Getting Our Share: Years in the making, Philadelphia’s bike share is finally a reality

Photo by Darren Burton | From left to right: Kathy Albanese, John McClung, Mayor Michael Nutter, Alison Cohen and Andrew Stober celebrate at the launch event for Indego on April 23In 2008, Grid’s prototype issue asked, “Will a bike share help Philadelphia?” Seven years later, we are final getting the answer.

Philly’s version of bike share, Indego, debuted on April 23rd to much fanfare, even prompting a jubilant City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson to dance in the streets at the Eakins Oval opening event.

Indego has launched with 70 stations around the city serviced by 700 bikes. The strategic business plan calls for the ultimate expansion of 180 stations and 1,800 bikes in the years to come. Though New York City (300 stations) and Chicago (400) are bigger, Philadelphia will begin with about the same number of stations as San Francisco and San Diego.

The program is a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) that planned and manages the partnership with the city, and Philadelphia-based Bicycle Transit Systems, which manages all of the operational aspects, such as bike and station maintenance, marketing and customer service.

Cara Ferrentino, the Manager of Strategic Initiatives at MOTU, is thrilled with the opening week numbers: 8,000 rides logged and 2,400 registered members. As she explains, “Bike share is perfect for one-way trips because you don’t have to return a bike to where you began. It’s also great for trips early in the morning or late at night when transit is running less frequently. We’ve also heard from parents who are excited to be able to walk with their children to school before heading to work on bike share.”

While the flexibility is appealing to many riders, Ariel Ben-Amos, a former MOTU employee, acknowledges that riding on a Indego Bike is different than riding his own.  “It’s much heavier, slower, and I simply can’t be as bold and feckless with a bike share bike as I am with my personal one, which is also a way of saying, bike-share bikes force people to be more polite bikers.” 

Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia Executive Director Alex Doty agrees with Ben-Amos that the slowness of the bikes may actually be a safeguard.

“We feel that the types of people who are using bike share tend to be a less aggressive rider than the current bikers that sometimes buzz by pedestrians and run red lights. Of course, not all riders who use Indego will behave correctly, but we feel that behavior will get better over the long term as more people start riding.”   

MOTU Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Jeannette Brugger has goals for the program that balance hope with pragmatism.

“Indego will encourage more everyday folks to use bikes in Philly, and I imagine that they will become more aware of the infrastructure needs. More awareness leads to more people asking for improvements. More improvements plus more awareness means better and safer streets for everyone.”

HOW IT WORKS

Key information on renting and returning

If you sign up for a monthly plan, you’ll receive a key fob to lock and unlock Indego bikes, but you can also swipe a credit card to ride as you go. 

Stations are located around the city. When a fob is waved or a credit card swiped, the locking mechanism unlocks the bike for the rider. When the bike is returned to a station, a rider is expected to push the bike firmly into the dock and wait for a green light to flash three times to register the return. Rides are “one way” in that you will return your bike to any bike share location. That can mean taking it back to your original station, or any one of 70 locations. 

CHOOSE A PLAN

Indego bikes are available 24 hours a day and year round, rain or shine, with three membership options. Sign up online and you’ll receive a key fob that allows you to unlock a bike at any time. 

The Indego30

Allows unlimited bike share trips lasting up to one hour for just $15 a month. Any trips lasting longer than one hour are $4 per hour. 

IndegoFlex

Allows a rider to pay per trip at $4 per hour, in addition to a $10 yearly membership fee. 

Walk-up

Allows occasional riders to use the system without the commitment of any upfront fees. Sign up online, and then dip a credit card at the station kiosk and you’ll be charged $4 for every 30 minutes.

No credit card? Pay cash

Indego offers a unique “PayNearMe” plan that allows a member to pay cash at a local partner establishment such as a 7-Eleven or Family Dollar. Sign up online for either Indego30 or IndegoFlex and get your fob in the mail. The fob tracks usage, and you pay at the retail partner.