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Boston gets bike helmet vending machines

Posted on by Amy Donin


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Boston's bikeshare program, Hubway. Photo by the author.

Boston’s bikeshare program, Hubway. Photo by the author.


We’re really excited that Montgomery County now has Capital Bikeshare, and have written (a lot) about the many benefits of bicycle-friendly communities. However, as our community shifts from being auto-dominant to having more complete streets, there is a learning curve. Safety has been a concern throughout the process. Bike lanes play a critical role in helping everyone feel safer and are a critical piece of infrastructure. But what about helmets?

Boston is leading the way on this initiative, with Mayor Thomas Menino unveiling a machine that dispenses bicycle helmets for the city’s bike share system, Hubway. The “HelmetHub” machine is the first of its kind in the country. There is only one machine now, which will be used to gather data about use before more machines are introduced in 2014.

The rental fee is $2, with the stipulation that they must be returned in 24 hours. Otherwise, they can be purchased for $20. Helmets returned to the machine will be inspected and sanitized.

Mayor Menino said in a statement “Our goal is to make Hubway a great and safe way to get around town.” You can read more about this initiative here, and be sure to check out HelmetHub’s website as well!

2 Responses to Boston gets bike helmet vending machines

Cabi addict says: November 27, 2013 at 12:18 pm

No, bike helmets are *not* an issue.
Please, let’s look at this on a factual basis.

It’s actually safer for people to ride a bikeshare
than their own.

Why is this?
Bikeshare is about casual, short duration and
low-speed trips. The bikes themselves are
designed with that in mind – sturdy and clunky,
not built for speed.

In its first five months of operation New York’s
Citibike completed five million trips with zero
(and none to other cyclists either).

Helmets are, in a general sense, a good idea,
but these machines are a solution to a problem
that just doesn’t exist.

It actually goes the other way – bikeshare provides
significant public health benefits
but prospective
users who think they will need a helmet to make
use of the system are less inclined to do so.

This is particularly an issue in Australia
where helmet usage is mandatory and bikeshare
ridership is consequently lower than in other
cities around the world. Mexico City managed to
avoid this trap by amending their rules for bikeshare
riders; Vancouver hasn’t and will likely fall into the
same trap when they system comes up next year.

Lindsay Hoffman says: November 27, 2013 at 4:10 pm

But, if a casual rider would feel more comfortable riding a bike with a helmet – and then could rent a helmet for a low price at a kiosk next to the BikeShare station – where’s the downside? I’d be curious to learn more about local ridership and the barriers our community will need to overcome in embracing bike share. From people I’ve talked with, having access to helmets would make them more likely to give the system a shot.