Where should Philly put Bike Share stations?

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Have you seen these popping up around the city?

You’ve probably stepped on a couple of them by now. Late last week they popped up all over Philly’s sidewalks, parks, and more: big red stickers asking passerby, “Is this a good spot for a Philly Bike Share station?” These stickers, which will be around for four weeks, are an exciting step in the public outreach process for Philadelphia’s bike share system, set to launch Spring 2015.

Full disclosure: I am far from an impartial journalist here. In my current role as Bike Share Outreach Manager at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, I’m working to make sure Philadelphia’s bike share system serves a true cross-section of our city, and that work starts with making sure people know ahead of time that bike share is coming. So here I am, telling you about it!

If you haven’t heard of bike share, it’s essentially a cross between riding a bike and using public transportation: a public transit system using bicycles! According to phillybikeshare.com, “With bike share, members and walk-up users will be able to check out bikes from one of 60 stations, take a 30-minute trip for work, school, errands, or fun, and then return the bike to any other station in the system. Pricing is still in development. Bikes will feature easily adjustable seats, front and rear LED lights, baskets, and bells.” Pretty awesome.

 

Philly is following in the path of 30+ American cities, including DC, New York, and Chicago, who already have bike share systems that are making their cities healthier, happier, and more connected. In some ways, though, our system will be unique. The first way we’re innovating? Those stickers!

No other city has used markers at proposed station locations as part of an outreach process like this one. This project was made possible with the help of some wonderful local partners, including Textizen, which created the text-message based feedback platform, and the Mural Arts Program, which helped with the design and implementation of the stickers themselves.

This outreach process only works, of course, if you actually participate! There are two ways to give your feedback to the City: If you see a sticker on the ground, you can text the number on the sticker with YES or NO (Conveniently placed near your neighborhood grocery store? YES! At an awkward intersection you don’t think people actually go? NO!). You’ll be led through a very brief, text-message-based survey about why you like or don’t like that particular spot, and you can suggest nearby alternatives.

You can also visit phillybikeshare.com, where you’ll see a map of all the station locations the city is considering.

Click on one, and take the same survey questions online that you can take via text message. The online and text-based survey will only be open until October 20th, so act now! The City will read and take into account your feedback, both now and in an additional round of public meetings later this fall, as they make final decisions about where the stations will go in the Spring.

Are you REALLY excited about bike share and wondering how else you can help? Once you tell the City what you think of a station location, spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #phillybikeshare.

A lot of folks have commented on the boundaries of the system, and the neighborhoods that won’t be getting bike share this coming Spring. On this front, it’s important to note several things. One, it is of utmost importance for the long-term success of the system that it functions well for the people who live and work within the service area. This necessitates a relatively dense clustering of stations in Central Philadelphia at the outset. Two, this map only represents Phase One of rollout. Phase Two, coming in 2016, promises many additional stations, both to expand the coverage of the system and densify the existing service area. Citizens who wish to advocate for bike share stations in their neighborhoods are encouraged to make their voices known to City officials.

It’s also important to note that the City of Philadelphia has made equity and inclusion a priority for our bike share system from the start -- not necessarily the norm for bike share systems in other cities, and something I am especially excited about. According to Andrew Stober, Chief of Staff in the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, “Twenty four of the proposed sites are in census tracts where 50% or more of the households live at or below 150% of the poverty line or where median household income is as at below or 80% of Philadelphia median household income.” Prioritizing neighborhoods which have historically been left behind in transportation investment sounds like pretty great thinking to me.

If you’re curious what your neighbors said about these proposed bike share stations, keep an eye on phila.gov/bikeshare. Later this Fall, the City will be summarizing all comments and presenting their findings and recommendations at a series of public meetings, as well as online. After years of waiting for bike share, Philly is finally getting it -- and it will work best if Philadelphians share their insight on where the stations should go. Won’t you join in the conversation?

Katie Monroe, the Bike Share Outreach Manager with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, has a passion for bikes, bicyclists and bike culture. She feels bicycles are good for Philadelphia because "we need physical activity incorporated into our daily lives, we need to work towards a greener city, we need to stop paying the PPA half our paychecks, and most importantly we need to be out there appreciating this beautiful city."