Hubway Bike-Sharing Program Gets Rolling

Boston's Tish Simmons, front, and other cyclists depart Boston's City Hall Plaza Thursday as part of a launch of the state's first bike-share program -- Hubway. (AP)

Boston's Tish Simmons, front, and other cyclists depart Boston's City Hall Plaza Thursday as part of a launch of the state's first bike-share program -- Hubway. (AP)

BOSTON — Boston now has its own bike-sharing program.

The new Hubway system allows Bostonians to pick up a bike from one of 61 bike stations around the city and drop it off at a different station when they are done. At least 40 of the stations opened Thursday, and the rest are scheduled to be up and running in the next week.

Hundreds of cyclists attended Thursday’s launch of the program at Government Center, where Boston Mayor Thomas Menino applauded the program as a way to reduce traffic congestion, improve health and help the environment.

“The car is no longer king in Boston,” Menino said.

According to the mayor’s office, more than 700 people have signed up for annual memberships to the bike-share program so far.

One of them is 69-year-old Lois Levin of Newton. At her age, she said, it’s easier to bike than to walk.

“Because people — as they get older — their feet hurt, their knees hurt, their ankles hurt,” Levin said. “And you can adjust a bike so you can really pedal very easily with minimal stress on your joints.”

Levin participated in the inaugural ride of the Hubway program Thursday, then rented one of the bikes to trek from Government Center to Kenmore Square. She said the ride took her about 15 minutes.

Boston already has an active cycling community. There are more than 38 miles of bike lanes in the city, which bikers use to run errands and to get to and from work.

Michelle Igbani regularly rides her bike on Commonwealth Avenue. Although she’s happy more people may be joining her in the bike lanes once the program gains some steam, pulled over at a busy intersection on her way to work she worried about how newer cyclists will navigate the city’s complicated streets.

Hundreds of bikes were set-up outside Boston's City Hall before Thursday's Hubway launch. (Kimberly Adams/WBUR)

Hundreds of bikes were set-up outside Boston's City Hall before Thursday's Hubway launch. (Kimberly Adams/WBUR)

“I mean, not everywhere is completely straightforward,” Igbani said. “You’re more prone to get into an accident.”

Boston Police officer Tommy Yung cautioned new riders to take it easy their first few times out. He does his patrols on his bike year-round, as long as the weather isn’t too bad.

“If you’re not an expert on the streets of Boston, you have to be aware of your surroundings,” Yung said.

Another concern is how drivers and bikers interact on the roads. Levin says she didn’t have any problems with drivers on her ride from the Hubway launch at Government Center to the bike station at Kenmore Square, although she was cautious.

“Some of the drivers weren’t prepared to see that there was someone in the bike lane,” Levin said. “They’re not fully accustomed to that yet. But they do get out of the way if they see you coming, if they are overlapping the bike lane.”

John Colburne is one of those drivers who tries to watch out for cyclists. He’s a pipe fitter for G.T. Wilkinsen Company and spends most of his day out on Boston’s streets, going to and from repair jobs. He said that he adjusts his driving to the many bikers he encounters.

“Turning corners, that type of thing, somebody cutting in front of you,” Colburne said. “It’s enough with the pedestrians, now we have to worry about the bicyclists, too.”

Colburne said he’s used to sharing the road, but admitted to being a bit wary when he saw the hundreds of bikers at the Hubway launch downtown.

“Mostly because you’ve got people that aren’t really familiar with the neighborhoods getting on bicycles and they could be spinning around, in and out of traffic,” Colburne said.

Officer Yung says sharing the road isn’t just about cars looking out for cyclists. Bikers also have a responsibility to be careful, especially to watch out for pedestrians. Some cyclists are careless around pedestrians, weaving around them on sidewalks when walkers or joggers are unprepared for them, Yung said.

The new Hubway bike-share program also requires that users where a helmet for safety while using the bikes.

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  • Pattiroberts22

    Saw a very successful and widespread bike haring program in Barcelona this summer. However, the drivers are very used to motorbikes and Barcelona has excellent separate bike lanes from the main streets, so pedestrians & cars are not so much in the mix. Wonderful!

