Yesterday, November 30, 2011, was the last day of operation for the Hubway until March of 2012, as recently reported by Eric Moskowitz at The Boston Globe. That sad occasion spurs me to reflect on what a great thing it is that bike sharing, bike lanes and a general shift in our transportation culture has come to Boston.
For well over a decade, I rode the rails of the MBTA – Boston’s erratic but generally effective public transit system – with the occasional long walk and requisite car commute sprinkled in. There is a long tradition of staff bicycling to work here at the Conservation Law Foundation‘s office in Boston. Not shocking, I know: through their work, my colleagues are acutely aware of the need to reduce fossil fuel use.. I must confess, however, that until this summer I was never one of our bicyclists. Well over 90% of the time my commutes have been on the MBTA.
And then came Hubway. Since July 31, 2011 I have used that system 54 times, mostly to make a commute in during the morning. During a business trip, I also bought and used a one-day guest pass on the slightly older sister program in Washington DC, the Capital Bikeway. In the last four months, I have ridden my bike to work more than I have in my decade of work at CLF. I know I’m not alone, either: Boston magazine’s Bill Janovitz wrote about his bike commuting habits today, while the new Boston edition of the real estate blog Curbed wrote about the effect of Hubway on property values.
That’s not to say Hubway is not without problems. Anyone who follows me on twitter knows that I have on occasion griped about aspects of the program, but the occasional full rack or difficult to return bicycle does not undermine my appreciation of the. Those complaints aside, the Hubway marks a fundamentally important step towards a city that celebrates diverse and non-motorized ways of getting from one place to another.
The deep and growing challenge of global warming, a problem inextricably linked to our fossil fuel dependence (and all the pollution and harm that comes with it), means that we need to deploy a very wide range of tools and efforts to change the way in which we use energy. Our frenzied use of energy to move ourselves around in our cars is a major part of the challenge we face.
Urban bicycling is a really pleasant way to begin that shift in a way that provides a little exercise and a chance to really experience and enjoy the city while reducing fossil fuel use and pollution. It can also be very convenient – for some trips across downtown Boston I am absolutely certain that a bike is the fastest way to get from point A to B as even the safest of riders who obeys all the lights can pass many cars stuck in traffic.
Change can be slow in coming. For example, my own town of Brookline may or may not be ready with its own Hubway stations when the system reopens in March. But the runaway success of the Hubway system, and the successful efforts by the City of Boston and so many others to launch the system shows that rapid change for the better is very possible.
Creating a better city, state, region, nation and world where our electricity comes from clean renewable sources and is used efficiently and we travel in a cleaner and saner way relying on our muscles as much as possible using trains, buses, cars and planes only when truly needed is very possible. It starts with giving people options – and having affordable (and subsidized for low-income residents) and high quality bicycles available for use across cities like Boston is definitely a step (and a pedal) in that direction.