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Friday, April 10, 2009

Velorution coming to Boston?

From the Boston Globe, 04.10.09:

Is Boston Ready For a Revolution?
Can Boston really go from being the worst city for bicycling to the best? The mayor and his spitfire bike czar think so, and they're determined to launch the biggest bike-share program in the country. But as one visit to Paris reveals, bike share is about more than cool racks and shiny two-wheelers...

I'm visiting Paris to see how its new bike-sharing program has transformed and energized the city. Boston is exploring the idea, and while plenty of bike fanatics and clean-air enthusiasts are ecstatic, a lot of others think it's lunacy, given that our street system is a mess, our drivers are maniacs, and our weather isn't exactly ideal for biking...

When I arrive, Paris is having a rare cold snap and there's a dusting of snow...Even as I'm trying to keep my legs from shaking in the cold, a steady stream of undeterred commuters rides by on Velib bikes...I walk down to get my bike. A green light blinks, telling me to pull it out of the locking system...I ride down the block. The bike is heavy but handles well.

Mayor Menino commutes to work on his bike some days. He's convinced Boston can be transformed by a sustained effort to get citizens out of cars and onto bikes. He is not alone. "Bike share would allow non-riders to get on a bike with a very minimal change to their lifestyle," says David Watson, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. "Forty percent of car trips are within 2 miles of home. If bike share helps us shift just a small percentage of those trips to bikes, it will have a huge impact on our citizens' health, on the environment, and the vitality of our community."(Read more.
A writer for a major daily newspaper visits Paris, and is impressed by the city's innovative Velib program and imagines how it might transform Boston. He's not alone. The success of Velib has attracted significant attention, and inspired initial efforts in many cities.

Image: Boston Globe.
Visit: Boston Tries to Shed Longtime Reputation as Cyclists’ Minefield, New York Times
Visit: Bike-Sharing Blog
Visit: Boston improves as a bike city, Boston Globe
Visit: Bike sharing sweeps Europe, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Boston: Paths to safe cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Josh Switzky Interview, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Anonymous said...

It's all about the money. Generation Greed has sucked it all up in the past, and the U.S. (including Boston) won't even be able to afford mass transit in the future.

The bicycle: very low public capital costs, and zero public operating costs. You wrote about the low personal costs in your last post. In an era of institutional collapse, the bicycle is what can be afforded.

Paul Dorn said...

I agree, bike sharing is looked upon with interest by civic leaders as a low-cost form of public transit. However, I do think there will be some form of mass transit, because of how spread out our suburban housing is. Maybe some form of cheap Bus Rapid Transit, with bikes as collectors (i.e. spokes to BRT hubs.) But clearly the happy driving days are waning.

Kevin Love said...

Welcome back!

Your blog was one of my favourites. Wonderful to see you posting again!

bams said...

bicycle can be an alternative for us to make our fuel consumption more efficient.
moreover, today people are getting wild to consume fosil fuel

Unknown said...

Hello all
I work for the BIXI project in Montreal and i just wanted to say thanks to you all for the ongoing conversation on the subject of bike-sharing. Your opinions are well discussed and very informative in understanding the public perception of such a project. I enjoy reading all that has been said and hope to hear more from you in the near future
The project in Montreal is on it's way towards the grand unveiling, if you guys are ever interested in the subject the website is now :
thanks !

Robert Anderson said...

Hey, Paul. I'd like to echo Kevin's comments about your blog. I've been to your Facebook page, but I guess I'm too set in my ways for this "social web" kinda stuff, and just like the "old-fashioned" blog format better.

Anyway, about bike-sharing. The Vélib system has suffered a lot of "slippage," and this is probably inevitable. It won't keep a bikeshare system from being successful, as long as it's taken into account when the system is planned.

I think the distinguishing characteristic of the Vélib system is the fee structure. For more information on this, and a comparison of the Vélib system to the Washington, D.C. "Smartbike" system, see:

Anyway, cheers. Enjoy your stay in Paris. It's one of my favorite cities. Pick up a boule at the Poilâne Boulangerie, you won't regret it!

lorenzo from France said...


I'm french. I commute with my own bike 4 days per week (33 kilometers).
Sometimes, I use velib and It's very cool.

Anonymous said...

Oh, oh, bad news: the French Velib system has major problems. It seems the French aren't as civilized as we thought.

Paul Dorn said...

@Anonymous: That BBC report and others suggesting Paris Velib was in trouble might have been over hasty: Reports of Vélib’s Demise Greatly Exaggerated,

Anonymous said...

While Boston's infrastructure might not be optimally geared towards the needs of cyclists, in my experience it does have one very important thing going for it: just about where ever you go, you see bikes on the road. People---pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists---are used to dealing with bikes on the road, and in my mind this is more important than bike lanes or any kind of bike-sharing program.

When people have to share the road with cyclists on a daily basis, cyclists get written into the unwritten rules of the road, and are treated as common and expected actors as opposed to aberrant nuisances.

Jean-François said...

I just heard Bixi is comming to Boston. I'm a user from Montreal and I can tell you, you will love it!