In coming back to school, you might have noticed the new bright green and black bikes zipping around Cambridge, or the similarly-colored station near Bexley at the corner of Amherst Alley and Mass. Ave. Hubway, whose logo is proudly emblazoned in green on the bikes and stations, is a bike share system that started in Boston and now, a little over a year later, has expanded to Cambridge. Hubway is managed by Alta BicycleShare, which operates bicycle sharing systems in Washington, D.C., Arlington, and Australia.
This “accessible, green and fun transit option,” as advertised on the company’s website, can be temporarily accessed with a 24-hour or 3-day pass for $5 or $12, respectively, paid using a credit or debit card alongside a $101 security deposit. If you want it for a longer haul, an annual membership costs $85. But, since MIT is a Hubway Corporate Member, MIT employees and students can access the bike at $25 for 365 days once their access key is activated.
Each swipe of your pass lets you check out and ride a bike for 30 minutes — anything beyond that and you begin to accrue usage fees ranging from $2 for an hour to $100 for 24-hr and 3-day members, with annual members receiving up to a 25 percent discount. Beyond 24 hours, the bike is considered stolen or lost, which incurs an $1000 fee. Never fear, you can swipe an unlimited number of times during the period that you purchased. If you want another bike within that time period, you swipe your credit card at a station kiosk and you will be issued a new unlocking code for another 30 minute free ride.
One Cambridge user felt that he was “under pressure” while riding since the free-time limit was constantly on his mind. However, 30 minutes is a fairly long time; Driving at an average bike speed of 15 mph, you could cross the Harvard Bridge (620.1m or 364.4 smoots) 41 times.
A number of Hubway users in Cambridge, called Hubsters by the company, summarize their review of Hubway with one word: convenient. “There’s one right outside my apartment and one near my office! So, except during rush hour, I normally cycle to and from”, said one Cambridge resident checking out a bike near Bexley.
Not sure if the nearest station has a bike? As with most things in this day and age, there’s an app for that. Spotcycle, created by 8D Technologies, lets you know the nearest stations and how many bikes and docks are available at stations in Metro-Boston.
Also, if your 30 minutes is almost up and there is no space at the dock you were headed for, you can press a button at the full station to get 15 minutes time credit and directions to the nearest available station.
Hubway tries to avoid space issues with 19 docks per station and vans that go out to reshuffle bikes between stations when needed.
One major worry, especially with the myriad of tourists flooding the infinite and Boston, is that Hubway may be inadvertently increasing the number of helmetless cyclists. A study published last year in the Annals of Emergency Medicine by researchers of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center showed that 80.8 percent of bike share users in Boston and Washington rode without helmets. Comparatively, nearly half of cyclists with personal bikes rode helmeted. Hubway strongly supports buying discounted helmets at convenience stores such as CVS and Walgreens, and will give new members the option to buy a helmet from them when signing up for an annual membership.
The system was launched on Aug. 8 and has been popular with Cambridge residents ever since; empty bike stations are a frequent sight around rush hour. Unfortunately for students, the three stations located on campus are near Bexley, Stata, and the Kendall T station, limiting their usefulness in getting around campus.