HelmetHub vending machines installed in Boston

Improving the bicycling culture of Boston was a major priority for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, especially during his fifth term, when Boston launched the New Balance Hubway bike sharing system and announced a comprehensive plan which will add 75 miles of new bike lanes in five years. The plan hopes to grow Boston’s bike lane network to 356 miles.

I was involved with Hubway and Boston Bikes for more than two years in Mayor Menino’s press office.

Biking has always attracted press attention in Boston and elsewhere. Bike sharing, in particular, is a hot topic. But bike sharing safety is a concern. One more recent venture aims to fix the safety gap, and it made great press, to boot.

The HelmetHub machine is a street kiosk built right into the Hubway platform that allows for users to rent and return helmets at the same time that they rent Hubway bicycles. Returned helmets are removed from the machine and taken for inspection and sanitization.

HelmetHub vending machine
HelmetHub vending machine
HelmetHub, a company that grew out of an MIT class, won a contract with the City in May to design, test, and implement this kind of helmet rental system in Boston, which Hubway riders have been asking for since the sharing service began in Boston.

When we announced the placement of the first machine, we did it as a traditional press release blast, with follow-up and interview availability to reporters. The result was a successful media campaign, blending the city, Hubway, and HelmetHub for shared publicity across local and national outlets.

The key moment in this campaign came from Time Magazine, which lauded that “One City Finally Solved Bike Sharing’s Big Safety Problem.”

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