With 600 stocky, blue-and-white bicycles, designed to be easy to use and hard to steal, Philadelphia will launch an ambitious bike-sharing system in spring in at least 60 locations, from Temple University to the Navy Yard and from the Delaware River to University City.
The program, dubbed Indego because of an $8.5 million contribution from Independence Blue Cross, will allow riders to use credit cards, cash, or member cards to rent bikes 24 hours a day.
"You can take a short trip from Point A to Point B or back to Point A, if that's what you want to do," Mayor Nutter said Tuesday. "There are lots of benefits - for health, the environment, and transportation."
City and Blue Cross officials will formally announce the bike-sharing program Wednesday. It will be similar to efforts in Boston, Washington, New York, and other cities.
Independence Blue Cross will contribute $1.7 million a year for five years to help operate the system, while the city will provide $3 million to buy bikes and stations, and more than $4.5 million in additional funding will come from state, federal, and foundation coffers.
Riders' fees have not been announced, but the cost will be "a few dollars a week" for a membership, said Andrew Stober, chief of staff of the mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities.
Pricing for riders will be set with 30-day renewable memberships that include free rides of up to an hour, fee-per-ride memberships, and walk-up prices based on a flat fee per half-hour ride, Stober said.
If prices are similar to those in other cities, costs are likely to range from about $5 per hour.
The three-speed bikes will have bulky, step-through frames with adjustable seats, front and rear lights, and baskets. Independence Blue Cross's name will be prominently displayed on the bikes and docking stations.
"It's a perfect match for us," said Independence Blue Cross president and chief executive officer Daniel Hilferty. "We're focused on helping people get healthy and stay healthy. What better way to do that than getting out and riding bikes?"
Riders, who must be at least 16, will not be required to wear helmets.
Initially, at least 60 docking stations that can accommodate 10 bikes each will be available from Temple to the Navy Yard, and from the Delaware to 45th Street in West Philadelphia.
Bikes must be returned to a docking station at the end of a trip.
The city said it plans to increase the scope of the program over the next year, adding 60 additional stations.
The system will be operated by Bicycle Transit Systems Inc. of Philadelphia. Bicycle Transit Systems has operated bike-share programs in Chicago, Boston, and Washington.
The estimated operating budget for the first year is $1.8 million, Stober said, paid by sponsors' contributions, not tax dollars.
"All jobs at Bicycle Transit will pay a living wage and come with benefits," he said.
Officials expect about 20 jobs to start.
Bike thieves will be discouraged by requiring cash users to provide their names and addresses. Rentals will be linked to a rider's membership card or credit card.
"When a bike is properly docked in the station, there is no way for someone to steal it without destroying the bike," the city said.