Four years ago I visited Montreal and fell in love. More than anything else, I was blown away by their bikeshare program, something I didn’t imagine would ever come to Philadelphia.
But when I came back from the trip and started poking around, I found that the seeds for a bikeshare program in my city had already been planted. Could this really come to fruition? The ultimate marriage of the sharing economy, fitness, and fuel-free transportation?
Fast forward to today when Ride Indego rolls out with more than 600 self-service bikes and 60 stations around the city. And I am quite possibly the first customer to ride.
The day of the launch I headed to the nearest station, about 100 meters from my front door, and saw a single bike hooked up to the kiosk. I swiped my card (I bought a pre-paid monthly unlimited membership for $15, one of several options) and went to grab my bike. But a man in a B-Cycle t-shirt ran up and told me he needed the bike for the official launch procession and the bikes wouldn’t technically be available for an hour. But I sweet-talked him into letting me take it anyway (if sweet talk is, “I’m taking this anyway.”)
Getting the bike in and out of the kiosk is super easy. I actually remember it being a bit cumbersome in Montreal, but maybe I was just an idiot. Another nice thing is that the seat is incredibly easy to adjust. A good thing for me since I am not very tall.
One weird thing was that the bike felt super heavy to me. Maybe I am used to my rusty old piece of wire, but this thing has some heft – it’s a learning curve if you need to pick it up onto the sidewalk.
But overall the ride was smooth and it was a pleasure not having to worry about low tire pressure or crowded bike racks. The map shows a kiosk within one block of just about anywhere I would ever need to ride.
The only downside is that you lose the convenience of locking your helmet up to your bike, and need to bring it with you to your destination. Not a huge deal, and not a reason to ride without a helmet!
So why would I want to use a bikeshare service if I already own a bike?
1. My bike is a rusted out, bent hunk of metal that perfectly serves the purpose of deterring theft due to its worthlessness. If I ride over a gum wrapper it feels like a pothole. And every winter it sits out on my patio collecting snow and requiring a serious spring tune up. With a bikeshare the bikes are always in pristine condition.
2. My bike tires are perpetually low on air and I need to circle the city looking for an available pump. Once I was overzealous with the pumping and the tire exploded louder than a backfiring car. Indego keeps its tires in check.
3. I can not tell you how many times my bike lock has broken off my bike. A couple times I forgot the key and had to create the illusion that my bike was actually locked up. Even if you can find a proper place to lock your bike and have all the accouterments, someone is bound to try to steal it. Seriously bike thefts in Philadelphia are more common than underage drinking. I’d like to see someone try to steal a two-ton blue bike emblazoned with the Independence Blue Cross logo.
4. Bells and whistles. Well, maybe not an actual bell, but front and rear baskets to make hauling things significantly easier than cycling with a handbag. Also actual working gears, lights, and reflectors.
5. Not having to drag my bike in and out of my house. This is a big one. Living in a city home, we don’t have garages or driveways or “mud rooms.” Anything that enters my house is dining with me. And it is a a bitch to carry a bicycle back and forth, through my house and out the back door, careful not to let its muddy wheels touch the carpet, every time I need to run an errand more than three blocks away.
6. The option to bike somewhere and not bike home. Like when it starts to pour and you have your damn bike. Or you’ve just done a grueling workout and you have your damn bike. Or when you’ve had a few drinks and you have your damn bike.
Those reasons alone were enough for me to invest in a monthly membership. And when winter rolls around again, I will cancel for those months, content to not have to worry about my useless, rusting bike.
And if you’re ready to kiss your rusty old bike goodbye, you can donate it to cool local charity Neighborhood Bike Works.
So what do you think? Will you give the bike share a spin?
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