Boston Launches First Bike Share Program in Mass.

Posted by jcashman

BOSTON (AP) — With its spaghetti-like tangle of streets and legendarily pushy drivers, Boston hasn’t always been viewed as a haven for bicycle riders.

The city is hoping to shed that image by launching the nation’s newest bicycle-sharing program with more than 600 two-wheelers available for short-term rental at 61 sidewalk vending stations across the city.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said the program’s goal is to make the city more bicycle friendly and reduce its reliance on cars.

“The car is no longer king in Boston,” Menino said moments before dozens of bicycle riders took to the wide plaza in front of Boston City Hall to celebrate the official start of the program.

Menino, who’s adopted bicycle riding in recent years, said he hopes the New Balance Hubway system — named after its principal corporate sponsor — will foster a stronger cycling culture in Boston while helping knit together the city’s neighborhoods.

“The sense of togetherness in the cycling community is so strong,” he said. “I am so happy to be part of that community.”

While the program is the first of its kind in Massachusetts, other cities across the nation have already launched bike sharing initiatives, including Washington, Denver, and Minneapolis.

New York City is also planning to create a similar bike-sharing program.

User fees and corporate sponsors will help pay for the program. Rentals will cost $5 a day or $85 for annual memberships. Already 700 individuals have signed up for annual memberships.

The system uses “swipe card” technology that allows users to rent bikes from one station and return them at another across the city. Typically, there will be about 10 bikes available at each station.

Local officials are planning to expand the program into the neighboring communities of Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville, with as many as 5,000 bikes eventually available for rent.

The initiative isn’t being universally welcomed.

Critics say Boston’s narrow, winding streets are less than ideal for bicycles. They also complain that bicycle riders in the city routinely race through red lights and stop signs and are a menace to drivers and pedestrians alike.

The city is responding by stationing more police at key intersections to ticket scofflaw bicycles who disobey the rules of the road and drivers who create dangerous situations for cyclists.

The city is also launching an education safety program and providing free helmets through the Boston Public Health Commission.

Menino said the city has already added 38 miles of bike lanes and hundreds of bike racks to accommodate riders.

The turnaround is notable for a city that was once routinely ranked as one of the worst in the country for bicycle riders by Bicycling magazine.

Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority General Manager Richard Davey said he hopes the program will help extend the reach of the subway and bus network by giving riders the option of hopping on a bike after they get off the public transportation system.

George Ulrich has been commuting the seven miles from his home in the city’s Roslindale neighborhood to downtown Boston for the past 14 years through rain, shine or snow. The 58-year-old state technology worker said he welcomes the prospect of more bicyclists on the roads.

“There’s safety in numbers,” he said. “Cars are going to realize that we are really out there sharing the road.”

The regional bike sharing program has received $5.7 million in public money — including $3 million from the Federal Transit Administration — and $1.9 million through corporate sponsorships for the next three years.

That’s in addition to other grants, sponsorships, user revenues, donations, and advertisements.

Additional funding was being sought through naming and logo rights to the bicycle vending stations.

The Boston Red Sox, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University and Northeastern University are among those organizations who have already agreed to sponsor stations, according to the city.



Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


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Posted by jcashman on Jul 28 2011. Filed under Featured - For home page featured article, Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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