Sunday, September 09, 2007

PhillyCarShare, Say Hello to Your New (and Arguably Doper) Baby Brother, PhillyBikeShare

Vélib Bike-sharing in ParisIt’s time people. Enough dicking around. Philly needs to get off its ass and become mad bike-friendly. In fact — what the hell — let’s become the most bicycle-friendly city in the country.

Why? Why the eff not? Oh and also because a more bicycle-friendly city is a more livable city, a healthier city, a more economically viable city, a more business- and visitor-friendly, a cleaner city, etc.

Earlier this summer Paris introduced a bike-sharing program that is already, in two short months, the envy of progressive municipalities around the world.
The program, Vélib (for “vélo,” bicycle, and “liberté,” freedom), is the latest in a string of European efforts to reduce the number of cars in city centers and give people incentives to choose more eco-friendly modes of transport.

This is about revolutionizing urban culture,” said Pierre Aidenbaum, mayor of Paris’s trendy third district, which opened 15 docking stations on Sunday. “For a long time cars were associated with freedom of movement and flexibility. What we want to show people is that in many ways bicycles fulfill this role much more today.”
Hot damn. And there’s more. It’s cheap as hell and makes so much sense that it just blew your mind.
10,600 bikes (scaling up to 20,600 by the end of the year) available at 750 “docking stations” situated every 1,000 feet. With a swipe of a credit card and a modest fee, Parisians (and tourists) can now pick up or drop off a bike in any neighborhood in the city.

Riders no longer need to worry about storing their bikes in tiny apartments. The program’s high-tech stations make theft virtually impossible. And with about twice as many bike stations as Métro stops, a free bike is pretty much always within reach.

Users can rent a bike online or at any of the stations, using a credit or debit card and leave them at any other station. A one-day pass costs 1 euro ($1.38), a weekly pass 5 euros ($6.90) and a yearly subscription 29 euros ($40), with no additional charges as long as each bike ride does not exceed 30 minutes. (Beyond that, there is an incremental surcharge, to make sure that as many bikes as possible stay in the rotation.)

The outdoor advertising company J. C. Decaux is paying for the bicycles, docking stations and maintenance in return for exclusive use of 1,628 urban billboards owned by the city. The city receives the rental income, and city officials say they are hoping the program will bring in millions of euros.
Imagine something similar in Philadelphia. Oh wait — the New York Times has already taken the liberty… albeit for Manhattan.
Once the Paris program demonstrates that bike-sharing can get people out of their cars and off the transit grid, Mr. Bloomberg should grab a page from the Parisian playbook and transform New York into the most bike-friendly metropolis in America.

Take Manhattan south of 86th Street (the exact parameters of the proposed congestion pricing zone). Imagine introducing 10,000 bikes, with stations at every avenue and every four streets. Now imagine taking a bike, at virtually no cost, from the Metropolitan Museum to the Metropolitan Opera, from Union Square to Chelsea Piers, from the Upper East Side to Wall Street, or from Times Square to Battery Park City.

Even a program as extensive as this would be much less expensive than any other transportation alternative on the table. One industry expert suggests that the cost to manufacture, install and maintain a program for 10 years comes to about $8,000 a bike. The program described above would cost New York about $8 million a year (which could be reduced depending on whether the city would be willing to allow advertising on the bicycles). In perspective: that’s a minuscule fraction of the estimated $2.1 billion cost of the 7 line subway extension now under way.
Vélib Bike-sharing in ParisSounds like a no-brainer. Perhaps that’s why Mayor “I Literally Kick Ass for Green Causes” Daley of Chicago is so smitten with the idea that this very weekend he’s meeting up with the popular Parisian Mayor Bertrand Delanoë to discuss the program to see how he can bring it to the Windy City.
Vélib is the brainchild of Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, a Socialist and longtime green campaigner who has set a target for the city to reduce car traffic by 40 percent by 2020. Since he took office in 2001, his administration has added about 125 miles of bicycle paths, at the expense of lanes for cars, prompting accusations from drivers that it has aggravated congestion in the city.”
See Daley is rocking out a Bike 2015 plan because he wants to make Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the country.

We think Philly should beat him to it.

So stay tuned. This is an idea we’re going to continue to push and support until we figure out just exactly how to bring it to fruition.

Councilman Nutter — we expect you to get on board. And to get on board QUICK.

A New French Revolution’s Creed: Let Them Ride Bikes [New York Times]
The Path of Least Congestion [New York Times]
You'll Look Sweet Upon the Seat of a Rental Bike [Chicagoist]
Bike 2015 Chicago [Official Site]

[ Photos via Flick users Comment vous dire? and t.o.l.i ]

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