The Boston area’s push to remake itself as a bike-friendly venue, is starting to pay off at least in Cambridge’s tech-heavy Kendall Square neighborhood. And now things may get even greener as the Hubway bike-sharing project is set to expand beyond Boston into Cambridge as well as Somerville and Brookline.
The Cambridge rollout — which will include 47 new Hubway stations — starts Monday, said Scott Mullen, general manager of Hubway. The company, a unit of Alta Bicycle Share, uses solar-powered modular bike stations and RFID key fobs, to make it easy for members to use bikes for short-hauls. Smartphone apps for Android, iPhones, and Blackberry pinpoint where bikes are available (or not.) The stations communicate wirelessly to central servers.
Hubway is all about short trips. The first 30 minutes of the ride is free to members who pay $85 a year to join. After that the price tag skyrockets. “If you’re gone six hours, it’ll be $100,” he said. That’s because Hubway wants those bikes to be used for commuting and errands — and to keep cars off the streets.
Boston Hubway hosts 61 stations and 610 bikes. With this expansion, to take place over the rest of the summer, will bring the total to “north of 1000″ bikes, Mullen said. He would not say which stations will come first, but it’s clear that Cambridge’s congested Harvard Square area is a top priority.
There are other biking-sharing efforts underway. Zagster, the self-proclaimed “Zipcar of bikes” plans to roll out bike sharing in apartment complexes, corporate campuses and hotels going forward. it’s signed Cisco and Hyatt Hotels — which has two properties in metro boston. Zagster CEO Timothy Ericson said the company is rolling out stations in the area but would not say where. He said Hubway’s system actually drives demand for Zagster bikes because while Hubway is all about short, to-the-point trips, Zagster’s bikes are there for longer trips. In Zagster’s case, the bikes are paid for by the property owners and offered as a free service to their tenants.
As Zagster CEO Timothy Ericson said last year at TechStars Boston Demo Day…
We actually have more interest from clients in cities that have bike sharing programs like Hubway [which have different use cases.] Bike sharing systems are all about very short trips that are one way. Ours are for longer trips, commuting, etc.
Cambridge’s Kendall Square area, just across the Charles River from Boston’s Beacon Hill has already seen a big payback from aggressive efforts by local businesses to push bikes over cars. The booming area is home to the Microsoft New England Research and Development (NERD) center, the Cambridge Innovation Center. Google is building out its local presence here as is (reportedly) Amazon. And all of those companies, pressed by local government, are pushing their employees to ride rather than drive. According to a recent Boston Globe report:
Despite the rapid expansion in and around Kendall Square in the last decade — the neighborhood absorbed a 40 percent increase in commercial and institutional space, adding 4.6 million square feet of development — automobile traffic actually dropped on major streets, with vehicle counts falling as much as 14 percent.
Part of that is due to high gas prices and the expansion of bike lanes, but much is thanks to corporate and city incentives to leave the car at home. These companies subsidize MBTA passes, charge a lot for car parking and offer free bike lock ups.
Given the still awful traffic in and around Boston and Cambridge, drivers and bikers alike have a vested interest in these programs succeeding.