I made the following comment in response to a post on BostonBiker, but I’m reposting it here for people who do not read the comments on his posts:
For background, this article appeared in the Globe yesterday.
As much as I want to be excited about this, I can only react with disappointment. As I noted at the end of May (http://rollinginboston.bostonbiker.org/2010/05/28/wheres-the-bike-share/) it’s been pretty obvious that the bike share program is getting off to a rough start. I’ve been willing to give Nicole and the rest of the Boston Bikes people (including I guess Mumbles) the benefit of the doubt that there was a good reason for the delay. Their inclination to hold off on starting the program until it can be launched with an adequate number of bikes is a good one, but 500 bikes is not even remotely close to enough.
I spent last July in Paris and used Velib on a daily basis, and I have reports of my experience on my blog. At every station, at least 10-20% of the bikes were not functioning due to flat tires (which are not user repairable as it takes a special tool to remove the wheels in order to deter theft), wonky drive-trains or any of the other myriad number of things that can happen to a bicycle. Assuming the same conditions here, that would leave 400-450 bikes in circulation at any given time.
According to Wikipedia, Paris covers an area of around 41 sq. miles, with a population of ~2.2 million. Boston on the other hand, covers a similar geographical footprint (48 sq. miles) but contains a much smaller population (~600,000). If Boston were to implement a program with a similar bikes/population ratio, that would imply ~5,000 bikes here. The proposed bike share is an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE off. The geographical similarities however, remain. Paris has 750 stations. Boston is proposing 50. Again an order of magnitude difference. I noticed that the real benefit of the Velib system was the ability to return a bike nearly anywhere in the city, and that will be plainly impossible with the current proposal.
If this is going to be a system intended primarily for tourists, with bikes primarily located downtown, then Nicole needs to just state that. But don’t try to say that we’re going to have a city-wide system; it’s just not feasible unless a complete commitment is made.
If this is going to be tied to MBTA subway stops (not a bad starting point) then there are very few bike stations left for areas that are not at a subway stop (I’m thinking large swaths of Dorchester, Roxbury, JP, Roslindale, etc).
In summary, I completely support the effort to bring bike-share to Boston, but it is another case of Boston half-assing an infrastructure project that will ultimately leave many people disappointed and left out.