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 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 growing number of stands for locking your bike. Bicycles can be hitched to racks on the front of most buses or carried onto subway cars (with the exception of the Green Line) during nonpeak hours, with "peak" defined as 7 am to 10 am and 4 pm to 7 pm. "Pedal and Park" bike cages are available to cyclists at major transit hubs like Alewife and Forest Hills Stations.
The typical fee for a hybrid bike (with helmet and lock) is $35 per eight-hour day. Centrally located bike rental and repair shops include Back Bay Bicycles, Landry’s Bikes, and Urban AdvenTours; some bike shops offer guided tours. State law requires that all rental companies have helmets available to renters.
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 30 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 dozens of 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 (downloadable for iOS and Android) shows docks' locations, and 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.
The advocacy group MassBike has a website with general info for cyclists as well as extensive maps showing bike lanes and bike-friendly trails in Greater Boston and beyond. There are more than 100 car-free miles of largely interconnected waterfront pathways now 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.
Back Bay Bicycles. 362 Commonwealth Ave., Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts, 02115. 617/247–2336; papa-wheelies.com.
Hubway. 855/448–2929; www.thehubway.com.
Landry's Bicycles. 890 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, Boston, Massachusetts, 02215. 617/232–0446; 617/783--5804; www.landrys.com.
MassBike. 171 Milk St., Downtown, Boston, Massachusetts, 02109. 617/542–2453; massbike.org.
Urban AdvenTours. 103 Atlantic Ave., Waterfront, Boston, Massachusetts, 02110. 617/670–0637; 617/379--3590; www.urbanadventours.com.