A new bike share program expected to be in full swing by July is a win for seasoned cyclists, and also a perfect way to introduce more people to the tw0-wheel method of getting around, bikers say.
"I think it's a great way to get people who are not just bikers, but are plain, ordinary people to get out on a bike and explore the city," said Jamaica Plain resident Mike Halle, who has been very active in helping make JP more bike-friendly.
He was one of many who rode his bike to City Hall Plaza Thursday afternoon, lured by the promise of free Boloco burritos and word of an announcement from the Mayor.
In front of a large crowd at government center, Mayor Thomas M. Menino signed a contract with Alta Bicycle Share, which will soon start installing 600 bicycles in 61 stations across the city. Locations are still being determined, but will include Kenmore Square, Roxbury, the South End, Longwood Medical area, Allston, Brighton, Back Bay, and more.
"The car is no longer king in Boston," Menino said.
The $4.5 million Hubway, as it's being called, is completely funded by grants, including $3 million from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), $450,000 from the Boston Public Health Commission, and $250,00 from the Metropolitan Planning Organization's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.
How it works
People will be able to rent bikes from solar-powered touch-screen kiosks throughout the city. Hubway will feature "swipe card" payments and will cost about $5 a day, with free trips that are 30 minutes or less, and $85 annual memberships.
Similar to systems in Washington D.C., Montreal, London and Melboure, people can rent bikes from one kiosk, and return them at another kiosk across the city. Typically, there will be about 10 bikes at each station.
"We can put a station down in about an hour," said Alta Bicycle Share president Alison Cohen.
Eventually, Hubway could grow to as many as 5,000 bikes across Cambridge, Brookline and Somerville, said Marc Draisen, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
"Bike Share will transform the region," Draisen said. "It's a completely new part of our transportation network, giving people a green and healthy way to get around, closing gaps in the MBTA, and providing the first and last mile connection that often prevents people from using transit."
Going the distance
Indeed, the bike share program would come in handy for, say, those last two miles from the T stop to the grocery store, said Brookline resident Kevin Foster.
"There's some people that would already ride the T, and then have a two mile walk," he said. "It would make sense for them to join this program and rent a bike."
Foster also commutes to work nine months out of the year, from Coolidge Corner to South Station. His route takes him through Boston Common and along the Charles River Esplanade -- one of the most beautiful bike paths in the country, he said.
The bike share, he said, is also great for recreational purposes, getting more people out to enjoy the scenery he experiences every day on his way to work.
A cleaner, healthier future
The news conveniently comes just in time for Earth Day today. The city is also looking at existing bike lanes, and last week Boston Bikes, the city's bike department, met in the Boston Public Library to talk about installing bike lanes along Mass Ave., from Symphony Hall to the Charles River.
"People are going to see new people on the roads, and there's going to be a new awareness of how many people ride bikes," said Hall, from J.P.
Which is exactly the city's plan. Menino said he hopes to turn Boston into one of the world's premiere cycling cities.
“Over the past four years, we have taken great strides toward making Boston a city that welcomes and encourages bicycling but this innovative bike share system may be the most significant step yet,” Menino said. “We have worked tirelessly to build the infrastructure necessary to support such a system and we are confident that there is no better time to make Hubway a reality. We have had the goal of going from worst to first, and with Hubway we’re nearly there."