When the Orange Line shut down a little over a month ago, it put a spotlight on another way of getting around: Bicycles. Bike usage spiked during the shutdown. Bluebikes, Boston's public bike sharing program, experienced record-breaking ridership. Becca Wolfson, executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union, joined Morning Edition co-hosts Paris Alston and Jeremy Siegel to talk about how to get more people on two-wheeled commutes. This transcript has been lightly edited.

Jeremy Siegel: What do you know about how significantly, beyond just bike sharing, did usage spike over the shutdown?

Becca Wolfson: Starting before the shutdown, we knew and city and state officials knew, that biking would surge because about half of the Orange Line stretches along the Southwest Corridor, a really great bike path. And the numbers that we thought would come true with biking did. We don't have a count of the number of people biking throughout the entire city on any mode. But, you know, Jeremy, you mentioned bike share. The city of Boston worked with the Bluebikes bike share operators to make passes free for folks who started a new pass.

Before the shutdown started, the number of daily trips on bike share was about 13,000. By the end of the shutdown, that more than doubled. So there were 26,000 daily trips being made in mid to late September on just the bike share alone. So that's a doubling of the ridership. The city of Boston does an annual bike count and takes counts of people biking at different locations across the city. Year over year there's been about a 30 percent increase. The counts this year took place probably the week after the shutdown, so we'll even get to see if that ridership persisted.

Paris Alston: So as more people are riding bikes, are you seeing this even when you're out, when you're biking, are you seeing more people around? Are you hearing people talk more about taking up cycling?

Wolfson: Yeah, absolutely. It's not just numbers, it's actual people. Any time I take a trip now, commute into work, I'm stuck at traffic lights behind, you know, five, six, seven, sometimes 12 people on bikes, depending on the intersection and the light. And you notice new riders because some new behaviors are maybe not the things you'd normally see. Maybe just confusion at how to hand signal when you're turning and things like that. So it's really exciting to see so many people who clearly haven't been riding for that long. And again, you experience it on all the bike lanes and bike paths.

Siegel: One of the people during the shutdown who we saw riding the bike more to work was Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. We spoke to her on our show and she was candid, saying that she didn't always feel safe riding to work on her bike. She recently announced a major expansion of the city's bike network. Your group's been pushing for things like this for a long time: More bike lanes, separated bike lanes. What do you make of the mayor's plans and what effect they could have?

Wolfson: When now-Mayor Wu was a city councilor, she was a huge ally in the biking space. She called for hearings on progress in the bike network. And now that she's in that position she she can control that. And so seeing her tweet and share publicly about intersections and corridors that were scary for her, that we know are scary for everyone — all the rest of us tweet about scary intersections and can't do anything about it. The fact that in the middle of the shutdown, Mayor Wu said, "I want people to be able to get around by bike, and this is one way that I'm going to make that happen" — we were very excited about the announcement. Some of the corridors that were named to be completed next year, like Boylston Street from Massachusetts Avenue all the way to the Public Garden, that's a project that's seemed like low hanging fruit for the past two mayors and it hasn't been done yet.

"All the rest of us tweet about scary intersections and can't do anything about it."
-Becca Wolfson, executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union

So to see important pieces of the bike network be announced and committed to be created in the next year was really a moment for a lot of us to be excited about and happy about. We know that you can have a disaster where people don't have other options and they choose to get around by bike, but really to capture more riders, to keep those riders, it needs to feel safe. Another person who was very public about riding recently was Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung. I spoke with her after she rode and she talked about it being exhilarating but also scary. And we talked about how there are these four types of cyclists.

I don't know if either of you have seen this before. There are one to two percent are strong and fearless and will ride in any infrastructure. About seven to nine percent are enthused and confident. I consider myself one of those people. I'll try infrastructure, even if that's a little bit scary. Fifty-six percent are interested, but concerned. And those are the people who we really need to build out that infrastructure for. And, it's great that the mayor made that commitment.

Alston: So, Becca, when we talk about this, of course, we do have to think about the relationship between bikes and cars. And this comes up time and time again. You hear various people in different neighborhoods talking, on one hand wanting these larger bike lanes, more bike lanes, and on the other hand, people feeling like they still are relying on the car to the point where they're concerned about the building of bike infrastructure. So when you're thinking about those different categories of people, especially with that last category being the largest, what do we focus on first: Getting more bikes out or getting the infrastructure out?

Wolfson: I would say it's a both-and. We need bikes to be more accessible for people, so it's great that the city has this amazing bike share system. We need the infrastructure so people will use it. And those are sort of a chicken-and-egg. For more than a decade, as we've tried to grow bicycling in the city, it's really been a safety in numbers game. Until the infrastructure was there, the more people bike, the safer they are. And the more people are willing to try it, the more drivers are aware. But really beyond that, in order to get people out of cars — and I'll be honest, some people don't have that option, right? They have five kids who they're driving to other afterschool activities, or they live too far, or they're not served well by the T.

We need all sorts of infrastructure and investments and improvements. So for some people, biking may not ever be the option. But they need better bus access. They need the T to run more frequently, to run later. So there are there all sorts of ways that we can improve the transportation ecosystem. The fewer cars we have on the road, the easier and safer it is to bike. The more bikes there are on the road, fewer cars there are competing for that space, that parking space, that travel lane. So I love to tell people who do have to drive that every person on a bike is one less car that you're competing for space with. And so we really need all of the options on the table. I like helping people you think more about how this isn't cars-versus-bikes. We're pushing for a better future where people have mobility options, where they can choose to bike because it's fun and safe and can get where they need to go.