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Podcast Series: Indego Bike Share 1-Year Anniversary

Indego is Philadelphia’s bike sharing system and it turned one year old in April 2016. However, it took almost ten years for bike share to come to Philly.

It all started with one person’s trip to France and his and others’ battle with the city to bring bike share to Philadelphia.

In 2006, Russell Meddin visited France and went to the city of Lyon. He saw bike sharing station when he got off the train. Their system is called “Vélo’v.” He asked a friend of his who was there at the time and she said using a Vélo’v bike was the fastest way of getting around Lyon and everyone loved it. Lyon and Philadelphia are laid out similarly.

They are both between two rivers, have central business districts and the eastern parts of the cities are flat while the western parts are hilly.

Meddin thought, if Lyon could do it, why not Philadelphia.

In 2007 Meddin founded Bike Share Philadelphia, an advocacy group devoted to bringing a public use biking to Philadelphia. While today bike share programs are in many US cities, it was not that way in 2007. Meddin began working with different organizations and people in Philadelphia (including John Boyle of BCGP) make Bike Share Philadelphia happen.

That year Paris introduced it’s bike share program, which was then the largest in the world and New York City had a public use bicycling exhibition as well, so bike share was in the air. Meddin and the rest of Bike Share Philadelphia decided to have a forum to educate Philadelphians about public use bike share. Many individuals and organizations contributed to putting on the forum.

It happened on a cold, snowy night at the Academy of Natural Sciences and it was an incredible success. The Deputy Mayor of Lyon spoke, as did someone ran a closed bike share system run by Humana hospitals. Other speakers were someone from Coca-cola who was involved in bike libraries in two or three states and the recently sworn in Mayor Nutter.

There was a second forum the next day which was more of a symposium. Bike Share Philadelphia invited city and state officials to learn about bike share. The officials talked with people from the bike share industry to really understand public use bicycling and in end the city officials were very interested in making bike share a reality in Philadelphia.

After the forum City Council passed a resolution to implement a bike share program. This began with a feasibility study which was supposed to be given to City Council in December of 2008. However, the study didn’t begin in September of 2008 and took an extremely long time to be written. It was eventually given to city council in February of 2010.

While the study was being conducted and written, BSP encouraged residents to write to the city government and tell them how much they wanted a bike share program. By the time the study was delivered to city council, two thousand letter and emails had been sent.

The feasibility study said yes, a bike share system would work in Philadelphia. It recommended that the program should start with 1,700 bikes at 20 stations per square miles in the first two years. At four years it should have 3,500 bikes.

Between the feasibility study and the implementation of the bike share program, BSP talked to residents and held bike share demonstrations all over the city. At the end of 2012 Mayor Nutter officially announced Philadelphia would have a bike share program. In 2013 city council received a proposal to allocate 3 million dollars to pay for the beginning of the system.

The feasibility study was also finalized to include a business plan for the system, but this took another year. By 2014 the city was ready to submit a Request for Proposal or RFP for a system vendor and operator for a bike share program in Philadelphia. Finally, in April of 2015, Philadelphia had its bike share program.

For Meddin, this was the realization of an incredibly important dream to bring bike share to Philly. It was a battle that took over ten years and lots of hard work but it has paid off since he has heard incredibly wonderful things about Indego. He hopes in the future that Indego can expand so every resident of Philadelphia can have access to bikes. Finally, he wants everyone to have a station as close to their house as possible and a station as close as possible to where ever they want to go.

-Marina Stuart

Topics: Bike Share, Biking in Philly, Featured

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