Residents and employees working in the Newton and many surrounding communities will have access to a bike share program starting this summer.
Under the program, users will be able to take a bicycle from one location and deposit that same bicycle in a different area of the city – such as at an MBTA transportation node, village center or workplace.
“New dock-free technology enables users to take a bike, check it out with their smart phone and return it anywhere in the system area – it couldn’t be easier, or more convenient,” said Mark Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the regional planning agency that is coordinating the initiative.
Bike sharing has emerged as a key part of the nation’s transportation infrastructure by offering people the chance to ride a bike just for the times they need it.
Over the past six months, numerous companies have emerged in the United States offering privately-funded, no-cost, station-free bike sharing systems. These systems supplement traditional station-based bike sharing networks such as Hubway, by allowing users to leave bikes at regular bike racks or on public sidewalks, without having to locate a system dock to drop off the bike.
The cities and towns expected to join Newton in the system include Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Chelsea, Concord, Everett, Lexington, Malden, Medford, Milton, Newton, Revere, Winthrop, Quincy, Waltham and Watertown. Needham town officials are in the process of reviewing the program.
“Newton is thrilled to help lead this effort to bring one of the first, large-scale regional bike share systems to the area using state-of-the-art dockless, smart-bike technology,” said Newton Mayor Setti Warren.
“In partnering with nearly a dozen of our neighboring communities, this new bike share system adds to the choices of transportation modes for our residents and visitors in keeping with the goals of our Transportation Strategy, to make traveling around Newton safer, more accessible, and more efficient for people using any mode of transportation,” Warren added.
There are currently more than 100 bike share programs in the US in cities ranging from Portland, Oregon to Worcester with an emerging group of dockless systems, the first of which launched in Seattle earlier this year with 15,000 rides on the first week alone.
“These recent rapid changes in the bike share industry have created a unique opportunity for Boston’s suburbs to launch a large-scale regional bike share system without having to raise large amounts of public capital,” said Draisen. “Our goal is to have high-quality bikes that will be well maintained, in a system that is easily accessible throughout the participating communities – and we want a seamless experience for riders crossing municipal lines.”
One or more bike share companies may be selected for this new effort and the program will have no cost to cities and towns, Draisen said.
Rides are expected to cost about $1 per trip, with up to 2,000 or more bikes spread across these 16 cities and towns in the first year. Newton alone expects to launch with more than 200 bicycles.