Bicycling has finally come of age in Boston. It’s common today to see both locals and tourists biking along inner-city streets as well as pedestrian malls and other auto-free zones. Car drivers are becoming more used to having to sharing the road with bicycles, and an increasing number of designated bike lanes are helping make things safer for everyone. Note that helmets are required for anyone 16 or younger.
The city has a fair number of stands for locking your bike. Bicycles can be carried onto most buses and subways (with the exception of the Green Line) during nonpeak hours, which are defined as between 7 pm and 7 am and then between 10 am and 4 pm.
The typical cost for a hybrid bike (with a helmet and lock) is $35 for an 8-hour day. Centrally located bike rental and repair shops include Back Bay Bicycles, Landry’s Bikes, and International Bicycle Centers; some bike shops offer guided bike tours. State law requires that all rental companies have helmets available to renters.
The advocacy group MassBike has a website with extensive maps showing bike lanes and bike-friendly trails on its website, as well as more general info for cyclists on its website. There are nearly 50 car-free miles of largely interconnected waterfront pathways that are open to bikes, from Charlestown and the Waterfront to Dorchester and Quincy. Both banks of the Charles River have scenic paths heading westward to Watertown and Newton. Other dedicated bicycle paths, some made from repurposed former rail lines, connect the hub with outer suburbs; the Minuteman Trail, for instance, heads westward from Cambridge for 15 miles, linking Arlington, Lexington, Concord, and Bedford.
Boston's short-term bike rental program is primarily commuter-oriented, but it can also be a handy and fun way for travelers to cover relatively short distances. Members are able to unlock a bike from a Hubway dock, ride it for up to thirty minutes, and then return it to any other dock. There's no additional charge for any ride that lasts less than 30 minutes, and the docks are in strategic locations throughout the metro area.
Short-term memberships are available for 24 hours ($6), 3 days ($12), and by the month ($20), and you must be 18 or over to join. Sign up online or via one of the kiosks at each dock. Note that the prices don't include a helmet, which isn't mandatory but which is a good idea, or a lock, which isn't necessary if you're taking the bike directly to another dock.
Before taking a bike out, plan your route to the next dock—the Hubway's website and the free Spotcycle app (available for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry) shows docks' locations, as well as how many bikes and empty spaces are available at each. If you don't manage to return a bike within 30 minutes, an overtime fee will be charged to your credit card. Such fees can be stiff, especially if you've kept the bike longer than an hour.
Back Bay Bicycles (362 Commonwealth Ave., Back Bay, Boston, MA, 02115. 617/247–2336. papa-wheelies.com.)
Hubway (855/448–2929. www.thehubway.com.)
International Bicycle Center (89 Brighton Ave., Allston, Boston, MA, 02134. 617/783–5804. internationalbike.com.)
Landry's Bicycles (890 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, Boston, MA, 02215. 617/232–0446. www.landrys.com.)
MassBike (171 Milk St., Downtown, Boston, MA, 02109. 617/542–2453. massbike.org.)
Urban AdvenTours (103 Atlantic Ave., Waterfront, Boston, MA, 02110. 617/670–0637. www.urbanadventours.com.)