Where's that bike-sharing program?

Sisters Alice (left, in left photo) and Napol Wills, both Central High students, carry their bikes down the school steps after being able to park them in the gym for the day. (Photo: RON TARVER / Staff photographer)

No matter how long this transit strike lasts, we’ll always have Paris – as an inspiration for Philadelphia to launch a French-style bicycle sharing program of its own.

It would be like PhillyCarShare and Zipcar for cyclists: You’d grab a bike from a kiosk, ride it to your destination and leave it at another kiosk for others to use.

In a transit strike, it would be a life-saver. In France, it's already proven its worth during two transit stoppages. As Russell Meddin, who’s coordinating efforts to make bike-sharing a reality here, reports:

On September 24, 2009, there was a total transportation strike in Lyon, France. No Metro, No Trams, No buses! The city went to work by Velo’V, its 4 year old bike share program. There are 4,000 bikes in the Velo’V system. They bikes were pressed into service over 45,000 times. Each bike was used on average 12 times during the day. The newspaper Francesoir said that there was a Velo’V bike taken from a docking station every 2 seconds. This was highest one day total of bike usage in Lyon.

It is important to think about measuring the economic benefit these bikes had in keeping the city going through what would have been a crippling strike.

This isn’t the first time bike sharing bikes came to the rescue. In the transport strike of Paris in October 2007, when Vélib’ was only 3 months in service and with just 11,000 bikes on the street, they recorded 116,000 usages in 18 hours and nary a boulangerie was shuttered.

In our town’s case, during this transport strike, bike sharing would keep only the pretzels tied into knots, rather than the traffic.

So Mayor Nutter needs to move ahead with the city's exploration of a bike-sharing plan. Maybe in time for the next SEPTA walkout?