Prescribe-a-Bike discounts Hubway membership to fight obesity

To fight obesity and other health problems, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh has teamed up with Boston Medical Center to head the Prescribe-a-Bike initiative, which gives healthcare providers the ability to prescribe their patients a special discounted membership to Hubway.

Prescribe-a-Bike aims to save individuals money by granting them $5 Hubway memberships, which are usually $85 annually, and encourage people to get excited both for the upcoming good weather and for getting in shape. It also indirectly provides an affordable means of transportation for those with low incomes.

“Obesity is a significant and growing health concern for our city, particularly among low-income Boston residents,” said BMC President and CEO Kate Walsh in a March 26 press release. “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.”

Prescribe-a-Bike went into effect when Hubway reopened for the season on Wednesday. According to the release, in order to be eligible for Prescribe-a-Bike participants must be Boston residents, at least 16 years old, and must either be receiving some form of public assistance or have a household income of no more than 400 percent of poverty level.

Mayor Walsh and BMC are hoping to draw in at least 1,000 low-income individuals with this program.

“There is no other program like this in the country,” said Mayor Walsh in the release. “Prescribe-a-Bike makes the link between health and transportation, and ensures that more residents can access the Hubway bike share system.”

Hubway stations are available in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville. All have increased their number of Hubway stations, with Boston opening two new stations in the Seaport District and four new stations in Brookline.

Paula Quatromoni, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Boston University, said Hubway’s new program would have a great influence on individuals of all ages, including youth struggling with weight problems.

“I’m on the advisory board for CYCLE Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching bicycling skills, healthy eating and bike safety to urban youths with the goal of lowering risk factors for obesity in vulnerable populations,” she said. “[Prescribe-a-Bike] will greatly affect the way people think about their weight and health.”

Several residents said this program would have positive effects on the community and encourage people to take care of themselves.

Dylan Jenks, 22, of Mission Hill, said this is a huge discount and will hopefully help fight the obesity epidemic.

“It will definitely help people lose weight especially because it is a fun way and easy way to get around,” he said.

Nate Jaques, 31, of Boston, said this would help people work fitness into their daily routine.

“It’s a good idea because a lot of times people give the excuse of not having the time to work out,” he said. “This way, they don’t really have an excuse. It’s just the transportation between the places they need to go, so it doesn’t inconvenience them at all. Hopefully people will use it and make it a successful program.”

Sharon Lightner, 41, of Back Bay, said the idea has good intentions, but probably would not have much effect on the obesity epidemic.

“It’s nice for the mayor to provide another opportunity for people to get in shape, but that doesn’t mean they’ll utilize it,” she said. “Fighting obesity will take a lot more than this. The people have to want it badly enough themselves. It takes healthy eating, being really active and the dedication to that lifestyle. I just don’t think this will make much of a difference.”

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