Fourth Season Begins for Boston’s Hubway Bike Share Program

hubway-200.jpgHubway, Boston’s popular bike share program, launched its fourth season earlier this month. Four years shows a lot of ground covered for the program.

Hubway was launched on July 28, 2011, as a partnership between the City of Boston and Alta Bicycle Share, with 600 bikes at 60 rental stations. The program has been a big success and this season, riders will share 1,300 bikes at 140 bike rental stations in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline. The program hit the 1,500,000-rider mark last Thanksgiving, then closed out 2013 with nearly 10,000 annual subscribers (and that’s not counting the short-term memberships).

In the past, Boston split both operating costs and profits with Alta Bicycle Share. Boston paid for its share using private sponsorships and public grant money.

But Boston is now venturing out on its own. Under a new contract, Boston will fund all operating costs and pay Alta Bicycle Share for services. The city will buy all services for a lower rate, about 30 percent less. For each bike dock, this translates into about $70 per month for maintenance and operations. This is lower than other U.S. programs, such as the Capital Bikeshare in Washington D.C., which pays $111 per bike dock.

This is good news and comes at a time when other cities are struggling to pay the bills for their bike shares. Montreal’s bike-share program filed for bankruptcy in January and New York City’s bike program recently asked officials for millions of dollars in aid.

In addition to seeking public grants and private sponsorship, Boston has kept costs down by closing bike racks for the winter. However, this past winter, Cambridge sites were kept open as a pilot test program.

What is new with Hubway this season:

Cambridge. The city kept Hubway racks open throughout this winter, as part of a pilot program. The system saw an average of 2,000 Hubway trips per week, with no injuries or incidents reported. Six new stations are expected to open this season.

Boston. Ten new Hubway stations are expected in Jamaica Plain and Dorchester this year.

Boston bike helmets. The program asks all riders to agree to wear helmets in their rental contract and has partnered with city businesses to offer subsidized helmets in the past. Last fall, it tested the first bike helmet vending machine in Back Bay, on the corners of Boylston and Massachusetts Avenue. The vending machine holds three dozen helmets and accepts returns.

Bike helmets are required for cyclists age 16 and under in Massachusetts. In addition to requiring use for Hubway cyclists, Boston city officials have discussed the possibility of passing a local law mandating use by all cyclists to protect riders from the risk of long-term head injuries in bicycle accidents.

Brookline. The city will re-open the same four stations in Coolidge Corner, Washington Square and Brookline Village.

Somerville. Somerville will open 12 stations this year. One change is the Ball Square station will be moved to Magoun Square.
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Bike Month: Time for Massachusetts to Think About Safety

bike-lane-200.jpgThis is National Bike Month, when cyclists gather for events and rides all over the country. In Massachusetts, the busiest time is during Bay State Bike Week, which began last weekend. Cyclists from Boston to Springfield to Cape Cod are being encouraged to pedal to and from work in the name of fitness and reducing traffic congestion on the roads.

But along with the fun, Bike Month is a time to ask ourselves and lawmakers if we can make the roads safer to prevent personal injury to bicyclists.

While Boston has been called a world-class cycling city in recent years, safety advocates say we can do better. This month, the League of American Bicyclists dropped the state’s ranking from third to sixth in its 2013 Bicycle Friendly State Rankings, offering these and other suggestions to state officials:

Safe Passing Law. Adopt a safe passing law with a minimum distance of three feet to address bicycle safety.

Vulnerable Road User. Adopt a vulnerable road user law that increases penalties for motorists that injuries or kill bicyclists or pedestrians.

Cell Phone Ban for Drivers. Pass a cell phone ban for all drivers. Currently, Massachusetts bans all drivers from texting while driving but only bans drivers under 18 from talking on their cell phones and driving.

Bicycle Riders Manual. Create a statewide bicycle riders manual with laws, state bike routes and laws for cyclists.

