Bike Sharing Program Coming Soon to Watertown, Surrounding Towns

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Watertown is planning to contract with companies that will provide a bicycle sharing program similar to Hubway but without the docking stations and bring the bikes to Town as soon as this spring. 

Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon said the Town had been looking at working with Hubway, which provides bicycles that can be rented by the hour in Boston, Cambridge, Brookline and Somerville. However installing the docks would require the Town to invest thousands of dollars and find places in town to locate them.

Then Watertown and other communities began receiving inquiries from other companies looking to do bicycle sharing, Magoon said.

“About a year ago dockless systems came to municipalities and said we want to come into your community free of charge, and you don’t need a dock,” Magoon said.

The bikes would have wheels that are locked and can be unlocked by people using the company’s app. Users could also find out the locations of the bikes (which have GPS locators on them) by looking on the app.

The program will not cost the Town money, but Town officials will have to designate areas on public land for the bicycles to be located. There also may be other locations around town on land not owned by the Town, such as companies. The rate for using the bikes will be $1 per ride, Magoon said.

With so many companies interested in getting started in the Boston area, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) got together a group of 15 communities – including Watertown – to do a joint request for proposals.

Two companies were chosen, and will begin rolling out the program soon, according to a memo from Watertown Transportation Planner Laura Wiener dated March 15, 2018.

“Currently MAPC is finalizing a contract with the vendors. The next step for the communities to negotiate with the vendor, which include designated locations the bike parking. It is anticipated this program will be launched this spring,” Wiener’s memo reads.

The dockless bike share program has already begun in Revere and Malden, and other communities that will participate include Belmont, Waltham, Newton, Arlington, Melrose, Medford, Needham and Milton, the memo said.

Magoon said he anticipates Watertown working with two vendors to give some competition, but not have too many companies in the same place. He expects 100s of bicycles to be brought to Town.

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