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5 Things You Might Not Know About Hubway

You've heard about it, but you haven't heard everything.

1.  We're not the first, or even the second, third or fourth city to do this. Bike sharing is everywhere.

There are three major bike-sharing companies operating in North America:  Alta Bicycle Share, which runs Boston's Hubway program, Capital Bikeshare in Washington D.C. and Bixi, the first bike-sharing company, which is based in Montreal and operates around the world.

There are also locally-run bike-sharing systems in other cities, like Nice Ride Minnesota in Minneapolis-St. Paul and DecoBike in Miami Beach.

2.  Replacing a bike costs $1,000. Yep. A thousand dollars. And, if the Hubway bike you check out is lost or stolen, your credit card will be billed for that entire $1,000, even if the bike wasn't taken as a result of your own negligence.

You are liable per your acquiescence to Hubway's User Agreement, (a requirement to check out a bike), which states, in Section 13, that, “If the Hubway bicycle is not returned to a Bike Dock within the Permitted Period of Continuous Use, [in this case, 24 hours] then Member will be charged a fee of $1,000.”

Other bike-sharing companies charge similar fees; Denver's B-cycle bikes are also $1,000 to replace, but a DecoBike rider in Miami Beach would only be charged $675 for a new set of wheels.

3. These are heavy-duty bikes. A $1,000 replacement fee may seem excessive, but Alta Bicycle Share's Chief Marketing Exec, Brogan Graham, explains why the bikes cost so much:

“These are one-of-a-kind bikes," he said. "Everything's built in the interior [of the bike]: the chains, the three-speed shifters, the lights...They have GPS tracking in them, and they have universal things which can be used by everyone."

"They also have pretty good theft-proof," he added. "There isn't much you can do to damage them, whereas the bike down the street that you buy, a lot of things can go wrong with it, the shifters and things can be rusted, things get damaged, get stolen, get busted off. The bike-share bikes aren't completely indestructible, but they're pretty darn close.”

4.  The bikes need bailouts. It's been reported before, but not in Boston. The Public Bike System Company, which makes the bicycles that Hubway uses, operates at a loss and recently received a bailout from the Canadian government to the tune of $108 million dollars. Graham says there's nothing to worry about, that “the Hubway system will be fine, we're independent.”

5.  The rules of the road still apply, and they are extensive. Massbike has compiled a list of bicycling laws that apply in Massachusetts, and it covers everything from riding two abreast on bicycles (which is now acceptable as long as traffic is not impeded, but was illegal until recently) to the amount of lights and reflectors allowed on a bike (as many as you want).

Rules of particular importance to Hubway users include the provision that hand signals must be used to indicate turns and stops unless the cyclist needs both hands on the handlebars to stay safe at a particular moment, cyclists must give pedestrians the right of way, and bicyclists can ride on sidewalks, but not the sidewalks in business districts. “Look, Ma, no hands!” is also illegal—bicyclists must keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.

Bicyclists who break these rules can be fined up to $20.

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