MassBike, the state’s leading advocacy group for cyclists, has been seeking passage of a vulnerable road users bill that increases penalties for drivers who injure or kill a bicyclist or others defined as a vulnerable road user. MassBike first filed a bill with the Massachusetts Legislature in 2011 and refiled a few months ago for the start of the new legislative session.

Under the bill, drivers found guilty of crimes such as motor vehicle homicide or hurting or killing a person while driving drunk would face double the normal fines if the victim is considered a vulnerable road user.

The bill defines vulnerable road users as “a pedestrian or a person operating a bicycle, handcycle, tricycle, skateboard, roller skates, in-line skates, wheelchair, non-motorized scooter or any non-motorized vehicle, or a person riding a horse.”

Additionally, the bill would require violators to take a traffic class and perform 100 hours of community service related to road safety. There would be special penalties for drivers who harass vulnerable users with their vehicles. Meanwhile, victims would be given guidelines for filing civil lawsuits against drivers who assault or threaten them.

Another bill proposed by MassBike is the Bicycle Lane Bill, which would make it a violation for a car to park or stand in a marked bike lane. Boston and some other communities have bans, but MassBike seeks a statewide ban.

Read about other bills filed and supported by MassBike.

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Bay State Bike Week Starts Monday; How to Participate as a Cyclist, Pedestrian or Driver

bike-lane-200.jpgBay State Bike Week starts Monday, May 14 and runs through Sunday, May 20. The annual celebration features several days of activities and educational programs throughout Massachusetts.

MassCommute Bicycle Challenge
Each year, one of the most anticipated events is the MassCommute Bicycle Challenge. For this one week, employees, students and others participate in teams to see who can pedal the most miles in the name of reducing traffic congestion, helping the environment and making time for fitness. Click the above link for information on how to participate.

Massachusetts Bike/Walk Summit on May 17
One event to watch this year is the Massachusetts Bike/Walk Summit on Thursday, May 17 at the State House. The event is co-sponsored by MassBike and WalkBoston, which seek to pass the Vulnerable Road Users Bill. If passed, the bill would increase fines for motorists who kill or injure vulnerable users. The term “Vulnerable Road Users” would include pedestrians, a person operating a bicycle, handcycle, tricycle, skateboard, roller skates, in-line skates or non-motorized scooter.

The bill was filed in January 2011 and is now in the Joint Committee on Transportation. MassBike has until June 1 to persuade legislators to advance the bill. The bill is supported by WalkBoston, Massachusetts Public Health Association, Conservation Law Foundation, Boston Cyclists Union, and Transportation for Massachusetts. Click the above link for information on how to participate.

Other Events
Bay State Bike Week will feature events and activities for all ages throughout the state, from Boston to Worcester to western Massachusetts. Most events are open to the public for free and are a great opportunity to learn more about cycling and the growing opportunities in Massachusetts. Click the above link for the full calendar.
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Boston’s Hubway Bike-Share Network Now Fully Launched for Year

bike_hubway.jpgBoston’s Hubway bike-sharing system returned to full operation Sunday, when over 60 bike stations began offering rentals for the new season.

The New Balance Hubway had re-opened many stations for the spring on March 15. The program began last July, with 61 stations and 610 bicycles. It was widely used with over 140,000 rides logged between July 28 and November 30, when the program ended for the season. One highlight of the season was the program saw no serious bike crashes requiring ambulance response and only two bike accidents overall.

Boston Bikes, which manages the program, is making bike accident prevention and safety a top priority again this season. It has arranged with a number of local retailers to offer discounted bike helmets. Click here for a list.

The program is experimenting with new station locations this year, including the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Seaport Hotel and Cambridge Street in downtown Boston.

The Hubway offers $85 annual memberships or two types of casual memberships: $12 for three days or $5 for 24 hours. Rides less than 30 minutes are free with any membership. Longer rides range in prices. Annual members receive a 25 percent discount.

