- The Boston area's bike-share program, Bluebikes, will expand by 540 bikes and 50 docking stations. By year's end, the system will have a total of 2,400 bikes and 230 stations.
- Certain neighborhoods will receive additional bike-share resources to complement what they already have, while others will receive bike-share service for the first time. A $1 million capital funding infusion from Mayor Marty Walsh's proposed FY20 budget will cover the improvements.
- The city chose where to expand its bike-share system and which new neighborhoods to target for service with feedback from residents and community organizations. It will hold community meetings in three of the new service areas next month.
Bluebikes is owned and jointly operated by five Massachusetts municipalities: Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Everett and Somerville. It is among the numerous bike-share programs across the country to announce expansions this year. Other cities investing in additional bikes and infrastructure include Chicago, Minneapolis, New York and Philadelphia. This year cities are also announcing major investments in general bicycling infrastructure. San Francisco will add 20 miles of new bike lanes while Cambridge, MA passed an ordinance mandating that protected bike lanes be installed whenever roads in the city's bicycle plan undergo reconstruction.
Boston's bike-share system has sustained slower growth than some other comparable major cities. It also has faced criticism for being too downtown-focused and lacking equity among service areas. This round of improvements is intended to bring more transportation options to traditionally underserved areas, augmenting efforts it set in motion last summer. Bluebikes' title sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is also making additional investments to ensure new bike-share stations are installed near community health centers.
One problem some cities encounter with equitably increasing bike-share services is that predominantly low-income and minority neighborhoods don't always embrace the service to the same degree as high-income and white neighborhoods. A study last year noted this occurrence in Chicago, Philadelphia and the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. Citizens were concerned about factors such as cost, uncertainty about how bike-share programs work and that the introduction of bike-share signals the neighborhood is becoming too expensive.
Researchers and city leaders have found that simply dropping bike-share into these neighborhoods and hoping it thrives is not the best approach. Instead, fostering citizen engagement and getting community groups involved with the program launch leads to greater success. Boston's method of considering community feedback for bike station placement and holding citizen engagement meetings in underserved neighborhoods new to bike-share could promote faster uptake and greater long-term success.