News

[Jamaica Plain Gazette] Editorial: Farewell to Bike Czar

The following editorial was originally published in the Jamaica Plain Gazette on March 27th, 2015.

We will miss Nicole Freedman, the JP resident who long served as the City’s pioneering Bike Program leader.

Freedman’s hiring was a legacy of the late Mayor Menino’s unexpected conversion to the bicycling gospel. She got Boston up to speed at a velocity one would expect from a former Olympian. A plethora of bike lanes and the Hubway bike share system are among her obvious contributions to a city that was once a virtual enemy to bicyclists.

From the JP perspective, it was a benefit to have the Bike Program director riding our streets on a daily basis to know bike issues first-hand.

Mayor Walsh is showing a commitment to continuing the bike improvements and pushing them close to the cutting edge, and also to making more transparent decisions on such roadway infrastructure. Meanwhile, thank you, Nicole, for getting Boston started on that journey.

[Money Crashers] What Is Bike Sharing? – 10 Best Bike Share Programs in North America

The following is an excerpt of an article originally published by Brian Martucci in Money Crashers on March 26th, 2015.

Not everyone can be a regular bike commuter. Some folks live too far from work, some have erratic schedules, some would have to traverse dangerous roads or brave adverse weather conditions, and others – including yours truly – work out of a home office.

But even if you don’t bike to work, you can still bike regularly. In fact, it can be a singular source of pleasure – few things in life beat whooshing down a hill with the wind in your hair. Biking is also part of a healthy, happy lifestyle – according to the state government of Victoria, Australia, the benefits of regular biking include stronger bones, more flexible joints, lower stress and anxiety levels, lower body fat levels, and better cardiovascular fitness in general.

So, what if you enjoy biking but don’t own a bike? Depending on where you live, that might not be a problem. Many sizable cities now have bikesharing programs that offer affordable short-term rentals throughout a defined geographical area. These may be run by private companies, educational institutions, municipal agencies, or public-private partnerships.

The specific features and quirks of bikesharing programs vary from place to place, but the overarching goal is always the same: Provide a fun, healthy, low-cost transportation option for locals and visitors alike.

Read about how bike share programs work and the full article by clicking here.

[WBUR] Hubway Stations Are Springing Back Into Service Soon

The following article was originally published on WUBR.org on March 26th, 2015.

Hubway bicycles will begin returning Thursday, after most of Greater Boston’s bike sharing system was put in hibernation for the winter.

Benjy Kantor, marketing manager at Motivate — the company that operates Hubway — said customers will be able to use the system soon. However, he said he doesn’t have an exact start date.

“It’s largely dependent on whether the weather holds up and what the safety conditions for our field staff are at each of the locations and the sites,” he said. “We can typically get five to seven stations out per day.”

The program shut down in Brookline, Somerville and Boston for the winter. However, it remained open in Cambridge for a second year. Last year, the company launched a successful pilot program to see if Cambridge residents would keep riding through the winter.

Hubway came to Boston in 2011. In 2013, it expanded to Brookline, Somerville and Cambridge.

To combat obesity and other health issues, Boston announced last spring that doctors could refer low-income patients a discounted membership to Hubway. Boston residents who qualify could rent bikes for a discounted fee of $5 a year. A typical annual Hubway membership costs $85, and monthly memberships are $20.

[WBUR] Boston Will Install Protected Bike Lanes On Commonwealth Avenue

The following piece by Simón Ríos originally aired on WUBR 90.9FM, and was published online at WBUR.org, on March 25th, 2015. Listen here.

A plan unveiled by the city Tuesday evening will give cyclists along a stretch of Commonwealth Avenue protected bike lanes, reshaping one of the busiest corridors in the city to make travel safer.

Hundreds of bikers turned out to the Boston University campus to hear city officials discuss the latest phase in the redesign of Commonwealth Avenue, a $16 million project that includes a 6.5-foot-wide bike lane.

James Gillooly, deputy commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department, said safety for cyclists was critical to the city’s plan, adding that “having a buffer that actually is a physical separation is key to this.”

Here’s how it would look from a cyclist’s point of view: Riding in the bike lane, the sidewalk is to the right and on the left, there’s a row of parked cars. A 3-foot raised buffer separates the cyclists from the parked cars, which also act as a barrier from the busy street.

The redesign will affect the section of Commonwealth Avenue between Naples Road and Amory Street — roughly from Star Market near Packard’s Corner to the Boston University Bridge.