The program is operated by Alta Bicycle Share in partnership with Boston Bikes, an initiative of the City of Boston. It is partially funded by the Federal Transit Administration. Alta Bicycle Share of Portland, Oregon offers similar programs in Washington D.C. and Arlington, Virginia. It has been selected to manage Chicago’s first bicycle sharing program which will launch this summer.

In Boston, there are plans to expand the program into Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain and Charlestown, Back Bay and downtown. Nearby, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline plan to launch 30 stations this year.

Hubway users can find stations by visiting the Hubway website. The website provides a map of bike kiosks.


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Hubway Bike Share Program Returns to Boston

hubway-200.jpgThe New Balance Hubway bike sharing program re-launches in Boston tomorrow. Sixty percent of the stations will open, with the remainder scheduled to offer bike rentals by April 1.

Hubway opened last July and had a busy first season with 3,650 cyclists signed up as annual members. The system, which is partially funded by the Federal Transit Administration, is operated by Alta Bike Share in partnership with Boston Bikes, an initiative of the City of Boston.

Cyclists can join as annual members for $85 per year or use the system as casual members and pay $12 for 3 days or $5 for 24 hours. The first 30 minutes of each ride is included in the cost, with riders paying for additional time based on their membership plan.

The schedule for opening bike rental stations could be delayed depending on weather conditions. Hubway recommends cyclists visit the Station Map page of its website to monitor progress, follow the program on Facebook or Twitter or download its free Spotcycle application to their smart phone.

The Boston bike accident lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck offer these safety tips for cyclists and drivers to avoid cycling accidents:

For Cyclists:
Wear a helmet. Protect yourself from sustaining injuries in bicycle accidents. Your purchase agreement with the Hubway program also requires it. Riders can purchase helmets when they register for the program. Helmets may also be available at some stations and the program has arranged for a number of local retailers to offer helmets at a discounted price of $7.99.

Cyclists should generally ride to the right of traffic, on the right side of the road. Bicyclists may also operate in bike lanes where available and in the center of the lane. Up to two bicyclists may travel abreast in the same lane. Cyclists are not permitted to ride on sidewalks in business districts and many areas of Boston.

Cyclists should never ride against traffic. They have to stop at red lights and stop signs just like motor vehicle traffic.

For Drivers:
Watch your speed! Drivers should travel at the speed limit or slower when conditions involving other vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians warrant it. Unless posted otherwise, state law requires drivers to travel at 30 mph in thickly settled or business districts and 40 mph outside of these areas.

Drivers should take caution turning to avoid bike accidents. Drivers who are turning left must yield the right of way to cyclists.

Drivers should look before they exit a parked car so as not to injure or impede the travel of a passing cyclist. This is illegal, can cause bicycle accidents and carries a fine of up to $100.

Drivers must have adequate room to pass a cyclist. They must also have enough space before returning back to the lane.


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Bicycle Accidents Can Be Prevented If Everybody Follows the Law

bike.jpgBicyclists have returned to the road in large numbers as Boston enjoys an unseasonably warm March. It is an optimal time for drivers to make sure they understand a bicyclist’s rights in Massachusetts and remind themselves to be vigilant when sharing the roadway. And for bicyclists, it is a good time to review the rules of the road. 

As drivers, we often watch out for other cars, but fail to do the same for pedestrians, motorcycles or bicyclists. In some bike accidents, drivers do not even see a bicyclist until just before the collision, and sometimes not at all. Other times, we may not understand the laws or are not focused on the road.

