyclists on the road in more parts of the city.
These two programs have the potential to make Boston a healthier, cleaner city with less traffic. And even for people who don’t want to bike, more people on bikes means less cars on the road and less congestion.
Better bike facilities and more cyclists are good things for everyone, and it is encouraging to see Boston taking these steps to embrace the bicycle.
– Nick Downing, Future Boston Program Manager