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Greater Boston to celebrate Hubway bike share expansion Wednesday

By Matt Woolbright
Globe Correspondent / August 5, 2012
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CAMBRIDGE — Matt Miller shapes his schedule around the area’s public transportation infrastructure. He said his system for getting around was nearly perfect, but the influx of bicycle sharing in Cambridge completed it.

Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and Boston are participating in a “Rolling Launch Party” Wednesday to celebrate the expansion of the Hubway Bicycle Share system.

“I ride the bus, I ride the T, and this is like the third ingredient,” said Miller, 39, an assistant dean at Harvard University who purchased an annual membership this spring. “Ever since I got the membership, I’ve organized what I do the first half of Saturdays based on what I can do on the bikes.”

Wednesday’s festivities will start with ribbon-cutting ceremonies in Brookline and Somerville before speeches by officials at Cambridge City Hall and a lunch celebration in Harvard Square.

From noon to 1 p.m, Boston Bikes will give away free helmets to the first 25 people using bikes or carrying a Hubway key at a new Boylston & Washington Street Station; a second helmet giveaway is planned at the new South Bay Plaza Station in Dorchester at 4:30 p.m.

“It’s so exciting to finally be on the other side of the river, and really make this a comprehensive transportation network,” said Scott Mullen, Hubway’s general manager.

By the end of the year, the four communities will have 47 new locations, with a total of 111 stations and 1,100 bicycles. The expansion follows a first year that far exceeded expectations, Mullen said.

“We projected 100,000 rides, but we surpassed that in 10 and a half weeks,” he said.

The first Hubway riders pedaled from the stations on July 28, 2011. In its first year, the system was used about 360,000 times, and more than 7,500 people are annual members, Kris Carter, the interim director for bikes for the city of Boston, said in an e-mail.

“The goal from the onset was to be able to expand regionally,” said Carter, who added that this July, the system provided about 2,000 rides every day.

The Hubway system allows riders to purchase a day pass, a three-day pass, or an annual membership. Riders can rent a bicycle from a station, keep it for 30 minutes, then return it at any station.

The system was designed for riders traversing the region without regard to city lines, Carter said.

“I knew basically this would change my life, because I don’t want to maintain a bicycle that I have to worry about locking up and getting stolen,” said Miller as he returned a bicycle to one of Cambridge’s newest stations, next to Harvard University.

Each station costs about $50,000 and municipalities are funding them with private and public sponsors, grants, advertising revenue, and city funds, said Jessica Robertson of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Each community’s plan is different, she said.

“We were coming close to the capacity during the morning rush, so this also helps alleviate some of that pressure on the system,” Carter said. “It is time to grow.”

Matt Woolbright can be reached at matt.woolbright@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @reportermatt

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