(Photograph by Yoon S. Byun)
We recently profiled Boston’s new bike coordinator, Nicole Freedman, after reading the impressive Boston Globe article spotlighting the city’s recent transformation into a bike haven. As we noted in our article, Boston was the former title holder of “Worst City in the US for Bicycling”, by Bicycle Magazine. Since Dallas has sadly taken their place, we wanted to get the inside track on what progressive programs Nicole was able to put in place, in hopes that we might be able to duplicate her efforts.
This will be a first part interview on a series we’re planning with other top-rated US city bike coordinators:
How did you come to be the Bicycle Coordinator for Boston?
Mayor Menino launched Boston Bikes as part of his initiatives surrounding the environment and sustainable communities in September, 2007. The mayor appointed me to lead his new program at the time I was running the mayor’s hub on wheels citywide bike ride and festival. I studied urban planning and worked as a bike planner at Stanford University, prior to launching a professional racing career that spanned 13 years.
Boston was formerly Bicycle Magazine’s top pick for “Worst Cities in the US for Bicycling”. Sadly, Dallas has taken your place. What have you been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time to move off the list?
- Installed several miles of bike lane – pledge to continue adding lanes
- Installed 250 racks – pledge to add 750 in three years
- Engaged 7,000 cyclists via:
- - Hub on wheels ride – grew to 4000 riders
- - Bay state bike week – grew 50% in one year, despite the event being 16 years old in the city.
- - Bike Fridays – monthly bike commute ride and festival
Started advisory board
Have you seen an increase in ridership in Boston, and if so, what do you attribute this to?
Since we are so new, it is hard to quantify in any statistically significant way. Anecdotally there are more bikers on the streets and sales at shops were up. Our counts showed a 5% increase, but it is the trends that are most important over time.
We have a small, but vocal group of cyclists in Dallas that are adamantly opposed to bicycle infrastructure, and claim that accident rates skyrocket when bike lanes are put in place. Are you seeing accident ratios climb, and if so, what are you putting in place to limit these?
Bike lanes, when designed correctly most certainly make the roads safer for all users. There is a wealth of hard evidence to prove this.
Portland has created a booming $125 Million dollar bicycle industry with the advent of bicycle infrastructure. Are you seeing similar economic development occur in Boston?
The mayor is working to promote economic development in conjunction with the bicycle industry. The mayor’s BLDC loan program recently provided significant sized loans to two bicycling businesses to help them expand. these include Urban Adventours and Geekhouse bikes. The mayor understands the potential boon the bike industry can bring to a city.
What are some steps you would advise us to take to remove our city from the “Worst of” lists for bicycling?
1. Address the challengers with hard facts and research
2. Tackle the low-hanging fruit first as much can be done simply