Bike share. It’s almost here.
While dozens of people gathered near City Hall on Thursday afternoon to test out new bikes, another dozen or so were deployed across the city, working to install a total of 70 bike share docks by launch date: April 23.
Philly Bike Share — or Indego as it’s officially called because it’s sponsored by Independence Blue Cross — started accepting sign-ups this week to prep for its official launch that’s about three weeks away. Meanwhile workers are quickly installing the docking stations and testing the technology behind it over the next several weeks to be sure the system is ready for its debut.
Bike Share spokesman Andrew Stober said Thursday afternoon served as a preview for customers, but trained officials with Indego and Trek, the company that manufactures the equipment, will test the rest of the system.
He said in order to install Indego, three small teams travel around the city armed with large boxes of equipment that is a bit like a more complicated piece of Ikea furniture — everything pops into place.
Billy Penn community manager Shannon McDonald and I tried out the bikes on Thursday afternoon, and both of us were pleasantly surprised at what a comfortable, easy ride the bikes provided for.
The seats were quite comfortable — Shannon’s insta-verdict: “My butt feels awesome” — and both of us noted they were actually better than the seats on the bikes we own. The Indego bikes didn’t feel heavy while we were riding them, but rather felt steady, with great balance.
What you’ll have to remember for your first few bike share rides is that you’ll have to 1. BYO helmet and 2. Know where a dock is closest to where you’re going. The bikes don’t come with locks (and remember, they’re on a one-hour limit), so you’ll have to travel first to a dock, then to your destination.
Indego General Manager Peter Hoban broke down the process of taking part in the bike share system for us. You have a few options to get started:
1. Go online and order an Indego30 package, which is $15 a month and includes unlimited rides up to an hour. If you over the hour time limit, it’s another $4 for every subsequent hour. This option is best if you’ll be making more than three trips per month, and there’s no commitment past each month.
2. Also online, order the Indego Flex package — that’s a $10 annual membership and then $4 for each hour you use the system. This is the best option if you’re not sure how you’ll use bike share.
Note: If you’d prefer to pay in cash for either of the online systems, you can order your card online and get a code that you then take to the closest 7-11 or Family Dollar. You can pay for your membership there in cash and then the card will be mailed to you.
3. Walk up to the docking station and pay a one-time fee of $4 and get a half-hour for a bike (that you have to pay for with a credit card). This option is best for tourists or very infrequent users.
Once you’ve obtained your card to use bike share, go up to a docking station that has a bike attached and tap the card to the dock to wake up the system. It’ll release a bike, and you can be on your way. Note: This is kind of how SEPTA Key will work, once that goes live.
Each bike is equipped with two baskets, one on the front handles, and one in the back that’s just large enough to hold a small or medium-sized bag.
Hoban said each bike is also equipped with two different sets of flashing lights in the front and the back that automatically start blinking when you start pedaling, night or day.
When it comes to speed, these bikes don’t go very fast. They’re relatively heavy, and aren’t meant for speed. However, each bike has three speeds that can be adjusted on the handles (in addition to an easily-adjustable seat).
Each bike also has covers over the cables and the chains so you can avoid getting anything mixed up or broken. Hoban said this is one of the main features that keeps the bikes as safe as they are.
Click here to view an interactive map of where Indego has docking stations across the city.