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Hubway wheels into winter

Charlene Chow donned her bicycle helmet at a Hubway station on April 2.Wendy Maeda/Globe staff/Globe Staff

A bike ride in the twilight of a snowy December afternoon is unlikely to save the planet, in and of itself. But it’s a step — or a pedal turn — in the right direction, eliminating at least some car trips during Boston’s grinding rush hour commutes and undoubtedly contributing to the fitness of riders out for a short errand or a longer spin.

So it’s good news for Boston that Hubway, the popular bike share program, is extending its season in the city to Dec. 31, and will reopen on March 1 of next year — a month earlier than in the past. In Cambridge, meanwhile, Hubway will be available to riders all winter long at most stations for the second year in a row.

The longer season builds on Cambridge’s pilot project last year, when the city logged about 2,000 rides a week from December through March — about 15 percent to 20 percent of ordinary usage, according to the city, with no crashes. “It was a very tough winter, and counter to what you might expect, we were very happy about it,” Cara Seiderman, Cambridge’s transportation manager, told the Globe earlier this year.


Officials offer a few cautionary notes: there will be fewer stations open in Boston, because those in the way of snowplows will have to be removed, according to Nicole Freedman, director of the city’s Boston Bikes program. And Brookline and Somerville are wrapping up Hubway operations on Nov. 26.

But the overall trend toward a longer Hubway season is encouraging evidence that cycling is becoming a normal, year-round mode of transportation, even in some of the most congested — and some of the coldest — cities in North America. In 2013, Toronto found that although winter ridership declined, there were still an average of 380 trips per bike share station in January, compared to 1,040 in August. Chicago’s Divvy bike share program logged 62,450 trips during a decidedly bitter winter this year, compared to the 280,000 trips the previous fall. In fact, Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance released a report that found overall average winter bike ridership is still 40 percent of summer ridership. Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare’s winter volumes were also 40 percent of summer usage, despite “a downright New-Englandish winter,” according to an e-mail from Darren Buck, bicycle program specialist for the city.


Their success speaks to the popular demand for more transportation options — and suggests that Hubway is headed in the right direction.