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Philadelphia Pedestrian & Bicycle Summit: Bike Share Forum & Live Tweeting

Philadelphia Pedestrian & Bicycle Summit: Bike Share Forum & Live Tweeting

Philadelphia bike share forumThe Philly Bike Share Forum at the Academy of Natural Sciences (of Drexel University) brought together four cities to discuss bicycling safety, potential & bike share plans last evening after a day-long Pedestrian & Bicycle Summit at Independence Hall. Ever since Mayor Michael Nutter announced the bike sharing in China back in 2012, word has been buzzing on the street. Philadelphia is joining 42 other US bike sharing cities in this milestone initiative.

The evening forum was surprisingly funny, interesting and informative. A few ‘tweets’ into the meeting, I decided to do an impromptu live-tweeting of the event. (Sorry for the lack of notice, readers – but it was fun to do and I’ll give an advanced warning next time. 😉 Many of the tweets are embedded below the summary if you’d like to check out.)

Rina Cutler, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities, (Philadelphia) moderated the event. She introduced the President of the Natural Sciences and pre-recorded intro from Mayor Michael Nutter, who said he set aside $3 million for bikes in the 2014 city budget. The panel then reviewed each of the visiting case study cities:

Boston: Nicole Freedman, Executive Director of Boston Bikes, kicked off the city case studies by sharing the Boston experience – which is done completely without tapping into city tax dollars, by the way. Boston was originally regarded as one of the worst cities for biking and now has 100 + miles of bike lanes and an increased cycling ridership. Since 2011, Boston’s bike sharing program includes 1000+ bicycles, 9000+ members and logged 675,000 trips. Boston’s solution to safety and helmets includes an online bicycle helmet purchasing option or helmet ‘dispensers’ at the bike stations. Another cool stat on Boston: They’ve bypassed some revenue-potential decisions in favor of making the bike sharing program more accessible to a diverse.

Denver: Parry Burnap, Executive Director of Denver Bike Sharing, emphasized how Denver’s ‘hipster cool‘ factor has been a huge benefit for the city. The nonprofit model of bike sharing has logged over 512,000 rides in the mile-high city with over 7190 annual members – and a median rider age of 38. Advantages of their program? Some riders have experienced a 12.2% weight loss and many feel healthier (and happier)! Disadvantages? The only City Council complaint is that bike sharing isn’t accessible to everyone fast enough. Also, the Denver program unfortunately closes during the winter – but ironically, warmer winters in Denver may change that ruling. (That damn climate change…) The quintessential Denver takeaway is that the bike share program is more IT than bikes.

Washington, DC: Chris Holben, Bike Sharing Project Manager, District of Columbia Department of Transportation boasted the all-star stats with 1840 bikes  and over 200 stations. Although most of the riders are tourists (with average bike ride clocking in at 17 minutes), they’ve reached the 4 million ride milestone.  However, the annual bike share members bike 80% more often, saving $819/year!

Philadelphia: Andrew Stober, of Philly’s own Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, previewed some of the upcoming Philadelphia bike sharing features. Most importantly (as Stober put it): “It’s going to make Philadelphia hip and cool!” The bike share will start Phase I primarily in Center City; then reaching outer neighborhoods like Point Breeze, Fishtown & Temple in Phase II. Philly’s program size will be comparable with the others presented, with 150-200 stations and 1500-2000 bikes on the streets.

See all those safety ads lately? Philadelphia’s recent biking PSAs also haven’t been coincidental  They’re trying to curb annoying behaviors of running red lights and side-walk riding before a bike share program launches. (Can they please add the obnoxious “salmons” to that list too?!?)

Philadelphia’s bike share system will (hopefully) be running 24 hours – and doesn’t take away any parking spots from you carbon emissions addicts. To contrast, Denver’s bike share program does stop from midnight – 5 AM, mostly to avoid liability from ‘people leaving the bar’. Boston & DC bike share programs both run 24 hours.

The Q&A with the audience participants mostly surrounded issues of safety and promoting bicycling overall for the city. When multiple participants asked questions about helmets, Denver’s stats showed the bike share users have been accident-free since inception, and DC has less than 60 injuries (without fatalities).

Readers, what are your thoughts on bike safety and helmets? What are you excited about for the upcoming bike share program?


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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher
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