“I cannot wait to ride on these cycle tracks,” said Doug Johnson of the Boston Cyclists Union, who was among dozens of giddy riders and cycling safety advocates speaking in favor of the plan Tuesday evening.

“I used to ride on this part of Comm Ave. every day, and it was always a terrible experience, fearing for my life on a daily basis,” Johnson said. “I just want to thank you so much for what you did. I think this is great.”

Bike safety is a sensitive topic on the BU campus, which is bisected by Commonwealth Avenue. In 2012, Christopher Weigl, a graduate student studying photojournalism, was killed at the intersection of Commonwealth Ave and St. Paul Street. He was 23.

The plan addresses that intersection with a raised crossing to reduce the speed of drivers, as well as a curve in the bike lane to slow down bikers. Those alterations would further address the city’s top goal: to boost the safety of drivers, walkers and bikers alike.

Transportation dollars are already in place for the project, and construction could start next spring.

Seventy-three parking spots would be lost under the proposed plan — a fact that has at least one Boston city councilor, according to The Associated Press, saying the city can’t afford the loss of parking revenue.

[Wicked Local Cambridge] Cambridge launches raffle to support businesses after harsh winter

The following article was originally published by Sara Feijo in the Cambridge Chronicle & Tab on March 24th, 2015.

Cambridge business owners took a hit this year due to the harsh winter conditions, but the city is trying to encourage residents to shop local with a brand new card game that comes bearing prizes.

The city launched Lovin’ Local raffle card game on March 16 and residents have until Friday, April 3, to participate. To qualify, participants must have local businesses sign at least three of the nine cells on the postcard.

The idea came about after staff at the Cambridge Community Development Department (CDD) heard from local business owners that business dropped on average 30 to 40 percent compared to last winter, according to Pardis Saffari, project planner for the Economic Development Division of CDD.

Deb Colburn, owner of Nomad on Massachusetts Avenue, said the cold, snowy winter kept folks away from shops on Massachusetts Avenue between Porter and Harvard squares. She said business at Nomad dropped around 50 percent in comparison to last winter season.

“It was probably the toughest winter any of us could have ever had,” said Colburn, whose business is participating in Lovin’ Local. “We did half the business we did last year. We were closed five days because of parking bans, and then the T wasn’t running. There was really no where to park.”

How it works

If participants fill at least three cells with three different local businesses, they get one raffle entry, six raffle entries for nine completed cells, and four extra entries into the raffle if they complete a card with a business from each of the city’s commercial districts.

Raffle prizes include, gift cards to local businesses, a one-year Hubway membership, and the grand prize is lunch with Mayor David Maher.

During the first week of the contest, more than 1,000 printed postcards were distributed around the city, and more than 100 were downloaded from the city’s website, Saffari said.

“We hope this will encourage folks to go out and support businesses in Cambridge that make (the city) unique,” Saffari said. “Maybe you’re having a coffee or grabbing something to eat and have businesses sign on the cells.”

Carrissa Blackburn, executive director of Cambridge Local First, said all of the businesses she has spoken with are excited about this new initiative.

“We think it’s a great idea. We love to see when something like this comes around that will be positive for our membership,” Blackburn said, adding that more than 360 businesses are members of Cambridge Local First, a network of independent, locally owned businesses in Cambridge.

The Rules

  • Step 1: Shop at a local business.
  • Step 2: Have the local business sign a cell on the postcard.
  • Step 3: Take a picture at one business you visited and tweet, Instagram or Facebook it using the hashtag #LovinCambMA. Be sure to tag the business you are visiting.

How to enter the raffle:

  • Email psaffari@cambridgema.gov a photo or scanned copy of your completed card with signed cells. Make sure to include your name, phone number and social media information.
  • Drop off your card to one of the Lovin’ Local boxes located at Cambridge City Hall or Cambridge City Hall Annex. Make sure to fill out your contact information.
  • Mail the postcard to Cambridge Community Development Department, Economic Development Division, 344 Broadway, 3rd floor, Cambridge, MA 02139.
  • Postcards can be picked up at the Mayor’s Office, 795 Mass. Ave., Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, and CDD/City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway. Postcards can also be downloaded online at cambridgema.gov. They are due by noon on Friday, April 3. For more information, call Saffari at 617/349-4654 or email her at psaffari@cambridgema.gov.