Philadelphia is already the site of plenty of driver/biker conflict.
But one side may be getting reinforcements soon.
This spring, 60 stations housing 600 Philadelphia Bike Share bicycles will appear around the city.
“I can drop my daughter off, pick up a bike and head to City Hall,” said Carniesha Kwashie, a grant manager for Philadelphia Bike Share at the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. “Taking a bike is easier than waiting for SEPTA, and I get a good workout too.”
After an incident-free two-week test in the Navy Yard where the bikes and stations remaining operational despite heavy rain and freezing temperatures, the program’s development team is more optimistic than ever.
“These are invincible,” said Brett Tongco, business development manager at B-Cycle, which designed the model of bicycle that Philly Bike Share will use.
The $6 million project’s funding is split 50-50 between the city and a mix of federal and foundation funding.
Rental fees have not yet been finalized. A monthly membership will cost “a few dollars a week,” according to Andrew Stober, chief of staff at the Mayor’s Office of Utilities and Transportation. Bikes will also be rentable with a quick swipe of a credit card at rates by the half-hour.
“This lowers the barriers for the person who hasn’t gotten around to buying a bike, hasn’t saved up the money, has been a little nervous about buying it,” said Katie Monroe, Bike Share Outreach manager at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “This gets new people riding.”
“Bike share can and should be a catalyst for more bike infrastructure in the city,” she said, mentioning bike lanes specifically.
It's unclear at this point what, if any, affect bike rentals could have on the bike shop market.
"I’m not stressed out about it,” said Monica Pasquinelli, owner of Firehouse Bicycles in West Philly. “I think if anybody finds themselves using them a lot they'd eventually break down and get a bike.”
Even taxi drivers believe their business will be buoyed by the program.
“In other cities, it elevates taxi drivers’ income,” said Ronald Blount, president of the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania.
Blount said he’s heard there could be as many as 150 more fares a day.
“People will, say, take a bike from Center City to West Philly, attend a meeting or go to class, and at the end of the day they may be too tired to ride back and they flag down a cab. That’s a customer we never would have gotten,” he said.
But citizens have their concerns.
“It’s great, if you can address the safety issue,” Nicole Kahn, 42 said of Bike Share. “It’s really stressful driving in the city -- cyclists add to that.”
Philadelphia Bike Share won’t require riders to wear helmets, but will encourage helmet use and seek ways to provide inexpensive helmets to Bike Share members, Stober said. Ultimately riders are liable for their own safety.
A sponsor has not yet been announced for Philadelphia Bike Share. New York City has the Citibike rental program and London has Barclays Cycle Hire.'
(The map below shows where bicycle crashes have happened in the Philly area between 2007 and 2012. Map credit toAzavea/CartoDB)