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Bike sharing comes big to Boston

Boston has just announced what is slated to become the largest bike sharing network in the U.S. and I’m awfully jealous. My first experience with bike sharing was love at first sight.

It was the summer of 2006, I was in Berlin, and *everything was perfect*. Thronged with international visitors for the World Cup, the city was effortlessly navigable by public transportation. But I had a yen to strike out on the streets, and when I laid my eyes on a sleek silver two-wheeler, I knew the Berlin Call-A-Bike program was the solution to my problem.

The bikes were everywhere. You just had to place a quick call to a delightfully multilingual operator to sign up for the program and receive a bike by ID number. You could keep bikes for as long as you liked and leave them almost anywhere. On top of all that, they had back seats and German engineering. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Except for one thing: something similar here in San Francisco. Bike sharing doesn’t have a great history in the U.S. Many of the original programs in the 1990s were ruined by theft and vandalism. Of course, few of them used locks. And even the much touted Paris program from last year is having its share of setbacks.

The new Boston program, on the other hand, uses the same technology successfully deployed in Montreal (and also chosen for a huge new bike-sharing program in London). It includes a decent number of stations (290 to start, possibly expanding to 475 locations across neighboring towns) and relatively low fees. I’ll be watching it with bated breath and daring to dream that we might one day get one here.

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