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New city program lets doctors ‘prescribe’ bike-sharing memberships

The City of Boston has announced a program to subsidize bike-sharing memberships for low-income residents, in partnership with Boston Medical Center.

The program, “Prescribe-a-Bike,” would allow doctors at Boston Medical Center to prescribe low-income patients with a yearlong membership to Hubway, a bike-share program, for only $5.

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Participants would be allowed unlimited number of trips on the bicycles, provided they use them for 30 minutes or less at a time. They will also be given a free helmet, the mayor’s office said in a joint statement with Boston Medical Center.

“Obesity is a significant and growing health concern for our city, particularly among low-income Boston residents,” said Kate Walsh, chief executive of Boston Medical Center, in the statement. “Regular exercise is key to combating this trend, and Prescribe-a-Bike is one important way our caregivers can help patients get the exercise they need to be healthy.”

Statistics show that 1 in 4 low-income residents in Boston is obese, almost twice the rate of higher-income residents, the statement said.

To qualify for the prescription, participants must be 16 years or older and be enrolled in some form of public assistance, or have a household income of no more than four times the poverty level, according to the statement.

Nearly 900 Boston residents are already enrolled in an existing subsidized Hubway membership. Officials are hoping the new program enrolls another 1,000 residents.

Catalina Gaitan can be reached at catalina.gaitan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @catalina_gaitan.
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