Opinion open letter

The bikes are blue — and I am too

Bluebikes are great. The benefits to individuals, the community, and the climate are so obvious that enumerating them is left as an exercise for the students.

Nevertheless, if you want to ride one to MIT in the morning, there are frequently no bikes at the dock stations. If you do manage to find a bike in the morning, there are no empty racks to return it to. The inverse problem exists in the evening.

Bluebikes mitigates this problem by loading bikes into vans and redistributing them — so-called load-leveling. This solution works in principle, but the vans cannot work fast enough at peak times and are idle otherwise. Additionally, using vans diminishes some of the benefits that Bluebikes provides.

Increased bike capacity for docks would help. Perhaps MIT could loan Bluebikes some additional dock space on campus. (I’ll let the students fill in the joke about using the capacity of the Infinite Corridor.) That would free up capacity that is currently used by the growing number of tech firms in our vicinity. Win-win.

Bluebikes, if you are reading this, let me suggest a partial solution for you. Use the gig economy. Use your app to pay a moderate fee to anyone willing to move a bike from a full rack to an empty rack. I don’t know how the cost-benefit would work out — I’ll leave that as an exercise for our students as well.

W. Craig Carter
POSCO Professor of Materials Science