Urban Cyclists Guide to Boston

Boston has embraced cycling with abandon. Long known as a dangerous place to ride, it has improved rapidly over the past several years. Bike share stations are everywhere, commuters pedal through the winter and families have plenty of safe trails to enjoy.

Since 2007, Boston has turned heads nationwide with a slew of ambitious improvements and safety measures. True to form, once it got hooked on biking, it has pushed to be the best city to ride in the country. And it’s clearly headed that way.

One of Boston’s many leafy trails. (Courtesy of Lee Toma.)

Bike Lanes and Trails

As of 2013 Boston has 60 miles of bike lanes. It is in the midst of a major expansion of the bike network that will add 75 miles in five years and over 350 within 30 years.

If you’re looking to tool around on the weekends, there are plenty of leisurely routes. One of the most scenic (and popular) is the 17-mile path along the Charles River. In Jamaica Plain, you can ride around historic Arnold Arboretum or on tree-lined trails through it. Running 10 miles between Bedford and Cambridge, the Minuteman Bikeway is a family-friendly rail trail that passes through Revolutionary War sites. A popular commuter route is Southwest Corridor Park, which runs from Back Bay to Forest Hills. For more ideas, check out the city’s bike map.

9264692120_d504d15e31_o.jpgHubway bike share. (Courtesy of Lorianne DiSabato)

Improving Safety

As it’s become a more popular biking city, Boston has become a safer one. Between 2010 and 2012 ridership increased over 25%, but accident rates stayed were up only about 2%, according to a 2013 report. There were about 1,446 accidents and nine fatalities in that time. The report cautions that most crashes occur in warm weather around dusk, between 4pm and 7pm, with a high concentration on busy intersections along Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenues. The city tracks self-reported bike incidents:

Since City Hall’s Boston Bikes initiative launched in 2007, riding is up 82% and is far less hazardous than it once was. In 2011, the city became one of the first to adopt a major bike-share program, Hubway, which now has over 700 bikes and 72 stations. Long ranked one of the worst cycling cities by Bicycling magazine, Boston has moved into the top 20. The League of American Bicyclists awarded it a silver rating in recognition of these achievements.

Racers in Boston’s Mayor’s Cup. (Courtesy of John Tammaro)

An Active Cycling Culture

If you want to go on a group ride, there are many clubs in Boston to choose from. Meeting the right biking buddy is a little like dating, so you’ll want to try out a few to find the best fit. A good place to start is with the Charles River Wheelmen, a friendly and inclusive group that organizes regular year-round recreational rides. Racers should try the Boston Road Club, which trains for races with weekly rides around the city, or the CCB Racing Club, open to racers and non-racers. The New England Mountain Bike Association has a lot of off-road trail suggestions and organizes rides throughout the region.

Commuters can join a group ride on Bike Fridays, which finishes at City Hall with free coffee and breakfast. Hub on Wheels is an annual citywide ride with 10, 30 and 50 mile routes, all of which pass through a car-free Storrow Drive.

Courtesy of Lee Toma.


More and more Bostonians are biking to work, numbering 1.7% of commuters. That may not seem like much, but it’s up from 0.6% in 2000. As you can see from the Census’ interactive map, Cambridge edges out the city of Boston in percentage of bike commuters:

Strava’s heat map shows popular routes, including the Charles River bike path, Commonwealth Avenue, Seaport Boulevard and on Atlantic Avenue along the Rose Kennedy Greenway:

Check out Strava’s full interactive map here.

Cover photo: biking along the Charles River. (Courtesy of Richard Ricciardi)

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