I’ll just come out and say it: I love Bluebikes. On top of that, I love how bike-friendly Boston is.
With COVID-19, I’ve been finding myself avoiding public transportation for health reasons. I have no reason to believe that the MBTA and public transportation is general isn’t less safe than being out and about elsewhere (though it’s not clear at this point - some more infomation here from a few months back), but if there’s an option for me to avoid a heavily-trafficked area, I’ll take it. I often complain about the T, but I honestly do love public transportation and think it’s such a critical part of a well-functioning city. While I do think the T lags behind in performance and reliability, the MBTA has made visible improvements over the past few years: they added signage that updates with expected wait times, made improvements in a couple stations (relevant to me, the Park Street station), and before the city shut down, it had been several months since the Red Line had shut down during my commute (although before that, it had become quite frequent…). In addition, they’re redesigning a bunch of bus routes through the Better Bus Project, the Green Line is getting extended, and many a bunch of accelerated service-level improvements in 2020. Okay, enough of being a shill for the MBTA; I just wanted to underline how much I appreciate public transportation infrastructure.
With that being said, the Bluebike program was a piece of transportation infrastructure I hadn’t interacted with pre-COVID-19. Chiefly, I was most afraid about safety while riding a bike in the city; during my time at Boston University, there were many tragic instances of students dying while biking. I had a helmet from a previous life as a bicyclist, and I follow Boston’s Vision Zero, but still - I wasn’t confident in myself as a bicyclist, I wasn’t confident that drivers in the city would respect space for bikes, and I wasn’t confident that the city was accomodating for cyclists. I was certainly aware that Bluebikes were a thing - it’s hard to miss the docking stations that seem to decorate every corner - but was cynical about using them. I was a little intimidated about figuring out how the system worked, how one would even pay to rent them, what the costs were, etc. They were right there, but I just never felt it necessary to do the research given my reservations.
But, like with all else in life, quaratine took everything and flipped it on its head. Not having the T or the bus as an option during quarantine, I was initially confined to the area that my own two feet could take me. Distance wasn’t really the issue, but rather the amount of time it would take me to get somewhere. Add in the summer heat, and it was starting to get tough to walk three miles to meet someone and still be presentable. When I was going to meet up with someone soon after work ended, and there wasn’t a great walking path there, I turned to that thing I had previously ignored, Bluebikes.
After my first ride, I was hooked. I was so impressed with the onboarding experience to rent a bike. It was simple find a nearby station and its availability, pay through Apple Pay, map out a ride to my destination & the nearest station, unlock and redock the bike. There are so many docks that finding a convenient location close to your final destination is almost never a problem. The whole thing was seamless.
As for the ride itself, I was actually quite pleased with the amount of accomodations for cyclists. On my ride from the North End to the Esplanade and back, around 80% of my ride has explicit bike markings or a separate lane. Sometimes, the lane is a large bus & bike lane. Other times, it’s a lane on the left or right of traffic with parked cars on the right. Through the Back Bay, parked cars protect the bike line from traffic. Through intersections, the separate bike line is lined with bright green paint, making it obvious to vehicles making a turn that there’s a bike lane in addition to motor traffic. Around TD Garden, there’s a separate isolated 2-way bike lane in the middle of the road. Drivers and pedestrians are generally okay with cyclists too - I haven’t felt that cars have disregarded my safety to get around me, and often I find that they’ll be cautious around me in cases where there isn’t ample room for them to get around me.
I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at my experience with Bluebikes. It’s a great way to lessen the load on roads and public transit, especially during a time where social distancing is paramount. I’m expecting to use it to commute to and from the office when the weather allows, rather than taking the T. It’s more affordable for me (Bluebikes is generally pretty cost-effecient!) and means there’s one less person cramming onto the Red Line to be ferried back and forth to work. It’s so good when public infrastructure just works, and Bluebikes is a great example of a project that has provided a huge benefit to me as an end-user and urban dweller.