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Bluebikes Ridership Is Down, But Remains Busy Near Hospitals

A map of the top 20 Bluebikes stations for trip origins in the last two weeks of March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to the same period in March 2019.

Recent data show that ridership on the Boston region's leading bikesharing system had dropped by roughly 75 percent from pre-pandemic levels after Governor Baker's stay-at-home order took effect during the final week of March.

After a mild winter and a large expansion of stations last summer, ridership on the region's Bluebikes system had been showing strong year-over-year growth until the pandemic struck.

In the first week of March 2020, the system was averaging 5,500 rides a day – more than twice the average of 2,180 daily rides the system generated during the same period last year (see chart below).

But as university campuses and workplaces shut down, ridership began to plummet. By the final week of the month, after Governor Baker's stay at home order took effect, average ridership had declined to about 1,380 rides each day – a 75 percent decline.

Bluebikes pandemic ridership chart
Bluebikes daily ridership in March 2019 vs. March 2020, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bluebikes daily ridership in March 2019 vs. March 2020, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has also shifted the rankings of the system's busiest stations away from office districts like downtown Boston and Kendall Square, and towards hospitals and close-in residential neighborhoods with high populations of car-free households, like Allston (see the map at the top of this post).

Bluebikes started marketing free memberships to hospital workers in March, and some health care workers seem to have taken them up on their offer: the Bluebikes station at Charles Circle, next to the Massachusetts General Hospital, was the second-busiest Bluebikes checkout point in the system for the last two weeks of March, with 535 bikes checked out over 14 days.

A nearby station on the other side of the MGH campus and another in the Longwood Medical Area also ranked among the system's top 20 trip origins for the same period.

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