Hubway Won’t Be On the Roads This Winter

After careful consideration, the city has decided to clear the stations from the streets.

Photo via Hubway and the City of Boston

Photo via Hubway and the City of Boston

Once again, as winter approaches, Hubway’s days on the road are numbered.

News that the company will pull its bikes from their stations to make room for winter cleanup crews comes a year after rumors first circulated that the city was working with Hubway to try and introduce a year-round system.

In December 2012, the Globe reported that “two-thirds of Hubway stations located on plazas and sidewalks could remain in place,” and city officials were “envisioning” a 12-month program allowing riders to rent bicycles despite the cold weather.

Unfortunately, after a series of discussions, that won’t be the case, according to Nicole Freedman, director of the Boston Bikes program. “We will be closing it in Boston for the winter. The last day will be November 27,” she said.

Freedman said both Hubway and the city were excited to try a winter where the bikes would be around, but decided they didn’t want to risk damaging the equipment in case the weather is as extreme as it was last year, with continuous snowstorms that piled snow high above parked cars. “After looking at a lot of factors, we decided against it,” Freedman said, citing the preservation of the “investment we made in the equipment.”

Launched in 2011, Hubway has grown to 8,100 active annual members with access to a fleet of 1,100 bikes and 113 stations, which includes locations in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. By July 2013, Hubway riders logged a combined 1 million trips since the system launched just two years prior.

In an email to Boston, Hubway representatives said the “winter drawdown is scheduled to begin next Monday, November 18,” and signs will be posted on stations beginning as early as Wednesday to inform riders.

Despite the increase in popularity and ridership, Freedman said it just wasn’t in the cards to keep the gears moving due to the harsh conditions that come with the changing season. “Sand and salt for a regular bike is harsh, and since the equipment is new … there’s not any really good test cases with sand and salt on that equipment. I don’t know how much rust and decay could happen,” Freedman said. “Hopefully the answer is none.”

But they decided to not risk and find out. Freedman said cities like Chicago are going to keep their bike-share programs running through the cold, and Boston officials will base their decision for next winter on the outcome of Chicago’s experience instead of leaving Hubway up through the winter. “We will use Chicago as a test case. The risk is that it’s just too high to take lightly,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense to try it this year, it makes more sense to wait.”

While Hubway is closing down for the winter soon, the city announced the rollout of the first-ever HelmetHub vending machines, which allow riders to get helmets on the go for just a $2 daily rental fee, or to purchase them for $20. Four of the solar-powered machines created by students from MIT were originally scheduled to roll out in July, but due to technical problems, they were delayed for months.

For now—and until the near-end of the Hubway season—one of the single-use helmet machines will be located at the Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue Hubway Station.

HelmetHub will take lessons learned from the trial run before they implement more machines into a wide-scale plan next year. Staff will be on-site at the machine to help answer questions and provide support to users.