Nutter test rides bike share in Rittenhouse

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mayor Nutter takes a bike ride with bike-share vendors around Rittenhouse Square.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mayor Nutter takes a bike ride with bike-share vendors around Rittenhouse Square.
Posted: May 02, 2013

MAYOR NUTTER yesterday took a spin around Rittenhouse Square in a test ride of the bike-share program he hopes to bring to Philly.

"It's obviously an economical way to get around and also plays into our health initiatives, takes cars off the street and makes the air cleaner as well," Nutter said to a crowd before hopping on a yellow bike. "It's green, it's clean, it's convenient, and we just want to move the city into this new environment."

Mimicking programs in Washington, Denver and other cities, Philly's bike-share program would feature a series of kiosks throughout the city where riders would pay to rent bikes and return them to any other kiosk.

Nutter has asked City Council to allocate $3 million in capital spending next year to build the first phase of the project, which will service Center City, University City and near Temple University. He expects $5 million to $6 million more in state, federal and private funding for an expansion phase.

In budget hearings this spring, some City Council members have referenced Nutter's proclivity for bike programs as a symbol of what they see as unnecessary spending.

But it's unclear whether they'll target the bike-share request, because it would come from the capital budget, not the general fund, where tough decisions about new funding for the school district could take up the most time.

Yesterday's event featured demonstrations by vendors who have built bike-shares in other cities.

Rina Cutler, the deputy mayor for transportation and utilities, perused the offerings before the mayor arrived and asked about features that could be modified for Philly's bikes, such as adding baskets for grocery runs and installing GPS beacons to track stolen bikes.

Bike-shares typically require customers to use credit or debit cards, which critics say make them less accessible to low-income residents who don't have cards. Cutler said the city is exploring ways to get around that issue, including a system that could allow people to rent bikes using their cellphones.

Cutler said the city would release a business plan for the program "shortly" and put out a request for proposal in late summer. If approved, the first phase, which would include about 650 bikes, could be up and running in 2014.

The vendors at yesterday's event included: B-cycle, which operates in Denver and Charlotte, N.C.; Bixi, the manufacturer of bikes in Washington, Boston and London; and Social Bicycle, a newer company that uses computerized locks instead of kiosks.


On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN

Blog:ph.ly/PhillyClout

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