Bike share behind schedule but will be accessible without credit card

The roll out of Philadelphia Bike Share is slightly behind schedule, but it is going to be the first bike share system in the country that is accessible to residents without a credit card, and that, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) says, is worth the wait.

After keeping mum about bike share for most of the winter, MOTU announced its selections for Philly Bike Share’s vendor and operator yesterday. Come spring 2015, B-cycle will provide the system’s bicycles, stations and technology platform. Philly-based Bicycle Transit Systems will serve as operator.

When the system launches it will be among more than 40 bike share systems across the country and hundreds throughout the world, but it will be the first in the United States to offer residents access without a credit card.

“Low income residents stand to benefit the most from the new transportation option,” said Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler.

“We thought it was particularly important in Philadelphia that [this] transportation option was available to folks that may not have access to a bank account or credit card,” she said.

Eyes on the Street takes a closer look at the B-cycle

MOTU is still deciding how the various payment plans will work, but it does know that the Philly Bike Share will offer a prepaid card that residents will be able to use without necessarily having a credit or debit card.

With the bike share card, residents will be able to purchase annual or monthly memberships. MOTU will offer day pass options for tourists and less frequent riders. MOTU is also is investigating the possibility of a single-ride option.

While the exact pricing has not been set, MOTU Chief of Staff Andrew Stober said the great thing about bike share is its general affordability.

One step back, several steps forward

Initially, MOTU hoped to launch bike share this fall. Now the expected launch date is spring 2015. A primary reason for the setback is that the city wants to be at the forefront of bike share and to use the next generation of bikes and kiosks. It will take about six additional months to build that next generation bike share infrastructure, though.

“We therefore made a very conscious decision not to launch in the winter,” Cutler said.

Figuring out how to offer membership to Philadelphians without credit cards did add to the delay.

“The social equity piece pushed us back several months, and we think it was well worth the push back,” Cutler said.

A spring launch date will allow extra time to secure a naming sponsor and work on marketing so that Philly Bike Share launches with as many members as possible.

Bike share proponents like Katie Monroe, Women Bike PHL coordinator at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, don’t see the delays as a setback. Instead Monroe hopes the extra time will buy a perfect system.

“The way a bike share system launches is really important for its ultimate success,” she said.

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