Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bike Commuting in the US; Using Boston's Hubway Bike Sharing Program

Hubway Bike Station at Harvard Kennedy School
I went to Boston, Massachusetts, to attend a short course last July 2015, and I got a chance to try their bike sharing program. They call theirs Hubway and it works very similar to other bike sharing systems. You can be an annual member or a pay-as-you-go customer. Since I was in Boston for less than a month, I chose to be the latter.
Photo grabbed from Boston Herald.
For pay-as-you-go (or short-term access), Hubway offers two options--1-day pass or 3-day pass. Here are the steps to rent a Hubway bike:

  1. Insert your credit card at the kiosk of the bike station.

  2. Choose between the 1-day pass or the 3-day pass on the touch screen.

  3. Then choose if you will rent 1 bike or 2 bikes.

  4. Enter an area code and telephone number (just encode the local area code 
      and your hotel's telephone number, you'll be alright)

  5. The kiosk will print your 5-digit passcode.

  6. Go to any terminal with a bike, and key in the passcode within 5 minutes.

  7. The bike will unlock and you are ready to go.
From Hubway website
I found the pricing reasonable. It costs $6 for the 1-day pass, while it's $12 for the 3-day pass. And as long as each trip is less than 30 minutes, they you can ride as much as you can--meaning, you can take multiple trips at no extra cost! (See banner above)
Hubway Bike Station at Soldiers Field Park
I used the Hubway bikes to commute between Soldiers Field Park (where my accommodation was) and Harvard Kennedy School (where I had my classes). The bikes were sturdy; the seats were adjustable; the 3-gears were adequate for the city; and the front rack accommodates most backpacks. I found the system appealing and wished we had the same back home. 

However, from my experience, I found out that bike sharing programs also have their share of problems and challenges. First, on software issues. The Hubway touch screens sometimes did not work, which meant I couldn't rent a bike. On those occasions, I had to run to school. Second, on bike availability. There were times when a bike station didn't have a single bike available--so I couldn't rent, and there were times when a bike station was full and didn't have space for parking--which meant I had to go to another location to park a bike. 
video
I didn't use Hubway bikes just for commutes between school and home. I also rode the bikes to go to the mall and tour the city. Cambridge and Boston roads generally have marked bike lanes, which most vehicles respect. And the Metro Boston area has quite a good number and equal distribution of bike stations. Overall, I had a positive experience of the Boston Hubway Bike Sharing System.