…for pedestrians? The Boston Globe reports that Boston is trying to implement a citywide bike sharing program:
They intend to roll out what would be the nation’s first citywide bike-sharing system next spring, making hundreds of bicycles at dozens of stations across Boston available to anyone who can swipe a credit card.
If all goes as planned, Bostonians and visitors will ride these bikes to run errands, reach their workplaces, travel from tourist site to tourist site and from meeting to meeting. All of this, officials say, will make drivers and bikers more respectful of each other, and possibly take some cars off the city’s road ways.
Over the next few weeks, officials expect to name the company with which they would negotiate a contract on how to run the system. They hope the program will lead to tens of thousands of people saddling up in Boston daily.
As someone who isn’t a cyclist, but doesn’t drive regularly (I don’t own a car, and very occasionally use ZipCar to get out of town), I’m worried about this. I’ve nearly been hit by a car once, but cyclists are a menace. Weekly, on Newbury Street, there’s a pedestrian-cyclist collision. Granted, the effects are far less severe than getting hit by a car, but too many cyclists are a fucking menace. They don’t follow the rules of the road–blowing through red lights, ignoring crosswalks, and going the wrong way down streets. These behaviors mean pedestrians don’t think to look for them–and I’m not the kind of person who crosses intersections without paying attention.
Also, where is Boston going to put bike lanes? What makes the city work is that roads aren’t wide. Lanes are narrow, and there aren’t many of them. Is the city going remove car lanes? I’m fine with that, but drivers will have a fit. Without lanes, this won’t work. As a bike store owner–someone who would want people to get in the biking habit–notes:
Nearby, Rich Coombs, whose family owns Community Bicycle, a bike sales and service shop in the South End, expressed doubt that bike sharing would work in Boston.
“There are tight roads to begin with – roads dating back hundreds of years, little cow paths,” he said. “There’s barely enough room to squeeze by with narrow handlebars.”
Bike stations 300 or 400 yards apart? Unlimited rides of less than 30 minutes? I guess it makes sense when you think how long it takes to ride 300 yards.
I would say the city should confine its ambitions to tourist areas for the time being, but most of those are not navigable by bike. The idea of plowing ahead with a full-blown bike-sharing program when the infrastructure can’t handle cyclists period, much less more cyclists, is counterproductive. (If you think a traffic jam in your car is bad, you have obviously never experienced bicycle rush hour in Boston.)
The idea seems to be that more cyclists on the road will in and of itself make Boston safer for cycling. “As people see more cyclists in the streets of our city they’ll be more aware of the issues of safety,” Menino has said. If nothing else, that’s a cost-effective way to approach the issue. Don’t bother fixing the roads, just get more bikes on ’em. Safety will follow.
I’ll have whatever he’s smoking.
Getting people out of cars is a good thing: this city is designed for pedestrians. But there are ways to get people out of cars; this isn’t a good one.