Boston doctors can now "prescribe a bike"

By Jenna Iacurci, Parent Herald April 11, 11:58 am

As part of Boston's new program "Prescribe-a-Bike," doctors can now write prescriptions for low-income patients to get a yearlong membership to the city's shared bike system Hubway for just $5.

Doctors at the Boston Medical Center are writing these prescriptions in an attempt to combat the obesity in their community.

"A clinician working with a patient or family could generate this form and then a hospital parking office which is right on the campus could enroll the person in the program," Alan Meyers, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, explained to Slate.

The prescriptions are more like doctor-approved letters, and far cheaper than Hubway's $85 annual membership fee and the $6 24-access pass.

To make things even easier for these low-income patients, Boston will waive credit qualifications, which are often a hassle, and will use its own funds to compensate (instead of a health care provider).

Any patient can use them as long as they have a low salary, and don't suffer from a medical condition such as a seizure disorder, which could prove dangerous when riding a bike.

Boston Medical Center already writes similar "prescriptions" that give low-income patients with nutritional needs access to the hospital's own food pantry, which is staffed by hospital personnel but funded by private charities. The "Prescribe-a-Bike" program, on the other hand, is based solely on income and not necessarily one's medical history.

According to officials, it is a way for the thousands of low-income adults and 25,000 low-income children who pass through the hospital's facilities each year to gain access to a beneficial program.

"It's really a point of convenience, and we hope that coming from a physician it may give people more of a stimulus to actually buy it," Meyers said.

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