On Thursday, I spent the first really warm day of 2015 in the best way possible: out at the plaza by the Municipal Services Building introducing people to the first bike share station in the Indego system, which launches later this month. After months and months of behind-the-scenes work getting ready for this moment, countless emails and meetings and Google docs and phone calls and planning of every sort, it was FINALLY time to actually put folks on the bikes!
All kinds of people came over to check out the shiny blue bikes, grab a brochure, chat, and take the bike for a spin (with an extra fun challenge: navigating around all those darn board game pieces). There were plenty of attendees who had been eagerly awaiting bike share for months, like me; staffers from MSB who work in or with the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, the entity managing the program, came in droves, as did plenty of the ‘typical’ bike enthusiast you might expect - reflective clothing and all. But it they weren’t the only ones there.
We also got a lot of passerby just stopping by on their way through MSB Plaza, many of whom had never heard of bike share before. Some shared their skepticism about the program. Totally fair. It’s a new thing for Philly. But seeing some people’s eyes light up as I explained how Indego will work, and they thought about how it might work in their lives, was pretty magical.
"So, I don’t have to worry about locking it up and it getting stolen? I just put it in the station and I don’t have to worry about it?"
"Fifteen dollars a month!? That’s great."
"Oh, so it’s a one-way trip….so you don’t have to bring it back where you took it out. I would use that."
My favorite moment of the day was when my colleague Claudia came up to me and said, "We have someone here who doesn’t know how to ride a bike yet. Could you help?"
I took Stephen, a determined Drexel student, off to a part of the plaza slightly less crowded with board game pieces, lowered the seat on his Indego bike, and got him to start pushing himself along with his feet. After a few loops around the plaza, he started to get the hang of balancing, needing to put his feet down less and less. Before long, he got the hang of pushing off on one pedal, and then getting both his feet on the pedals. He persevered, getting better little by little.
I got into some conversations with other visitors to the Demo event, keeping an eye on Stephen and punctuating my conversations with "GO STEPHEN!" shouted across the plaza. (I wasn’t the only one cheering him on, either.) By the end of the event, Stephen was pedaling confidently, steering, braking smoothly, and no one would have guessed his first time on a bike was just an hour or so earlier. I think I might have been more excited than he was! Indego’s first learn-to-ride success story! Congratulations, Stephen!
My job at the Bicycle Coalition, as part of the Better Bike Share Partnership, is to get Philadelphians excited about Indego - to build a diverse coalition of people who see the benefits of bike share, use the system to get around, and help make sure those benefits reach all Philadelphians. It’s tremendously exciting work, and I’m passionate about it - and today, watching Stephen pedal across the plaza with a smile on his face, was a good reminder of why. Here’s to a lot of new bike riders like Stephen this year!