New Research Reveals Demand for Bike Share in Greater Boston Communities

New research by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) analyzing over 300,000 bike share trips reveals demand for bike share in Greater Boston communities, as well as opportunities for improvements to suburban cycling infrastructure within communities and between cities and towns.

The interactive report uses detailed trip-level data from the Lime system, which operates in 16 cities and towns in Greater Boston, to map trip patterns and pinpoint the most-frequented routes over the 18-month period from April 2018 through September 2019.

 The data, which includes individual trip routes without tracking information about the habits of individual users, revealed that connections to transit were a relatively small share of Lime bike trips: only 15% of trips began or ended within 100 meters of a subway, trolley, Silver Line or Commuter Rail station.

Instead, many trips took place within communities, to and from points of interest or between municipalities where transit connections are limited. City or town centers and commercial districts have the highest density of activity, but trips spread out into residential neighborhoods, which tend to be the end-point of trips more than the start. The average trip length was just over one mile and the highest frequency of trips took place between 4  and 7 p.m.

“This analysis shows how new forms of so-called ‘micro-mobility’ can be quickly adopted by all kinds of communities and serve a unique role in the transportation system,” said MAPC Transportation Director Eric Bourassa. “It also shows how important it is for public agencies to have access to detailed data that can inform planning and policy.”

Analysis of the trip data demonstrates that in many places, Lime users were riding on roadways with limited or no existing bike infrastructure, such as bike lanes, physical separation from traffic, and easily-navigable turns and crossings. Sweetser Circle/Revere Beach Parkway in Everett, Commercial and Centre Streets in Malden, Washington Street in Newton and Arsenal Street in Watertown are all examples of roadways that saw high volumes of Lime ridership but are currently stressful for bicyclists.

“We’re looking forward to using this new data resource as another piece of information to plan for new bike infrastructure that will make people feel safe and comfortable biking around Newton so they don’t feel the need to drive for every little trip,” said Nicole Freedman, director of transportation planning for the City of Newton.

The information comes as a result of a data-sharing agreement between Lime and MAPC, which created the regional framework that allows Lime to operate in over a dozen communities in the Greater Boston region.

“Greater Boston currently suffers from the worst traffic congestion in the nation, affecting everyone who lives, works or studies in the region. Yet while nearly 50 percent of trips in the region are less than four miles, people still overwhelmingly choose to drive,” said Scott Mullen, Lime Director of Northeast Expansion. “MAPC’s unprecedented analysis of data from our regional bike share system will enable cities and towns to prioritize safe, inviting infrastructure, which will entice people out of their cars for those short trips and help to ease congestion for all.” 

The 16 municipalities served by Lime and included in the data analysis are Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Milton, Needham, Newton, Quincy, Revere, Waltham, Watertown and Winthrop.

 The report is being published in an online, interactive format that will allow municipal staff, cycling advocates and interested residents to select specific corridors and intersections and download detailed information for further analysis.

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