Boston unveils first bicycle helmet vending machine

BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has unveiled a vending machine that dispenses bicycle helmets for users of the city’s bike sharing service, a street kiosk he said was the first of its kind in the country.

Menino said the so-called HelmetHub machine, attached to one of the city’s Hubway bike rental stations at the intersection of Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue, will allow users to rent and return helmets, adding a measure of safety to the service.

“Our goal is to make Hubway a great and safe way to get around town,” he said in a statement released on Tuesday evening.

The machines were designed by HelmetHub, a company founded by MIT engineering graduates that won a contract from the city in May, the statement said.

The company plans to test the first machine and gather data during the remainder of the year before introducing HelmetHub machines more widely in 2014.

The machine dispenses helmets for a rental fee of $2, if they are returned within 24 hours, or for purchase at $20. Returned helmets will be removed from the machine to be inspected and sanitized, the statement said.

Boston’s bike sharing service was launched in July 2011, and users took its 600 bicycles on more than 100,000 rides in the first 10 weeks, according to the service’s website. By the end of November, it had more than 3,600 annual members.

The service is similar in concept to other bike sharing programs launched in Paris, London and New York City, which kicked off a massive bike sharing program earlier this year.

Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Chris Reese