Hubway, Boston's new bike sharing program lets you ride free for the first 30 minutes.
Although Hubway encourages short-term bicycle usage to fill gaps in the Boston MBTA public transportation system, they've become wildly popular with tourists and other city visitors who use the bikes to travel from attraction to attraction faster than on foot or by T.
Let's say you're visiting Boston this summer, staying at the Millennium Bostonian Hotel near Faneuil Market, and have planned a great 1-day itinerary:
You'll leave your hotel and take a Swan Boat ride in the Public Garden, catch an afternoon Red Sox game at Fenway Park, stop by Sonsie in Back Bay for drinks and dinner, enjoy a jazz concert at the Boston Harbor Hotel on the downtown waterfront, and then head back to your hotel.
What's the easiest and fastest way to get around Boston ?
Guided bike tours provide a great way to get acquainted with city, but once you know your way around, Hubway gives you terrific freedom and flexibility.
To use the bikes, you need to be a member. Sign up for a 1-day ($5) or 3-day ($12) membership (Boston locals should check out the annual membership), available at any of the Hubway kiosks - you'll see them all over the city.
Then, whenever you want to ride, just go to a Hubway kiosk, swipe your card to get a bike, and go! It's the best deal in Boston.
Because the first 30 minutes of usage are free and none of the places you want to visit are more than about 10 minutes on bike from each other, you'll ride for free.
So, let's say you're going to follow the 1-day itinerary outlined above.
In this sample itinerary, you're staying at the Millennium Bostonian Hotel in the old historic part of the city. So as you leave the Millennium, turn right and walk to the nearest Hubway kiosk on Union Street - probably less than a minute on foot. Swipe your card, hop on your bike, and you're off.
Bike over to the Public Garden and turn in the bike at the kiosk near the corner of Arlington and Boylston. Ride the Swan Boats, admire the flowers in the gardens.
Half an hour before the game, pick up another Hubway bike and ride over to Fenway Park. Drop it off your bike at Yawkey Way and Boylston, a block from Fenway. Enjoy the game!
After the game, get another bike and ride over to Newbury Street to Sonsie's - there's a Hubway kiosk almost right in front of it (I swear I picked these places at random). Ride down to the Harbor, and again drop off your bike - closest kiosk is on Atlantic Ave, about half a block from the Boston Harbor Hotel.
After the concert - well, you get the idea. Hop on another Hubway bike, and drop it off on Union Street, right where you started.
Total transportation costs: $5 for the 1-day membership
Added benefit: You worked off all those calories you consumed at Sonsie.
Hubway currently offers 1,100 silver bicycles at 112 bike sharing stations scattered around Boston neighborhoods with the most tourists, workers, and residents. Both the number of bikes and number of stations are in the process of doubling.
Station locations in central Boston currently include Downtown, Back Bay, Fenway, the South End, the North End, the West End, Beacon Hill, parts of the South Boston Waterfront, Roxbury, Brighton, Allston, and the Longwood Medical Area.
More stations can be found in surrounding areas, including Cambridge, Somerville, Charlestown, and Dorchester, especially around UMass Boston.
The sleek silver and green bikes come with baskets and are easy to adjust, and are the fastest way to get around the city - although do be very careful on Boston's narrow, traffic-clogged streets!
Each bike-sharing station has a bicycle rack, bikes, and a solar-powered kiosk where you'll swipe your card - similar to Zipcar. You can pick up a bike at one station and return it to another.
The number of bikes at each station depends on the location's expected popularity.
The bike share system's rental rates encourage short-term cycle usage. You can ride free for the first half hour and cheaply for another hour or so - but after that, rates climb steeply, topping out at $100/day.
If you want to explore the city by bike for several hours or a full day, check Boston bike tours and rentals to get cheaper rates.
Boston visitors and other infrequent users can choose 24-hour or 3-day "Casual" rates. For residents who plan to use the bikes on an on-going basis, the "Registered" annual membership is a bargain at $85, especially since you also get a 25% discount on rental fees - a sweet deal.
Membership types and rates:
Hubway rental fees (samples):
Check availability at pick-up locations: Use the smart-phone app (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android); if the station where you want to return your bike is full, you get an extra 15 minutes of free usage to get to the next station.
Become a member and check locations: Hubway website
You can buy an inexpensive helmet at any CVS or Walgreen's in central Boston.
Too much trouble to buy a helmet? Too cool to wear one? Find out about Boston drivers, and reconsider.
Bikes offer a fun way to get around Boston - but our streets and traffic can be difficult, even when you're in a car. Cyclists and pedestrians are vulnerable. Too many ghost bikes have appeared around the city.
Boston's Hubway bike share program operates for 3 seasons. Bikes and kiosks get removed and stored during winter months, for obvious reasons.
Hubway is part of the Boston Bikes Program, designed to move the city from being arguably the worst cycling city in the country to one of the best in the world. We're far from being among the best, but perhaps no longer the worst.
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