Friday, August 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Philly bike share hinges on Council vote

The City has promised to launch a bike share system in spring 2015, but Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown says if the legislation she has introduced is not approved, the system could stall.

On Friday, the councilwoman introduced bill 140449 authorizing operator Bicycle Transit Systems to plan and operate Philly’s bike share program and authorizing vendor B-cycle to provide the bicycles, stations, and technology platforms.

“If the legislation doesn't pass by June 19, this company that’s been selected will not be permitted to operate in the city, effectively killing bike share,” Reynolds Brown said. “This is definitely not something we want to do given the homework that’s been done already and given the interest [in bike share].”

Andrew Stober, Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) chief of staff, said the legislation is simply part of the process the city must go through to launch a bike share system. 

"Contracts that last more than a year with a private entity require Council approval, so the legislation was planned all along," he said. "The introduction of the legislation is yet another [step] toward making bike share a reality in Philadelphia."

Reynolds Brown, who also chairs the City Council Committee on the Environment, said she expects the bill to pass “because Council really does understand and get it with regard to making Philadelphia more sustainable.”

“The bad news is if we did not introduce this today so we could get it approved by Council, the bicycle sharing company that has been selected by the City in the RFP process, they would not be able to operate,” she said.

While MOTU and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability helped shape the legislation, Reynolds Brown said she has not spoken with any bike companies.

A second reading and final passage for this bill is scheduled for June 19. The councilwoman said a public hearing will be scheduled before then. According to Stober, the hearing will be the only opportunity for the public to testify before City Council about bike sharing. 

In 2012, Mayor Michael Nutter committed $3 million in capital funding toward the launch of Bike Share Philadelphia. After a competitive RFP process, MOTU selected Bicycle Transit Systems and B-cycle as operator and vendor, respectively. As of last month, MOTU said Philly’s bike share system would launch in spring 2015 with between 50 and 70 bike share stations.

Six years ago, in 2008, Reynolds Brown addressed bike sharing when she called for a joint hearing of City Council Committees on Environment and Transportation to investigate the creation of a public-use bicycle program.

“We were prepared and positioned to do something about that, but then the economy collapsed and quite frankly the economics weren’t there for us to take the recommendations out of that hearing to implement a bike share program,” she said.

But today, she says, things have changed dramatically.

PlanPhilly.com  is dedicated to covering design, planning and development issues in Philadelphia. The news website is a project of PennPraxis, the clinical arm of the School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the William Penn Foundation.

Christine Fisher PLANPHILLY
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