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Bike-sharing boomed in the Boston area in 2018

Arrivals such as LimeBike and Ant joined mainstay Blue Bikes as did new electric and dockless technology

A Bluebike in the Boston area. Boston Globe via Getty Images

When 2018 started, there was one bike-share option in the Boston area aside from the odd pilot program: Blue Bikes. Now, as 2018 ends, Blue Bikes is but one of a handful of bike-share options in the region.

Yes, if the year is remembered for anything transportation-wise here, let it be for a dramatic expansion in bike-share options (we would say the real, no-fooling-this-time launch of the Green Line extension through Somerville should be a close second).

In April, San Mateo, California-based LimeBike rolled out its dockless bikes in 15 cities and towns, including Arlington, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Revere, and Watertown, following some pilot programs to test the waters.

These LimeBikes were regional groundbreakers in the sense that, unlike Blue Bikes, users could unlock the bikes where they found them with a mobile-phone app and then lock them wherever with the same app once they were done (though that “wherever” was theoretically supposed to be within the share’s 15-municipality footprint).

Also in early 2018, Ant Bicycle, a two-year-old concern based out of Cambridge, rolled out its first dockless bikes in Lynn and Swampscott, and on some private properties in Cambridge and Boston. As with other dockless bikes, they are unlocked using a mobile app.

Another dockless bike option called Ofo spread across parts of the region for a couple of months starting in May. But, when the Beijing-based company behind it decided to pull back from North America, the Ofo bikes quickly disappeared.

Meanwhile, Blue Bikes remains the biggest option for bike-sharing in the region, with 200 docking stations in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline, the four municipalities that own the conventional bike-share. What’s more, Blue Bikes has plans to expand dramatically within its four locales over the next two years.

The rollout in 2018 of the new bike-share options—thousands of them on top of the 1,800 and counting that Blue Bikes makes available—did spark some friction. Officials in the municipalities that own Blue Bikes did not care for dockless ones to be left within their borders. Some locals did not care for the arrivistes either.

As 2018 closes, though, regional cooperation on bike-sharing seems inevitable as more vehicles hit the lanes, sidewalks, and roads of our densely packed megalopolis. What’s more, pedal-assist electric bikes are now a part of the LimeBike fleet regionally, adding further oomph to a bike-share boom that few saw coming at the start of the year.

Who knows, maybe 2019 will be the year of the scooter-share.