Ditch the T and Dare to Bike Boston

My first foray into urban biking was in New York City, under the constant threat of being plowed down by a taxicab, bouncing off a small herd of pedestrians or tumbling into a gaping grate (okay, so the last one is rather unlikely…). Risky? Yes. Adrenaline-filled? Yes. But, practical?

Yes! Green-painted bike lanes, often segregated from normal traffic by plastic posts or a generous open space minimize the risk of tangling with larger vehicles. The CitiBike bike-share system makes hopping on a borrowed bike for a quick ride from point A to point B plausible, as well as rather affordable.

Photo courtesy of James Schwartz / Flickr

Photo courtesy of James Schwartz / Flickr

Lastly, longer, scenic paths such as those along the Hudson River and throughout Central Park entice New Yorkers to enjoy biking recreationally, as well as for practical purposes.

The movement to better accommodate and encourage urban bicycling is spreading like wildfire throughout American cities and shows itself in the incorporation of bike-friendly elements such as painted bike lanes, plentiful bike racks and most intriguingly, bike-sharing systems.

Washington, D.C.za first pioneered bike-sharing when it installed a network of bike kiosks in 2008. Since then similar initiatives to make biking more accessible have popped up persistently in other metropolitan areas.

Motivate, the company that runs D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, also operates New York’s Citibike, Chicago’s Divvy Bikes and our very own Boston Hubway.

Photo courtesy of Brian Godfrey / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Brian Godfrey / Flickr

For many years, Boston lagged significantly behind fellow US cities, described as being “one of the worst cities for cycling” by Bicycling.com. But, as of recently, the city “has come along impressively, adding bike lanes and racks, and promoting education programs.”

The Hubway bike-sharing network includes 600 bikes distributed throughout 61 citywide kiosks and enables Bostonians to check out bikes for 30-minute intervals, returning them at any Hubway kiosk in the city.

The program’s convenience – you don’t actually need to own or maintain a bike of your own in order to ride – and its affordability ($85 for an annual pass or less for shorter intervals of membership) make biking a speedy and convenient mode of transportation for hopping about the city.

While Boston has experienced significant improvements to its bicycling scene, Boston College remains an outlier amongst American colleges in that bikes are not a practical or popular choice for getting around on campus.

Students are hard-pressed to find bike racks, the stairs and hills are prohibitive and the campus isn’t large enough that wheels are even needed. But, this doesn’t mean BC students cannot or should not take advantage of the rising tide of urban biking as well.

Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

For riding within the city, the Hubway bike-share serves students ideally because of its convenience, affordability and no-strings-attached simplicity. When the weather is fair and the T feels excruciatingly slow, Hubway bikes offer themselves as the most appealing alternative to mass transit.

Riding from BC into Boston via the Hubway system is somewhat less practical because the nearest kiosk is located at Washington and Beacon Street – a good 10-minute walk from the Reservoir bus stop.

For this reason, a student hoping to commute from campus to the big city on wheels would benefit much more from taking the plunge and purchasing his or her own bicycle.

A designated bike lane all the way down Beacon Street makes a straight shoot ride into the city convenient and significantly less hazardous than riding in the shoulder.

Photo courtesy of Mr.TinDC / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Mr.TinDC / Flickr

Additionally, for more complicated trips, Ridethecity.com will map out the safest route for you to get from point A to point B on primarily bike lanes and separated paths.

More daring bicyclists can choose to generate a “direct route” that throws caution to the wind in favor of getting you to your destination quickly – just be prepared to dodge and dive.

And if an adrenaline-ridden, street-side ride is just not your cup of tea, Massbike.org lays out a plethora of recreational bike paths that strike a more leisurely chord.

The next time your favorite Plex exercise class is fully booked, take a spin class of your own on a significantly more scenic route.

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