Philadelphia considers bike-sharing plan
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - If Russell Meddin has his way, Philadelphia will join a growing number of U.S. and European cities that offer bike-sharing as a cheap, green, and active way of getting around.
Meddin, a founder of Bike Share Philadelphia, would like to make about 5,000 bicycles available at hundreds of locking stations around the city for people to get to work, run their errands, or visit their friends.
If he and his associates succeed in persuading the city to adopt the scheme people could pedal off to their appointments without having to park a car, wait for a bus or hail a taxi.
"Bike sharing has been transformational in London, Paris and Denver. It's time for Philadelphia to join these cities," said Meddin.
But Andrew Stober, a spokesman for the Philadelphia's transportation department, said more bike lanes would be needed and the city doesn't have the estimated $6 million it would cost to set up the scheme.
"We are not going to see bike sharing in Philadelphia in the next year but it's something we are open to," he explained.
Any decision to proceed would likely depend on city and federal funding and the support of foundations or corporations -- a model that has been followed by some other U.S. cities, Stober added.
But advocates believe it's only a matter of time before it takes off there and elsewhere.
"They really see a long-term future for bike-sharing in large cities," Stober said.
If Philadelphia adopts the scheme, users would pay a membership fee and a usage charge that increases with the length of time the bike is kept after the first half hour, which would be free.
It's an idea that's catching on in Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, and from September 1, Des Moines, Iowa, which have followed the example of Paris, where 24,000 shared bikes are used by 160,000 people a year, and Montreal.
Philadelphia is a prime candidate for bike sharing because it's mostly flat and has more than 200 miles (322 km) of bike lanes, and it already has a high rate of cycle commuting compared with other large U.S. cities, according to Jason McDowell, a manager for BCycle, a company that runs the Denver system.
The City of Brotherly Love also has a high incidence of obesity and diabetes, which Meddin said could be alleviated if the population adopted a more active lifestyle.
Asked how would-be riders would overcome their fear of traffic, Meddin argued that the increased presence of bicyclists on the street would make drivers much more cautious around them.
Studies suggest that increasing the number of cycle trips by half reduces the number of road incidents involving bikes by a third, he said.
(Reporting by Jon Hurdle; Editing by Patricia Reaney; For the latest Reuters lifestyle news see: www.reuters.com/news/lifestyle))
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