Bicycling and the MBTA

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The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority operates subway, bus, commuter rail, and ferry service in the Greater Boston region. Boston has some of the highest rates of non-motorized commuting in the United States, including high bicycle usage.[1] The MBTA offers certain provisions for riders wishing to make part of their trips by bicycle. The agency allows bicycles to be carried on all fixed-route services except the Green Line and the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line light rail lines, although they are restricted on the commuter rail and heavy rail subway services at peak hours. Bicycle storage areas are offered at many stations, with "Pedal and Park" locking bicycle cages at certain high-usage stations.

MBTA policies[edit]

Standard non-folding bicycles are permitted on most MBTA service, though they may be restricted at peak hours:[2]

Service Bicycles permitted Restrictions
          Bus Yes Exterior bicycle racks are available on all MBTA buses except trolleybuses (used on routes 71, 73, SL1, SL2 and SL3); each rack holds two bicycles. Standard bicycles are not allowed inside buses.
     Blue Line Yes No bicycles allowed inbound from 7-9am or outbound from 4-6 pm on weekdays
     Green Line No
     Orange Line Yes No bicycles allowed from 7-10am and 4-7pm on weekdays
     Red Line Yes No bicycles allowed from 7-10am and 4-7pm on weekdays
     Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line No
     Commuter Rail Yes No bicycles allowed on peak period trains as designated on schedules
     Boat Yes

Folding bicycles are allowed on all MBTA vehicles at all times provided they are fully folded before going through faregates or entering vehicles.[2]

Bicycles are not allowed to be transported through the transfer stations at Park Street, Downtown Crossing, and Government Center at any times due to crowding in narrow corridors in the old stations. Motorized vehicles and bicycle trailers are not permitted. The MBTA states that "[b]icycles may also be prohibited during holidays..., special events, service disruptions, and other periods when crowding or special conditions exist."[2]

Bicycle storage and theft at stations[edit]

One of three Pedal and Park cages at Alewife station

Most (over 95%) MBTA stations have bicycle racks available. A number of commuter rail and subway stations, as well as the bus stations at Arlington Heights and Watertown Square, have covered bicycle parking areas.[2] A small number, including South Acton, have individual bicycle lockers.

Pedal and Park cages[edit]

A small number of MBTA stations have "Pedal and Park" cages, which allow for more secure bicycle storage than normal open racks. Each cage includes racks for 50 to 150 bicycles, six security cameras, lighting, and a police intercom system, with the intent of deterring bicycle thefts. As of July 2015, there are sixteen cages at fourteen stations:[2]

As bicycling increased in popularity in the early 2000s in Boston, bicycle thefts from MBTA stations became more common. 199 thefts were reported in 2011, up from around 100 in 2007 and 70 in 2003.[3] The first two Pedal and Park cages were installed at Alewife in September 2008 to serve commuter bikers from the busy Minuteman Bikeway, followed shortly after by one at Forest Hills.[4] In 2013, the Alewife cages made headlines after MBTA Transit Police installed a cardboard cutout of a police officer in one as a psychological deterrent to theft.[5]

In 2011, the MBTA received a federal grant to add more cages, for which local advocacy group MassBike was brought in as a design consultant.[6] The first new cage opened at Oak Grove in April 2013, followed by a dozen others over the next year. Originally, a CharlieCard or special Bike CharlieCard would open cages; after May 2013, users were required to register their CharlieCard with the MBTA to gain access.[7] The cage at Salem, opened in January 2015, was the first at an MBTA station without rapid transit service.[8] Although the cages have reduced bicycle theft on the MBTA, occasional thefts do still occur inside them.[9]

All seven stations under construction on the Green Line Extension will also have Pedal and Park cages.[10][11]

Blue Bikes[edit]

Blue Bikes, a municipal bikesharing service in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline, does not have docking stations on MBTA property and no official attempt is made to connect the two systems. However, many MBTA stations and bus stops in the four municipalities have nearby Blue Bikes docks.[2]

Bicycle coaches[edit]

Two MBTA Commuter Rail cars are modified to hold bicycles - one entirely for bicycles, and another with half the space remaining as seating - and a third is planned to modified similarly.[12] On weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day, one of the cars runs on the Newburyport/Rockport Line and the other on the CapeFLYER service to Cape Cod.[2]

Trail connections[edit]

Some MBTA stations offer direct connections to off-street trails and bicycle paths, many of which are rail trails built on former railroad rights of way.

Alewife-centered trails[edit]

Former tracks from the Lexington Branch alongside the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway in Lexington

After Lexington Branch commuter rail service ceased in 1977 and the Red Line Northwest Extension was terminated at Alewife due to opposition in Arlington, the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway was built on the right of way from Alewife to Bedford Depot. It opened to East Arlington in 1992 and to Alewife in 1998. The Minuteman serves as a major commuter trunkline, with hundreds of riders per day using it to reach the Red Line.

Two additional paths follow the former Fitchburg Cutoff: the Fitchburg Cutoff Trail west to Brighton Street, and the Somerville Community Path east to Davis station and beyond. As part of the Green Line Extension, the Community Path will be extended from its current Lowell Street terminus to Lechmere, with direct access to stations at Lowell Street, Gilman Square, Washington Street, and Lechmere.[11][13]

Other trails[edit]

Other trails, mostly suburban, offer access from MBTA stations:


  1. ^ McKenzie, Brian (May 2014). "Modes Less Traveled—Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008–2012" (PDF). United States Census. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Bikes on the T". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  3. ^ Moskowitz, Eric (24 January 2012). "Thefts rose 26 percent on MBTA in 2011". Boston Globe. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  4. ^ "MBTA Unveils Bike Cages At Alewife Station" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 18 September 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  5. ^ "Cardboard Police Officer Curbs Crime At MBTA Station". CBS Boston. 5 August 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  6. ^ David (18 August 2011). "MassBike Helps MBTA Design New Bike Racks". MassBike. Archived from the original on 28 September 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  7. ^ Annear, Steve (12 April 2013). "MBTA Rolling Out New 'Pedal and Park' Bike Cages at More Stations". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  8. ^ "Pedal and Park Bike Storage Available in Coming Weeks at Salem MBTA Station". NoBo Magazine. 22 January 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  9. ^ Annear, Steve (18 August 2014). "While Infrequent, Thefts Still Occur Inside the MBTA's Secure Bike Cages". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  10. ^ Annear, Steve (13 November 2014). "Green Line Extension Plans Include Lots of Space to Store Your Bike". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  11. ^ a b "GLX Working Group Presentation: October 2, 2014" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2 October 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  12. ^ "MBTA Vehicle Inventory". NETransit. 5 November 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  13. ^ "COMMUNITY PATH EXTENDING TO BOSTON" (Press release). City of Somerville. 30 April 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2015.

External links[edit]