With a feasibility study in hand that says Philadelphia is well-suited for a bike-sharing program, Mayor Nutter should take the next logical step of soliciting proposals to launch the idea.
A report from the William Penn Foundation issued last week recommends starting the program – similar to car-sharing plans – with 1,700 bicycles at 20 stations across Center City and parts of South, West, and North Philadelphia.
The report found that Philadelphia’s geography, population density, commuting habits, and weather closely track several cities where bike sharing has taken hold.
Nutter has vowed to make the city the greenest in the nation. Bike sharing is a program that would bolster that goal, while generating lots of goodwill and national attention for the city.
It’s especially attractive to young people. In a city trying to attract and retain college students, the bike-sharing program signals to them that Philly is a cool place to be.
Bike sharing in European cities links commuters to mass transit and also provides tourists an inexpensive way to explore.
At a time when the federal government plans to invest heavily in bike trails around this region, an initiative that would have more people traveling on two wheels makes even more sense.
The mayor broke new ground by adding dedicated east-west bike lanes to two streets in Center City, complementing a network of 200 miles of roads with designated lanes. The city also plans to explore other cycling infrastructure improvements.
Of course, at an annual cost of at least $4.4 million – $11 million if the program went citywide with 4,500 bikes – a city-funded bike-sharing effort isn’t likely to happen any time soon.
Rather than let a good idea go to waste, perhaps there is a business model that would work for a private company to run the program on a scaled-down basis that serves at least Center City.
The city’s tourist industry could explore offering a bike program for visitors. Or maybe the area universities and other large institutions could join together to launch a program.
There are a lot of possibilities for some creative thinking. The bike-sharing program seems like a good idea in need of some leadership to help make it happen.