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Council discusses bike-share

Boston City Councilors discussed plans for a new city program at a public hearing Monday night that would potentially provide intra-Boston commuters with a transportation system of shared bike stations throughout the city.

Twenty-five bikers and non-bikers alike attended the hearing held by Councilor-At-Large John Connolly at Landry’s Bicycles on Commonwealth Avenue. The hearing also addressed a $40,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works for bike programs.

Connolly said the shared-bike program, set to launch by spring 2010, would be ‘like a Zipcar system for bikes.’ The hearing grew out of emails and conversations with Boston residents about the city’s efforts to become a world-class biking city, he said.

‘The notion that stimulus investments in bike-share programs and bike path expansion is a foolish expenditure of money is totally and absolutely false,’ Connolly, chair of the Council Committee on Environment and Health, said. ‘And I just want to use this public forum to shove that back at right wing radio.’

City Council President Mike Ross (Back Bay, Fenway, Kenmore), Councilor-At-Large Sam Yoon, Jim Hunt, the Chief of Environmental and Energy Services for the City of Boston, and Nicole Freedman — Boston’s new ‘Bike Czar’ as appointed by Mayor Thomas Menino –‘ joined Connolly at the hearing.

Menino has already committed 300 parking spots to the program, Freedman said. She said the bike program organizers hope to have enough stations to ensure that walking time to a station does not exceed one minute.

‘Success is density,’ she said. ‘This is about convenience.’

Subscribers would pay $40 a year for the program and get the first 30 minutes of each bike rental free. After that, it would be about $1 or $2 per hour. Bikes can be rented for a day, week or month.

‘This is not about tourists,’ Yoon said. ‘We want regular people to be using this.’

John Siemiatkoski of Mass Bike and Steve Miller of the Board of Directors of the Livable Streets Alliance pledged their support for the program.

However, ‘it is important not to oversell this as the final solution,’ Miller said. Reliance on gasoline and the beginning of safety on the roads for bikers does not disappear with the bike-share, he said.

The committee is facing three major problems: ‘safety, theft and liability,’ Freedman said.

Boston resident Gary Smiley said he witnessed a similar bike system in Paris this past summer and is concerned about the theft issue.

‘Of the 20,000 bikes in the program, 7,000 of them disappeared,’ Smiley said. ‘I hope that we can avoid some of the mistakes that happened in Paris.’

Boston biking community members, such as Andy Schroeder of ‘Dot Bike’ and Debi Levine from the Board of Livable Streets Alliance, said community involvement is very important.

Levine suggested getting community groups and organizations involved in planning the system.

Other than some suggestions and concerns attendees said they supported the program overall.

‘Mayor Menino is fully behind it,’ Hunt said.

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