How do you get a city to learn how to ride a bike? Nicole Freedman, Director of Boston Bikes and the city’s “bike czar” sat down with Inhabitat.com to talk through the transformation of a city where car is the primary means of transport. Freedman has been galvanizing the city of Boston in preparation for a sizable bike-sharing program built off of the smartest practices seen in European cities like Paris, Barcelona, and Lyon.
In fact, Boston is on track to have the biggest urban bike-sharing program in the US. With a population of 600,000, Boston estimates it needs 1,500 bikes to launch a sizable enough program within its current geography. In the US, New York has announced interest in a bike sharing program, SF launched a pilot program, and Minneapolis and Denver seem most likely to follow in Boston’s path and implement a system soon.
Yet bike sharing only works if there is an infrastructure and public education to support the idea of bikes as a replacement for car transport. A key impetus for Boston was getting over the “worst city for bicyclists” reputation that it has had for many years. The agency has to beef up infrastructure and restore the public trust in Boston as a bike-able city. By creating connected and protected bike lanes, Bike Boston is forming a commutable path throughout the city. In the first year of the program, Boston also established 5 additional miles of bike lanes, installed new bike racks, and is publishing a bike map. Boston celebrates cycling at a citywide festival, Hub on Wheels, as an opportunity to attract new bicyclers and engage with citizens to envisioning a bicycling Boston. Even the Mayor himself, Thomas Merino, has become an avid cyclist by way of example.
Will all of these factors enable Boston to move from one of the worst city for bicyclists to one of the leading bicycle cities? Many fingers are crossed, and other urban areas are looking to Boston as a test model for how this might work elsewhere. Personally, I've got high hopes for New York City! Can you envision a bike-sharing program working in your city?