My Way or the Hubway

Originally posted on Jackie’s Daily Drifting

My name is Jackie and I had a Hubway membership.

There, I said it. The best part? It was awesome.

I think that like many people, I viewed Hubway bikes as useful–albeit silly-looking, clunky, and used strictly by tourists. However, I can now assure you that this is not true.

My first adventure on a Hubway was a few weeks ago after a Boston Cyclists Union meeting, when I wanted to go with my friend Jessica to meet up with some other friends. The fastest and cheapest way for both of us go was for me to get a Hubway bike, since she already had hers.

The result? I laughed the whole time… to the point of a nearby pedestrian declaring, “That woman on the Hubway is drunk!” (I assure you I was not).

You see, my personal bike is quite old. I call her Sally the Surviving Sojourner, Sally for short. Sally and I have been together for over 12 years, ever since I scraped together my allowance; convinced my parents to drive me to Wal-Mart (the only bike store I knew of at the time); and decided she was The One. I was right – Sally was wonderful. She is still trucking, getting me to and from the T station and an occasional gym or yoga sesh. Previously, we rode all around Boston and Cambridge, dodging potholes and pedestrians and cars like champions.

But by now, Sally is older and not as easy to ride anymore. She loses air in her tires quickly and makes funny noises when we climb hills together. Then again, I’d probably make funny noises if I had to carry me on my back uphill [I’m sure there is space in here for a “Ride, Sally, Ride” joke but I can’t quite figure it out].

Which brings me back to my need for Hubway…the impetus for getting a 3-day membership came last week as I needed to get to class in 45 minutes. It is 4.5 miles from work to class—with running gear, running would be one option… but I needed to arrive looking somewhat intact, assignment in hand. That wasn’t going to work.

The bus or T was another possibility. After some quality time with my desk chair that day, I was really hoping for some movement or standing, at the very least. Slow and sedentary public transportation was out.

Walking would take until my next birthday – again, not an option.

Curious, I approached the Hubway computer. You know, the thing that looks like a less-exciting vending machine. I read the simple instructions: three day membership, $12, unlimited free rides under 30 minutes and $2 for rides 30-60 minutes. Done – easy to understand, and exciting in the way that the smacking sound that a candy bar makes when it falls from its home to the bottom of a vending machine.

I soared to class; the next day I soared to dinner with a friend. And the day after that I soared to the Orange Line. Sure, there were the occasional “oops”–turns down the wrong way of one way streets; falling over to stop before I realized that the seat could be adjusted–but it was phenomenal. I was not constrained by the bus or T schedule, I didn’t have to be pressed up against strangers who were just as reluctant to be pressed up against me. AND I passed at least a few buses, not to mention countless pedestrians. I pedaled and braked with ease, since these bikes are much more modern and ergonomically friendly than Sally, with a seat adjustment range that takes into account people of all sizes.

Unlike my preconceived notions of Herbert (what I’ve named all of the Hubway bikes), he is actually very useful, sleek, and racy. He maneuvers steadily among the potholes, just like Sally once did, and he is really a wonderful way to see this city. And he’s (almost) always there when you need him.

 -Jackie Murphy, Project Manager/Program Administrator at the Multi-Regional Clinical Trial Center at Harvard Global Health Institute and candidate for a Master of Public Health in December from Boston University School of Public Health.


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