(City of Boston)
Patrons of a similar bike system in Paris.
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff
Need some convenient, green transportation? Swipe a card and grab a bike from the rack. That's the vision for Boston's bike sharing program, which officials are hoping will launch in spring 2010.
The city announced today that requests for proposals had been issued for the program, which would make 1,500 bikes available at 150 stations in Boston. Eventually, officials hope the system will include 6,000 bikes available at 600 stations in the metropolitan area.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the city wants the system to extend beyond Boston. Doing that would make the area a "world class bicycling destination," he said.
"Successful bike sharing programs in Europe have not only established biking as a significant means of transportation; they have transformed the entire culture and mindset around transportation," he said in a statement.
The system could eliminate up to 315,000 car trips annually, which would reduce 750 tons of greenhouse gases, officials estimated.
A request for proposals was issued today by the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, which is partnering with the city on the project. Proposals are due May 15.
Boston's "bike czar," Nicole Freedman, said the city is looking for "a turnkey system that self-finances."
Under the typical program, people would buy memberships, then be able to swipe a card and take out a bike at any rack -- and return it to any rack. There would also be a usage charge, but in order to encourage short trips, the first 30 minutes could be free. It would be the company's job to shuffle bikes around so enough bikes would be available where they're needed, officials said.
Freedman said the city had already been in contact with various companies that are in the bike sharing program business, and those who might be interested in bidding include some local companies and some major international companies.
She said officials would wait to see how the companies proposed to deal with the city's winter weather, but she said Montreal has a system and many of the European cities that have such systems have weather similar to Boston's.