What drivers should know about a cyclist’s rights in Massachusetts:

  • Bicyclists are allowed to travel on the same roads as drivers (unless the road is a limited access highway) and must follow the same laws.
  • Cyclists should generally ride on the right side of the road, but may use the full lane or the left lane when turning to the left, and cyclist may travel two abreast in the lane. They should not impede traffic.
  • Many communities, such as Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, offer bike lanes or Shared Lane Markings (also known as Sharrows). Bicyclists are encouraged, but not required to use them.
  • When drivers are turning left, they must yield right of way to any bicyclist.
  • Cyclists are allowed to pass traffic on the right. Left turning motorists should be particularly aware at intersections where cyclists passing traffic on the right may be hidden from view.
  • It is against the law for individuals to open a car door and interfere with the travel of a bicyclist. Drivers and passengers should turn and check for bicycle traffic before opening doors.
  • Divers can only pass a cyclist if there is sufficient room. It is illegal to cut bicyclists off after passing. The driver must wait until there is enough room to move back into the lane to avoid causing a bike accident.

Of course, bicyclists must also follow the rules of the road. There are some laws that apply to bicyclists only. For example:

  • Cyclists are required to use hand signals to indicate their intention to turn, except when doing so may cause a bicycle accident (for example, when both hands are needed for braking).
  • Cyclists have to stop at red lights and stop signs. They cannot ride the wrong way on one-way streets. Bicyclists should ride in the same direction as traffic in their lane.
  • Bicycles should be equipped with reflectors and a warning device, such as a bell, and if ridden after dusk or before dawn, must be equipped with appropriate lighting. 
  • Bicycles cannot be ridden on the sidewalk in a business district. Towns may have additional ordinances about where bicycles can and cannot be ridden.
Cooperation and common sense go a long way to preventing bicycle accidents. Cyclists should make themselves visible with bright, reflective clothing. Motorists should take the time to take a second look.

Drivers and cyclists who have more questions can access information about Massachusetts bicycling laws and safety from MassBike. The Boston-based advocacy organization supports the development of bike-friendly infrastructure throughout the state and offers cycling education and safety programs.


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Time to Think Back to School Safety

Heading back to school is always a big event, no matter how old a student is. Students look forward to meeting new teachers, starting new classes and being reunited with friends.

But all this activity brings safety concerns. Yet if parents, teachers and students recognize the risks and work together, the Back-to-School season can be an enriching time. Here are some tips to keep your children safe:

Playgrounds. Each year, more than 200,000 children are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for falls on the playground. The goal is to implement preventative measures in your playground and make it as safe as possible if falls do occur.

Start by inspecting playground equipment for any defective or broken parts.There should be a 12-inch depth of wood chips, mulch or sand. Mats should be made of safety-tested rubber or fiber material to prevent head injury if a child falls.

Drawstrings on Jackets and Sweatshirts. Many pieces of fall clothing come with drawstrings. Most people think nothing of these until a child endangers himself or a classmate, often unknowingly.

Prevent a dangerous situation where a child gets strangled. Remove drawstrings on hoods. Cut drawstrings from the waist or bottom of jackets, coats and sweatshirts to three inches.

Loops on Window Blind Cords. Visit your child’s classroom to ensure it’s a safe environment. Look at the windows to see if they have blinds with a long cord. If there are blinds with cords, this is a safety hazard. A child could strangle himself when the teacher’s not looking or swallow the plastic piece at the end of the cord.

Bikes. Many students ride their bicycles to school. It’s important for drivers to watch out for them, but parents also need to educate students on how to avoid bike accidents. The first rules is bike helmets. Massachusetts has a mandatory bike law for minors under 16. Beyond the law, bike helmets prevent and reduce head injuries should your child take a fall.

To learn more about school safety, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission web page, “American Goes Back to School Program.”
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Massachusetts Safety Tips for Enjoying the Warm Weather

As it finally cracks 50 degrees and Massachusetts residents get their first taste of spring, everyone is heading outside. Enjoy the nice weather tending to the yard and pedaling your bike, but don’t forget to avoid personal injuries.  Here are some ways you and your family can avoid personal injuries:

Swimming Pool Safety

On a hot humid Boston day, a swimming pool can be an oasis.  However, swimming pools can be hazardous for young children.  Adults should keep a close eye on children, whether in or near the water.  Home pools should be surrounded by a fence that is at least 5 five feet high and self latches.  When not in use, the pool fence should be locked.  Keep the area around the pool free of clutter that can cause someone to trip.  Poolside rescue equipment- such as 10-12 foot rescue pole and a ring buoy with line-should be kept close by.  Keep a life vest close by and outfit all poor swimmers with a life vest.  Be aware that the suction from pool drains can entrap swimmers underwater. Finally, keep pool chemicals in a safe place, out of reach of children.

