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On Biking: learning to love Hubway

Posted by Your Town  May 22, 2012 06:20 AM

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One of the great things about Hubway, Boston’s bicycle sharing program, is that it allows all sorts of people to go out for a ride.

Until last year, Love Nickerson never considered herself to be a cyclist. Sure, she knew how to ride a bike, but she didn’t own one. For Love, the challenges of maintaining, storing, and securing a bicycle were more than she cared to manage.

When Love first learned about Hubway she was thrilled. “But when I saw the pricing structure I was turned off,'' she said. "The all-day rental was expensive and not practical.”

Fortunately some colleagues at work explained to her that she probably wouldn’t be riding her bike for eight hours in a row. “They weren’t even cyclists and they don’t use Hubway, but they got me to see that Hubway was meant to give me access to bikes when I needed them and to encourage shorter rides.”

For Love, this was, “A different way of thinking about transportation and commuting. It was about sharing, and I liked that.” Once she understood that Hubway could be cheap, practical, and fun, she joined up.

Last year Love biked enough to become a Gold Club member, an award given to the six men and women who logged the most number of trips on Hubway. Love did this by commuting every day from her home in the North End to her job at Dana Farber.

When she began riding to work she was not able to complete her commute in under 30 minutes (the cut off point at which members incur additional charges). “I wasn’t confident about my route and I was just getting used to dealing with the traffic.” Love adapted by docking her bike halfway through her ride. This restarts the clock and allows you to keep riding without being charged extra.

After a while Love felt confident enough to ride her entire commute without stopping. “It turned out I did that trip in 25 minutes, though I would have been thrilled even if it had been 29 minutes.”

Love first began biking so she could get to work by Hubway instead of the subway. Still, she noticed that even though she rode at a moderate pace for a moderate distance it was more than enough to get her into shape.

After a few weeks Love could tackle the two small hills on her commute “without huffing or puffing or needing a drink of water. The bikes have three gears. When I first started biking I used gear number two. But now I can go in gear number three (a harder gear to push), though every once in a while I’ll be exhausted and have a gear one and two kind of day.”

Love knows that she’s become a cyclist because of the fact that “I’m now aware of how things affect bikers. Even if I’m not on my bike I notice when someone’s double parked in a bicycle lane or if there are potholes or debris in the bike lane. The things that make it tough on cyclists.”

So if Love is so enthusiastic about Hubway, why won’t she be biking this summer and seeing if she can become a two-time Gold Club member? She would if she could, but as of now, Hubway doesn’t have any stations in Mongolia. That’s where Love will be living as of next week when she travels to Asia to teach English through the Peace Corps. “It was something that I’d always wanted to do, to speak another language and experience another culture.”

For Love, “Hubway was one of the first things I thought about that I’d be leaving behind when I decided to join the Peace Corps. I’ll miss how easy it is, how it just became part of my life...I didn’t anticipate that I’d adopt it so completely, but I did.”

Love said, “If I’m stationed in a place with paved roads then I’ll definitely consider getting a bike. But wherever I live after the Peace Corps I see a bicycle in my future.”

In the meantime, Love plans to explore Boston before she flies to Mongolia. At the top of her list of local places to visit is The JFK Library. “I know it’s not entirely Hubway accessible, but I’d like to get over there. Especially as he was the president who signed off on the Peace Corps.”

Jonathan Simmons is a psychologist and an avid cyclist. His book, “Here For the Ride” will be published later this year.

Readers: if you’re interested in following Love Nickerson’s adventures in Mongolia check out her blog at To Mongolia with Love.

Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out Charles River Wheelmen’s “Introduction to Group Riding.” (Full disclosure: I am a member of CRW). This is a great way to learn about paceline riding but it’s not for beginners.

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