Bike Sharing Preview In Philly

Somewhere along the way, the gremlins at lost this post. Thank God I put these things on the digital in more ways than one. Last night there was another view at some of the bike sharing possibilities that may be coming our way. There were bikes from all over the land there. Pretty neat looking. I hope we could make it happen here sometime.

This past weekend, Philadelphia Bike Share hosted a series of public bike sharing demonstrations in a partnership with B-Cycle. B-cycle is the same folks that are behind the Denver, CO. and Chicago, IL. programs. Bike Share Philadelphia showed the city dwellers how the system works. I visited Russell Meddin, founding member of Philadelphia Bike share at the entrance of “Love” Park last Friday where he was flanked by a set of the Trek city bikes that B-Cycle deploys for their sharing programs. I rode one of these bikes in Denver earlier in the summer and they are great city ride complete with enclosed chain, basket, bell and other city proven accoutrements that would make your sharing experience very pleasant.

Meddin expressed to me that for the program to be successful, it has to be in all neighborhoods of the city. Since the city is so compact, there are many trips that could be completed in the 30-minute free (with membership) trips that the B-cycle system offers. The Denver system, while doing well, is suffering a bit from the fact that the systems are only in the downtown business district and not out where people live. Madden believes that as important as a center city business district system, there also has to be systems as far flung as deep South Philly, as well as both Fishtown and University City. These are all places where people actually live and will tend to ride these bikes more often. At the moment, according to the Philadelphia Bikshare Concept Study that came out earlier this year, the strategic plan from Philly Bike Share calls for the core bike share area to extend from South St. in the south to Spring Garden in the north and from the Delaware river in the east to to 41st St. in the west. There is an additional corridor that includes Temple University on North Broad Street. The expanded area in the plan includes the lion’s share of South Philly all the way to Patterson Ave and more of both West Philadelphia and the Fishtown/Kensington Area. This plan seems to account for an entirely robust bike-sharing program that would bring the concept of bike sharing to the masses.

A concept such as this is often thwarted by the extremely high start up costs that is not only limited to the bicycles, but has to incorporate, rental kiosks, staff, infrastructure, and in some cases, land leases. The funding, according to Madden, will come from a variety of sources such as corporate sponsorships, private funding, including federal grant programs, such as the one that recently awarded Boston five million dollars for their program. With start up costs ranging from $1,933 to $5,825 per bike offered, there is a considerable amount of fundraising to do and partnerships to form in order to propel this idea into rolling wheels.

According to the concept study, the programs worldwide that are financially in the black seem to have backing of large corporations, such as the Paris, France project that is backed by advertising giant JCDeacaux. The Minneapolis, Mn. program has a cost to revenue relationship that has left the program $400,000 in the red. It would be unfair to leave out that the Minneapolis program has only had one year of data to show, and the revenue for the other two programs in the paper did not have revenue numbers available.

Of course when any bike-sharing program comes up, the idea of maintenance and vandalism protection follows shortly after the first major question, which is always funding. World wide, the programs have had about 6% of the bikes stolen, many of them due to users that left the bikes unsecured. In order to protect the bicycle, many of them have GPS tracking devises and the rental kiosks will be equipped with closed circuit TVs. These methods seem to keep the thefts to a minimum. The maintenance and vandalism issues will be paid for through membership funds and the work will be taken on by a mechanic that is employed by the bike sharing program who would visit all of the stations.

Of course there are more steps to take until Philadelphia opens a bike-sharing program, but that does not mean that it will not happen in the near future. To have your voice heard, go to and contact Mayor Nutter. There is a form letter there for you to fill out.

One Response to “Bike Sharing Preview In Philly”
  1. Thanks for mentioning Nice Ride Minnesota in your blog. The statement about “operating in the red” is not accurate. Nice Ride Minnesota is a non-profit corporation that has operated with positive cash flow and small reserves since launching in June. I believe the article you are referring to discusses a 2008 business plan and compared operating revenue to operating expenses. It omitted sponsor revenue, which is an important component of most bike share business plans. Please make this correction.

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