Lawnmower Safety

Lawnmower safety starts with the proper shoes. Although it feels great to slip into sandals after months in boots, always wear sturdy shoes when operating a lawnmower along with eye and hearing protection. The next rule of lawnmower safety is to survey the yard for sticks, stones, and other objects that can go flying when struck by a lawnmower blade.  Use a mower that will stop moving forward and will stop the blades’ movement if the handle is released.  Wait for the blades to stop before crossing a street or trying to remove the grass catcher or discharge chute.  Start and refuel motors outside on the yard, rather than in the garage.  Finally, never let children under 12 operate a handheld mower or under 16 operate a ride-on mower.

Bicycle Safety

Adults and children alike should wear helmets when riding bikes.  Helmets prevent serious injuries and can keep a bike accident from being a fatal accident.  Helmets should be worn level on the head with the chin strap secured so the helmet cannot move.  Also, when purchasing a bike for your child, make sure the bike is the right size for the child.  An oversized bike can be hard to control and dangerous.

Playground Safety

Anyone who has ever fallen off a slide or slipped off the monkey bars knows there are significant risks for personal injuries at the playground.  Always keep a watchful eye on children.  If putting together playground equipment, make sure the equipment is assembled according to instructions and weighted to the ground.  Periodically check for loose, rusted, or sharp pieces.  Install safety padding, mats, or soft fill material beneath playground equipment, extending out six feet on all sides.  Do not allow children to attach ropes to the playground equipment to avoid strangulation hazards and accidents if the rope comes loose.  Make sure walls and fences are at least six feet away from all playground equipment.

For more tips on keeping your family safe this spring and summer, see the following websites:

Home Safety Council (Pool Safety)

US Consumer Product Safety Commission (Pool Safety)

Department of Transportation (Bike Safety)

HealthyChildren.Org (Lawnmover Safety)

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Boston Bike Safety Gets Much-Needed Attention During Summit

Boston bicycle safety has markedly improved over the past two years with several new safety initiatives, including the creation of new bike lanes, publication of the city’s first biking map and installation of hundreds of bike racks.

But Boston bike safety is back in focus this month after three bicycle accidents within the city, including one fatal bike accident that claimed the life of a 22-year-old cyclist and another causing serious personal injuries.

“The biggest problem compared to other cities I’ve ridden in … whether people are biking, walking or driving around the city, everyone has this ‘me first’ attitude,” David Watson, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, recently told the Boston Metro newspaper. “That’s a huge issue – changing the way everybody thinks.”

We applaud Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino for calling the city’s first Bicycling Safety Summit after the accidents to provide bicyclists and city officials a chance to discuss ways to prevent bicycle accidents in Boston.

The reality is that both drivers and bicyclists need to take responsibility for co-existing with each other, along with walkers. This means education, especially considering the fact that the laws governing bicycling were amended by the Massachusetts legislature in 2009. Drivers still need to learn their new responsibilities when overtaking cyclists, when turning, and when opening doors in traffic. 

For anyone thinking about enjoying the city on two bicycle wheels this summer, we encourage you to register for one of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition’s upcoming bike safety classes on May 6 or May 19 at City Hall. The move could save a life.

Our firm supports cycling programs and bicycle safety in Massachusetts. We are proud supporters of MassBike, the Northeast Bicycle Club, the Charles River Wheelmen, Bikes Not Bombs and the New England Mountain Bike Association.

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