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Boston Mayor Boosts Biking
Tom Menino, mayor of Boston, has a new hobby and, with it, a new mission. He recently discovered the joys of cycling in the city, and has made a commitment to improving cyclists’ experiences in Beantown.
Menino announced on September 20th the hiring of former Olympic cyclist Nicole Freedman as the city’s “bike czar.” The mayor also released the first phase of his citywide bike plan, which includes installing 250 new, more secure bike racks all over Boston and a new online map system which will help users to identify and plot bike-friendly routes.
In the longer term, Boston hopes to expand the bike path system, add more bike lanes to existing roads, and install several bike terminals where both locals and tourists could rent a bike, ride it, and return it to any terminal in Boston. A similar system already exists in Paris, where the goal is to carry a fleet of over 20,000 bikes available at 1,450 stations. It’s similar to the Zipcar model of renting a vehicle when needed. In the French system, credit cards are used for a deposit and the first half-hour is supplied free of charge. It’s a wonderful way to decrease pollution, traffic, and even obesity, and it’s an attraction for tourists looking to experience the city under their own power.
The mayor is also considering city facilities similar to the Bike Station installed in Chicago in 2004 (which now, ironically, has McDonald’s as their title sponsor!). These stations offer commuters bike parking, showers, and a locker.
Michael Kineavy, Menino’s chief of policy and planning, recently started cycling and inspired the mayor to ride. Menino’s been climbing aboard his Trek Lime commuter bike each weekday morning and gradually increasing his mileage. The mayor’s working up to city-wide rides so that he can experience his constituency and neighborhoods on a personal level. In so doing, he’s sure to both inspire others to ride and to see the city’s cycling short-comings.
Bicycling magazine ranked Boston as the worst cycling city in the United States in 1999. Last year marked the third time that Boston was featured as an unfriendly cycling city for its "lousy roads, scarce and unconnected bike lanes, and bike-friendly gestures from city hall that go nowhere."
However, this round of proposed changes looks to have more teeth as well as mayoral enthusiasm behind it. Here’s hoping that Boston will follow through and help its citizens perform their own carectomies.
Reasons to Ride, as cited by the Boston Globe:
- $7.834: average annual cost of owning a car.
- 66% of trips, by any mode of transportation, are under 5 miles.
- 25 hours lost per driver in traffic jams in 2003.
- 55.4% of Massachusetts residents are overweight.
- Boston Bike Czar, Cheap Tech, Better Riding
- Proposal for Car-Free Storrow Drive in Boston
- Biking in Tandem Saves a Marriage
- Car-Free in Boston
- Boston Cars in Snow: Going Nowhere