Rack Race

Indeed, Freedman has been paying attention to best practices. And despite knotty zoning laws and difficult neighborhood groups, last year she saw to it that 250 new bike racks were installed in Boston, with another 250 slated by the end of this year, and another 250 in 2010. But—much like the mayor’s pledge to add five miles of bike lanes a year (five whole miles!)—the action isn’t quite living up to all the big talk. Even with the new racks, there still won’t be enough parking. "I think we’re moving forward, which is much better than it was before last year," Watson says. "I think it would be great if we could move forward more quickly."

One bright spot can be found at the OtherSide Café, on the Newbury Street extension, where the city has replaced an on-street parking space with a so-called bike corral. It holds up to 20 bikes and tends to be under constant casual surveillance, making thieves less likely to target them. But, alas, it’s the only one in the city, and exists solely because café employee Andrea Parros suggested the idea to Freedman after seeing the corrals in Portland. While the corral here has been a success, there are no imminent plans to replicate it—for that to happen, Freedman says, a local business would have to come to her and ask for one.

That’s the most discouraging part: Racks are installed mostly on a by-request basis. While it’s nice that people who want racks get them, it also means that we end up without a deliberate plan for turning all of Boston into an inviting place to bike. Until that’s fixed, and Boston becomes something nobody thought it could be—a world-class city for parking—it will never be a world-class city for biking.