Boston Rising: Boston Bikes’ Nicole Freedman
The Boston metro area has always had plenty of cyclists. But other than some fantastic greenways like the Minuteman Trail, riding along the Charles, and some ahead-of-its-time traffic calming & bike lanes in Cambridge, cyclists have had very little to crow about. In fact, it wasn't uncommon to hear murmurs that Boston was the worst cycling city in the U.S.
But that's all slowly changing. Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino hired Nicole Freedman - a former U.S. National Champion and 2000 Olympian - as his "bike czar" to head up Boston Bikes in late 2007. Though there is still quite a ways to go, Boston is rising from decades of bike rust and planning to make its city more bike-friendly. Recently, the Mayor told a gathering of cyclists at Boston's first "Bicycling Safety Summit" in April, "The car is no longer king in Boston."
While Streetfilms was in town with NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) we got to spend a few minutes with Nicole in between her busy schedule to file this report.
Nicole Freedman: [0:00] Hello, I'm Nicole Freedman. I'm the director of Boston Bikes for Mayor Menino and the City of Boston. Today, we're going to take a tour of Boston's newest bike facilities. [music]
[0:10] I started heading up the mayor's Hub on Wheels Citywide Bike Ride. The city did not have a bike program at the time, but we did have the Hub On Wheels ride, which was modeled after New York's Five Borough ride. It was just about that time that Mayor Menino was looking at biking, and seeing how it really fit into his sustainability initiatives and new philosophies on transportation with a car as no longer king.
[0:44] So, the mayor in 2007, September, launched Boston Bikes, and hired me full time to run the bike program.
[0:50] We do the convoys the last Friday of every month. We want to get new cyclists trying to bike. I think 25-30 percent of the people that come out here ride very, very infrequently. This is an opportunity to try commuting safely.
[1:12] Cyclists come up all the time, and they say, "What can I do?" What you can do is get your friends to this event. Get them on a bike, because they'll fall in love with biking.
[1:20] When we started the program two years ago, we were very well known as the worst cycling city in the country. The mayor strongly believes that the most important thing we can do is get a network of bike facilities up and running, because that makes it safer for everyone.
[1:36] Exactly, yeah. What we want to do is get your input on some things that we are thinking about. Really, bringing the best minds together.
[1:44] I always joke that if we never have an original idea, and if we plagiarize from all the other cities, we'll be very successful. We've been watching the protected bike lanes in New York City and Portland, and our plan is to definitely go that route.
[1:57] I think I traveled to 13 or 14 different countries and almost every state racing. You get to see the conditions for cyclists, and how each state or each country treats their cyclists.
Man 1: [2:09] Today, we announce bike lanes on Mass Ave. [applause]
Nicole: [2:16] One thing about the announcement of Mass Ave. It's the spine of our system. With bike lanes all from Cambridge, across the Mass Ave Bridge and on Mass Ave, all the bike lanes that we're putting in will become that much more effective. [music]
[2:30] I love riding in Boston. It's the fastest way to get around, period. Ultimately, that's what I think people want, is to get from point A to point B fast. It's also a beautiful city, and there's a lot of green space and green ways. A lot of what we have to do in building our network is build off the current network of green ways, and then help people with their first mile and last mile, getting to those green ways.