Editorial: Not just along for the ride

August 19, 2011
By

Hubway, the new bicycle rental system, appears to be a success.

It would be even more successful with the public input it deserves.

Hubway, a joint city-corporate program, is one of Mayor Menino’s many real-deal bicycle infrastructure improvements. It is not cosmetic and it is not fluff. It is an ambitious achievement. The mayor is clearly serious about making all of us healthier with the benefits of alternative transportation.

That makes it all the more mystifying that, in three years of planning, the city never allowed residents to review the plan for a system designed to help them.

It is a mystery too common in Boston government, where good—even great—ideas too frequently end up with unnecessary loopholes because regular folks couldn’t ask sensible questions.

With Hubway, we once again see neighborhood residents treated as an obstacle to avoid and an audience to surprise, rather than as a resource to tap and a constituency to respect. Instead, we get a corporation—albeit a well-intentioned one—using public streets and sidewalks according to the notions of itself and its sponsors.

That is not an abstract problem. The Beacon Hill Civic Association was able to muscle its way into giving advice, and discovered that all three of its local Hubway stations were in questionable, potentially dangerous, spots. The city and Hubway operator Alta Bicycle Share must agree, as those stations did not open and apparently are being relocated.

Does it make sense that the Roxbury Crossing Hubway station is across much asphalt from the T station and Roxbury Community College? Should Hubway replace on-street parking spaces in Brigham Circle? Mission Hill’s residents and business owners are the experts in answering those questions. No one—except the Gazette—asked.

Lack of public feedback is bad government and bad business. Maybe Hubway was too focused on hitting an opening date to get it right. But now that Hubway is up and running, there is no reason not to tell the public where the next stations are proposed and ask them what they think.

Hubway should be a success, and only the public can make it so. Residents should not be just along for the Hubway ride.

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