Katie Monroe is the Education Fellow at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, where she runs the Women Bike PHL campaign, working to get more Philadelphia women riding bicycles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday’s Philadelphia Bike Share Forum, sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, brought together leaders in the field of bike sharing from Denver, DC, and Boston. They shared best practices, answered questions, and generated excitement for bike sharing in Philadelphia, a development the Mayor has promised will hit the streets in 2014.
A lot of questions flew around that night: How much will it cost? What about helmets? Why has it taken us so long to catch up with our rival cities in this arena? But I think the most important question to me, as an avid bicyclist and Bicycle Coalition employee, is this: Why should Philadelphians who already own and ride bikes care about bike share? A car owner probably wouldn’t get too excited about a new car-sharing program, right? What’s in it for me?
The most exciting thing about bike share is that it puts new riders on the road, which is something all bicyclists should want. Injury risk for bicyclists decreases substantially when more bikes are on the road: this “safety in numbers” effect benefits everyone. The greatest danger cars pose to people on bicycles isn’t hostile drivers, but drivers inexperienced in sharing roads with bicycles. As new bike-share riders swell the ranks of Philadelphia’s growing population of bicyclists, we will see continued improvements in motorist behavior toward bicyclists.
More bikes also mean more bike lanes. The Bicycle Coalition has worked hard for the past 40 years to make Philadelphia more bicycle-friendly, but a surge of bicyclists on bike-share bikes will make the case for bicycle infrastructure all that much easier to make.
As a passionate advocate for a two-wheeled lifestyle, I am personally excited to ride with my friends who don’t own bicycles, or are visiting from out of town. I often find myself biking solo while my friends take the El, and I hope with bike-share bikes available for them I’ll have an easier time getting them to join me. When I host bike-less visitors, I have to adjust my transportation choices accordingly, waiting for SEPTA with them instead of biking across town as usual. My parents are visiting later this month, and I daydream about how great it would be to share my version of Philly with them: a Philly experienced from a bicycle! I plan on purchasing a yearlong membership as soon as it’s available and sharing it widely with friends and family.
Not that I’d never use that membership myself — loyal as I am to my trusty bicycle, there are times where I could see myself opting to use a bike-share bike instead. I wouldn’t want to lock up my own bike for a week at 30th Street Station when I’m heading out of town, for example. I can also envision using bike share when mechanical issues mean I have to leave my bike in the shop for a few days.
Ultimately, the purpose of bike share is to integrate bikes into our city’s public transit system, as Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler explained. A thriving bike-share system is thus a symbol that a city truly recognizes bicycling as a viable means of transportation for its citizens. Tuesday we also heard a commitment from the city that our new bike-share system will integrate seamlessly with SEPTA’s new payment options, making multimodal transport much more feasible for all Philadelphians.
Life will only get better for Philadelphia’s bicyclists with the introduction of bike sharing in 2014. This is going to be a game changer for Philly’s transportation landscape. I already ride my bicycle everywhere, and I couldn’t be more excited for bike sharing.