At its last regularly scheduled meeting before the summer recess, the City Council expressed concern over the City’s recent rollout of its Bluebikes program and called for a meeting with city administrators to discuss these concerns.
Specifically, councilors wanted to know the terms of the contract between Everett and Bluebikes and whether or not Bluebikes would be sharing any profits with the City. They also wanted to know who decided where bike docks would be stationed throughout the city and who gave the green light to move forward with the installations.
In addition, Councilors cited safety concerns about the location of some of the docks.
The Independent was able to speak to the City’s Transportation Planner, Jay Monty this month to address these concerns.
Firstly, Monty pointed out that Bluebikes is not a for-profit company, but rather a not-for-profit system named for its sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield, which helps to fund operations and expansions. Everett joined the cities of Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville in their purchase of the system.
The five cities have contracted a company called Motivate to operate Bluebikes. Motivate operates bike-share systems in major cities across the U.S. and is in charge of managing payments, collecting revenue, maintaining bikes and generating ad content. In the fall of 2018, following a one-year negotiating period facilitated by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), Everett entered into a three-year contract with Motivate.
Everett is paying Motivate from the City’s general operating budget. The City hopes that as ridership increases, the operating subsidy will no longer be necessary and Bluebikes will become self-sustaining. Bluebikes equipment was purchased using the City’s capital budget.
Council broadly approves the City’s capital and operating budgets every year. They approved $200,000 for bike-share items in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, as well as additional bike-share capital expenses in 2019. They specifically requested a docked bike-share system in response to the dockless Lime bikes. However, Council does not approve individual projects with contracts shorter than three years.
The City’s Planning Department worked with Motivate to establish locations for docking stations throughout Everett. In general, they targeted heavily trafficked areas such as the business district, MBTA stops and schools. The stations were all installed between one-quarter and one-half mile apart in locations that would allow easy access to several popular destinations.
The City wanted to avoid installing docks in parking lots, as these would need to be moved yearly for snow removal. Sidewalk locations allow them to exist year-round.
Monty said that 12-foot sidewalks are required to allow for both racks and pedestrians, which limits the options to sites along Broadway and “other random locations.”
He added that the docks also couldn’t obstruct any utilities.
“Typically we’re choosing from the best of several bad options,” he said.
Bluebikes docking stations started to be installed in mid-June. Since then, the City has received complaints from residents about the location of some of the docks and is working with property owners to address these concerns. In some cases, this has meant finding new locations for docking stations.
Residents can share their concerns about the presence of Bluebikes in their neighborhoods by calling the Constituent Service Center at 311. They can also submit complaints via email at [email protected] or via a mobile app.
Monty said that the City Council wasn’t invited to talks regarding docking station locations because it’s “not considered their jurisdiction.”
Monty said that he was aware of the docking station that has bikes backing out into the street into oncoming traffic. While he admitted that it’s “not ideal,” he said it’s not much different than opening a parked car door and exiting a vehicle in the path of traffic.
“[Bluebikes] are safe and they have a track record of being safe elsewhere in the system,” he said. He also emphasized that the City is in the middle of launching its bicycle safety campaign, which includes a presentation by Bluebikes on Thursday, July 25, as well as several other initiatives.
The Bluebikes workshop will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. at the parking lot off Airforce Road and Tremont Street. Register at eventbrite.com/e/learn-to-bluebike-tickets-65174408410.