Top College News Subscribe to the Newsletter

Bike share programs are in the works for Boston and, possibly, the Hill

Published: Thursday, October 28, 2010

Updated: Thursday, October 28, 2010 07:10

Bike-share program

Justin McCallum / Tufts Daily

Upcoming bike-share programs will grant Bostonians and, possibly, Tufts students more access to bicycles.

Paris, Minneapolis, Denver, Washington, Miami, New York, Hangzhou, China, and now Boston — these are just some of the many cities across the world that have established or are currently planning bike share programs.

It is not uncommon to see myriad bikes and bike stations scattered across European metropolitan areas, and the trend is quickly catching on in the United States. The systems are, for the most part, simple and uniform: For small fees or deposits, bikes can be rented at any station and returned to any other station. Bike sharing has, in some locations, even been integrated into local public transportation systems.

While bike share proponents note that such programs encourage citizens to ride bikes, reduce the carbon footprint of commuters and provide an affordable way to travel, they also do pose certain obstacles. Since Paris implemented its bike sharing program, Vélib, in 2007, for example, the majority of its 20,000 bikes have needed either replacement or restoration, often due to theft. In response to these issues, some cities use electronic tracking to monitor the bikes and require a credit card for security.

Nonetheless, Boston is getting on board thanks to the $3 million given to the city by the federal government with the goal of implementing a bike-sharing program. The Federal Transit Administration chose Boston to receive funds from its $163 million grant program for public transportation. These funds, in addition to money coming from local grants, will be used to finance the program's first stations and bikes.

David Watson, executive director of the non-profit bicycle promotion organization MassBike (formally the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition), said that Boston's bike-share program will hopefully take effect by next spring, with the first rental stations opening in downtown Boston. MassBike plans to tap the new resource to encourage more Bostonians to take up biking, he said.

"They are currently planning to launch the program with around 500 bikes, with 10 bikes per station and 50 stations," Watson said. "[MassBike] has got a real possibility of transforming the way people get around Boston. It's going to create an opportunity for those who aren't bicyclists to jump on a bike and ride a few minutes to get where they are going. … You could easily see people going to a meeting or meeting somebody for lunch and deciding to hop on a bike instead of walking or taking a cab."

Watson, an avid biker himself, hopes that the new accessibility of bikes will help Bostonians realize the practicality and ease of cycling.

"What people who already ride know is that it is the fastest way of getting around town. … Most of all, I think it will open up bicycling for a lot of people who do not currently ride."

This year marks significant progress in other U.S. cities' bike programs as well. By the end of October, Washington and nearby Arlington, Va., will have around 100 bicycle stations and 1,100 bikes; in April, Denver made 425 bikes available for use; in June, Minneapolis launched its Nice Ride program with 700 bikes and more than 60 stations; New York is now considering a bike-sharing program of 30,000 bikes; Miami is gearing up for a program of its own.

But bike sharing is not limited to large cities, and the Tufts campus, following other universities' footsteps, is planning a campus-based program of its own, led by independent student group Tufts Bike Share.

"We were inspired to start the project partly by other schools and cities who have similar projects," senior Sally Sharrow, a member of the Tufts Bike Share group, said. "Most of the organizers of the project are cyclists or just people who see cycling as an important and empowering mode of transportation, access to which is generally lacking for many people on campus."

The club is currently writing a proposal for the Tufts Community Union Senate's surplus grant program and developing an idea of how such a system would work at Tufts, Sharrow said.

Freshman Tori Perrakis said that for students like herself who love to bike but do not have access to a bike on campus, a Tufts-based bike share program would be extremely useful.

"I don't have a bike on campus now, but if there was a bike share available to Tufts students, I would definitely use it," she said.

According to Sharrow, this sentiment is common among Tufts students, and many students have expressed informal and formal interest in a bike share program on the Hill. Now, she said, is the perfect time for a bike shake on campus to actually become a reality.

"Bike sharing is an idea that has been floating around campus for a while, but I think right now enough factors are converging — available funding from the Senate, increasing interest in cycling on campus and focus on improving cycling infrastructure around the city and the country — which will help it take off this year."

Recommended: Articles that may interest you