Bike Share in Philadelphia: From feasibility study to action

As you may have read in Saturday’s Inky, we are taking steps to bring bike share to Philadelphia.  Bike share systems provide iconic, sturdy bikes at self-service docking stations that allow users to pick up a bike at one station and drop it off at another station. If you have never seen a bike share system before, the video below from Washington DC gives you a good sense of how a system works.

The bike share concept was pioneered (in its current form) in Europe and is now being implemented, designed, and/or studied in many North American cities. In general, bike share consists of strategically distributed stations containing seven to sixty bikes, each with a centralized payment/control kiosk. Customers—who range from one-time users to long term subscribers—“unlock” a bicycle with a credit card or smartcard, then ride to any other station in the city where they can deposit the bike concluding their trip.  Bike share systems in other cities have proven extremely popular for making short trips, connecting to transit, running errands and as part of daily commutes.  With bike share, Philadelphians won’t have to worry about storing a bike or fixing a flat tire and you can take a trip that you might not usually take because it is too far walk, too close for transit or parking a car would be too difficult.

In 2009, a bike share feasibility study  found that Philadelphia had the density and number of short trips to make a bike share system work in Center City, University City and the Temple University area.  At the time there were still unanswered questions about the need for additional bike infrastructure, the financial viability of bike share system and how liability would be handled.  Since 2009, bike share systems Washington DC, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, Montreal, Toronto, London and many other cities have successfully addressed the financial viability and liability questions.  Here in Philly we’ve significantly expanded our infrastructure with lanes on Spruce Street, Pine Street, 10th Street, 13th Street, Walnut Street, the South Street Bridge and the approaches and exits from the South Street Bridge.  We’ve seen the number of cyclists rise and the number accidents involving cyclists decline.

The City plans to put up $3 million in capital funds over two years to leverage an additional $5 to $6 million in federal, state and private sector funding for capital. The Pennsylvania Environmental Council in cooperation with the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities and Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, and with support from the William Penn Foundation have released a request for proposals for a firm to develop a business plan for bike share in Philadelphia. The business plan will consider capital and operating funding requirements and operating models for the system.

We anticipate that a system will be operating in Philadelphia by 2014.

We want to hear your questions and thoughts about the prospect of bike share in Philadelphia. We will post answers on the blog. You can send questions to aaron.ritz@phila.gov.

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