  • Beez

    I ride my bike alot. I’ve used the Bixi bikes in Montreal, but because of the helmet requirement, I guess I won’t be participating in the hometown program

    • Paul

      I am not aware of any legal requirement that you wear a helmet (unless you are under age 13).  Maybe the Hubway program contractually requires it?  I didn’t see that explicitly stated anywhere.  However, if you’re also one who doesn’t like to wear seat belts when you drive, I don’t want to see you on the road, literally: i.e. dead, when ejected from vehicle during a crash — a story line I see in the newspapers far too often.  Kindly find a comfortable helmet; maybe keep an extra one at work (they’re offering nice ones for a modest $10).  Don’t really want you living in brain injury rehab on my tax dollars.  Anyway, the signs I saw around Le Plateau in Montreal say “wear a helmet” (except that it’s in French ;-) when you’re on the Bixi bikes.  Rode into work with a group this morning [see: bikefridays.org] and enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of the morning (generally great: esp. freshly baked bread).

      • http://www.greenidea.eu Green_Idea_Factory

        It’s not a legal requirement, but if you get injured or worse while using one of the bikes and you are not wearing a helmet, the operators are not liable (or have limited liability). Everyone who joins has to sign. Helmets are not required whilst walking or driving… so why are bikes different? Does MBTA make you agree to wear flat shoes while you are in their system?

        This is a kind of exceptionalism which keeps bike share in a conceptual ghetto.

  • girl_wonder

    “News from the
    University of Brighton (UK); a  student has developed a safety device
    that projects a bright green laser image of a bike onto the road ahead –
    alerting motorists to [the biker's] presence.”     Student will attend Babson’s Entrepreneurship Program!  See http://www.havefunbiking.com/news/newsarticle.php?id=924

  • Benp762

    Not sure about the helmet requirement. Of course it’s a good idea, but is it really going to be policed? What makes bike sharing so attractive is that it competes with walking and transit. People who might otherwise walk or take the bus might now decide at the last minute to ride one of the shared bikes. The helmet ‘requirement’ sort of puts a damper on that. Hopefully this helmet ‘requirement’ is something Hubway did just to get the project rolling within the overly litigous society that America has become, and not something that it is actually going to be enforced. 

  • Ksqbillyr

    Tried for the first time to help out someone at Brigham Circle who was left with no place to dock bike.  Seems to be problem number one.  Too many bikes, not enough empty slots.  Rode from Brigham circle to Bolston at Yawkey well under the 30 minute free time but NO PLACE TO RETURN.  Read instructions and you’re supposed to get a 15 minute credit to bike to another station (Back in the other direction of course) but you have to swipe your card again for the credit and the slot would not accept card.  Not wouldn’t read card but literally the card would not fit.  The exact same card I used at Brigham circle.  Another person had the same issue trying to rent a bike but card would not push into slot.  I now trekked to another station to return bike which is supposed to read green when redocked but of course had a red light.  No amount of adjusting would change that so I had to get on the phone to a customer service person who knows where trying to understand where I was but of course there was no numerical code to the station.  This bike rider will stay away from this cluster you-know-what.  How can something like this be so poorly run?

  • Ksqbillyr

    BTW.  You don’t need a helmet if you don’t want to.  I know a helmet is a good thing but I’ve fallen more on steps and in my bathroom than I have on a bike.

    • Jasoturner

      After thousands of miles, I’ve crashed thrice.  Two times it was because a kid veered into me, once time I flatted on a curve going at a good clip.  Broken collar bone and a concussion were the results.  Helmets protect you from the other idiots out on the road, and from acts of god.  Doesn’t necessarily matter how well you personally can ride a bike.

      Then again, people who ride in the city without a helmet?  Maybe it’s just natural selection at work…

    • Asfdasf

      You don’t like “where”ing your helmet?

  • Silvia Reyes

    Sounds like a great idea.  Hope it turns out well.  Maybe other cities can adopt it.

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