Bike share programs in large cities just might revolutionize the way urban dwellers and visitors interact with the urban environment. When I visited Montreal this summer, I witnessed first hand the flurry of bike riders all around me. It seemed that tourists were the primary users, much to the dismay of cabbies and the rather grumpy tour guide I employed to show me the urban sites. He yelled at riders, in English (assuming they were stupid Americans), who failed to heed the stated traffic laws. Although helpful for tourists, the bikes seem even more helpful to those who want to utilize public transportation. Read all about the public bike’s move to Canada here: http://www.bixisystem.com/
Boston, home of the United States’ first subway and the well-travelled T and commuter rail system, now has followed in Montreal’s footsteps (or rather pedals?). The Hubway Bike System opened on July 28, 2011 with 61 bike stations and 600 bicycles. Members can join for $60 a year, or less for just for a day’s ride. Prices are geared towards the short ride–if a patron keeps a bike for more than a half hour, charges start adding up quickly. As stations are located near train stations, it is easy to use the bikes to extend the reach of commuter rail. The city has 38 miles of bike lanes, which can be better utilized with the new rental bikes. My husband used to take the commuter rail from our home out in the Metrowest suburbs into Boston. Once his office moved from Faneuil Hall to Brighton, however, the commuter rail was no longer a viable option. Save taking an expensive taxi every day on top of rail fees, his office was not reachable by public transportation. (He could have jumped out the window of a train, which passed through Brighton but did not stop. I advised against this, but he always stared whistfully at the trains passing right by his place of work.) The bike now makes the train a great alternative in good weather, and a light rain jacket extends the possibilities into the fall. He can ride the train, doing more work or just reading for fun until he arrives in the city. He can locate a bike and take a short ride to work, and place the bike back in a nearby bike station. He was all smiles when he first tried it, and now he is hooked.
The one negative here is the lack of helmets. It appears that most of the tourists riding bikes in Montreal are doing so without helmets. Boston riders are urged on the website of the program to always wear helmets, and this is easier to do for commuters who can bring their own. As someone who has vivid memories of being hit by a car while bike riding, I never like to see anyone riding without a helmet. The next step would be to offer rental helmets next to the rental bikes. The Hubway will have roving staff offering helmets at busy bike stations, but certainly some will opt to ride without helmets.
Another option for train riders are foldable bikes. A folding bike can be brought onto the commuter trains and treated like luggage. (Full size bikes are not usually allowed.) Folding bikes could also be an option for those in smaller dwellings. The NYTimes recently reported that apartment renters are asking for more storage options for their bikes. Bikes take up a lot of room in relatively small NYC dwellings. Yet NYC residents rely on their bikes. A bike hanging from a ceiling hook in the living room clashes with designer couches and original watercolors too. So renters and those looking to buy a condo are favoring locations with easily accessible bike storage.
Find out more at http://www.thehubway.com/