So, as I’m gallivanting around, I thought it would be a great idea to try the Boston Hubway. This is another bike sharing programme, very similar to the London one.
My first impressions? At first, it appears very similar to the London version. The stations look the same, the bikes look exactly the same (3 speed, step through) and the undocking system looks exactly the same (enter your 5 digit pin into the station). However the overall system seemed much easier to use. You just hit “rent a bike” then swipe your credit card. It finds out if you’ve paid for access, and then prints you out an access code. There aren’t lots of screens to accept, and my credit card worked at first swipe. At $5.00 a day however, it’s more expensive than the London one (which was 1 pound) (trips under 30 minutes are free). Helmets are not compulsory in Massachutses, however they are recommended, and helpfully, the maps at the hubway stations marked out shops that hired helmets, and many of the shopping centres sold a $7.00 “Hubway helmet”. Not the most attactive thing I’ve ever seen, but for $7.00, you can’t complain. Me? I enjoyed the freedom of the wind in my hair, and went without a helmet – it was a liberating feeling.
Boston is definitely hillier than London, and it still seemed as if the three speed was sufficient for me – I didn’t feel as if I was needing any more. One thing, however was I felt that the brakes were a bit insufficient for decent stopping power going down some of the bigger hills – the bikes are pretty heavy and with the addition of a backpack and a shopping bag in the carrier, the bikes are a bit of a tank. I also found that the bikes were pretty susceptible to being blown around in the wind (it was a pretty windy day) probably due to the weight.
This is a new system for Boston, and so stations are still being developed. It seems seriously popular however. Although I didn’t see as many Hubway bikes as I saw in London, there were still lots of them (and considering the population of Boston is probably only 1/10th of that of London…) In addition to this, twice, I came across empty stations – not something I saw at all in London, and I took the last bike from one of the stations. I did wonder, however, what happens to the bike system in winter. I couldn’t imagine riding around with metres of snow around.
A couple of things though about riding in a strange city/country. It was a bit weird riding on the right hand side of the road – I had a few anxious moments turning left (across the oncoming lane of traffic), however there were enough cars around that you could just follow the lane of traffic. In addition to this, in the city, there are a lot of one way streets which is something the tourist maps don’t tend to mark (as they assume you are walking). This can be a bit of a problem navigating, as it’s a bit harder to change directions on the road then on the footpath.
I love these bike sharing programmes. I think they are fantastic. It’s given me a lot more freedom to get around in a strange city. The planners seem to have really thought about where the stations should be, and every time I’ve wanted to go somewhere, there’s been a station within a block or so of where I’ve wanted to go.