Study finds bike sharing feasible for Phila.
By Vernon Clark and Elisa Lala
Inquirer Staff Writers 2/25/10
City officials, bicyclists, and cycling advocates yesterday hailed a feasibility study that supports adoption of a bike-sharing program for Philadelphia.
The study, conducted over the last year, promotes a program in which bicycles would be made available for short durations, similar to car-sharing programs.
Under such a system, a rider, using a membership or credit card, could unlock a bike and drop it off at another location. Fees would range from $72 per year to $5 per day. The first 30 minutes would be free.
"What's exciting about the study is that it says bike-sharing is viable for Philadelphia," said Alex Doty, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, an advocacy group.
The plan, to be made public today, focuses on a core area of about 15 miles covering Center City and parts of South, West and North Philadelphia, from the Temple University campus to Packer Avenue, and from Columbus Boulevard to 49th Street.
The area would include about 1,700 bikes, with 20 bike stations, each holding about 15 bikes, per square mile.
The program would cost $4.4 million per year in the core area and about $11 million if adopted citywide with 4,500 bikes.
Doty said the program would introduce biking as "an element in the city's transit system," ease parking problems in Center City, reduce emissions, and boost the overall health of city residents.
"One of the things that biking can do is solve the last-mile problem that transit users have," said Doty. "You can avoid a transfer or a difficult connection to a subway or bus. The bike can shorten your transit ride."
Doty pointed to Montreal, Paris, and Lyon, France, as examples of cities with successful bike-sharing programs. He said that Washington has such a program on a smaller scale, and that Minneapolis and Boston will initiate programs this year.
"When we look at what's happened in other cities where they have bike-sharing, they have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people who are bicycling," Doty said.
He said that in Lyon, "over 95 percent of people using the program are people who had not used a bike in that city before."
The $70,000 study was paid for the William Penn Foundation and conducted by two consulting firms, JzTI and Bonnette Consulting, with assistance from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who requested the study, said a bike-sharing program would be "absolutely advantageous."
Benefits, she said, include "getting families out and about, and diminishing parking problems, and reducing the city's carbon footprint."
Andrew Stober, a spokesman for the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, said his office supported the study but added that funding it would be difficult in the current economy.
"It's not something we will be able to move forward within the next year," Stober said.
Aaron Ritz, 30, Philadelphia Clean Air Council program director and an employee of the Trophy Bike store at 31st and Walnut Streets, called the program a "cool concept."
"But the counterpoint to that," he said, "is the City of Paris, which rolled out the same type of program, and they have had a lot of problems with the maintenance. They didn't budget enough money for that."
Nichole Hall, 27, who works at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said bike-sharing was "a great concept. It gives people the freedom to get around without the chaos of the city traffic. I'd definitely use it."
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