With the start of spring comes the long awaited reopening of the Hubway bike system tomorrow.
The Hubway system began in 2011 and was located exclusively in the Metro Boston area. By 2012, Hubway had garnered tremendous usage and success and subsequently expanded to include Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville, as well as doubling the original 61 stations and 610 bikes.
According to Emily Stapleton, general manager at Alta Bicycle Share Inc., an operator for the Hubway system, the Hubway concept has a few main goals.
“The Boston area is an incredibly congested region with very narrow streets that are not on a grid system,” she said. “Hubway, with a bike sharing network, sought to alleviate some of the congestion and provide an alternative way to get around the city.”
The issue of public health was another concern. “Hubway hopes to make a significant shift from vehicles to methods of transportation that improve air quality,” Stapleton said. “The organization is focused on limiting the city’s emissions.” Hubway’s commitment to the environment extends not only to the use of bicycles itself-the bike stations use solar power.
Hubway is also focused on the safety of its riders. The city of Boston invests in the Hubway stations and bikes, and operators are hired to make sure the bikes are safe and operational-they monitor the status of the bikes frequently. The companies chosen as operators for the bikes, such as Alta Bicycle Share, work closely with program managers to continually improve the bicycles and the system. Hubway users are also required to wear a helmet when riding the Hubway bicycles. Hubway offers helmets for purchase, as well as Helmet Hub stations throughout the city at which Hubway riders can rent and return helmets.
To actually use the bikes, interested patrons must open an annual or monthly membership, or purchase a 24- or 72-hour Access Pass. Depending on the membership, members then receive either a Hubway key or the Access Pass, and can take out a bike anywhere in the network. The bikes, as Stapleton describes them, are meant for relatively short, quick distances around the city and must be docked into another station within 30 minutes to avoid incurring additional fees.
Boston is not the only city to boast a bike sharing system like Hubway. Minneapolis, in particular, has a similar bike sharing system, and also shut down for the winter months. Although some other cities have year-round bike systems, the harsher and snowier weather in Boston kept most of the stations closed from Thanksgiving to the beginning of spring.
The partial exception to the shutdown this year was Cambridge, where the Hubway system remained open through the winter months of late 2013 and early 2014 as a pilot program, in order to see how often the bikes would be used. In the case of extreme weather, Hubway notified its users through public announcements and social media. Otherwise, the bike stations remained open during snow and even had Hubway technicians and station cleaners to keep the stations and bikes from accumulating too much snow or ice. Hubway’s goal is to one day be able to keep the system open year-round.
With the official system-wide opening tomorrow come a few changes. Ten new stations have been added to the system-four in Boston and six in Cambridge. Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, has been supportive of Hubway and will be participating in the reopening of the system by docking the first bike.