WITH THE CITY'S launch of the Indego bike-share program Thursday, you knew I had to try it and report back to you. (I was given a brief trial run two days before it launched.)

I live at Broad and Spruce and work at 8th and Market. I wanted to see if I could get to work faster by bike than by foot.

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But before the road test, the bike basics.

The city bought 700 of the heavy-duty bikes for $1,000 each. Yes, you read that right.

I could buy a used car for that, but it wouldn't look as good, might not run as well, and of course it would pollute. (Did you miss Earth Day? Oh, you were having a barbecue?)

Each stainless steel bike is manufactured by Trek. (The company typeface mimics the Star Trek logo. Ride long and prosper.) Front and rear lights turn on automatically and there are both front and rear baskets, not very large, but maybe large enough for a small supermarket run.

The bike's frame is "step through," insists Andrew Stober, chief of staff, mayor's office of transportation and utilities, not a "girl's bike," as I called it. Truthfully, the step through is much easier to mount.

The Trek bikes have three gears, the first being the easiest to pedal. Burn more calories with 3. (Also maybe have a stroke.)

The seat has a clamp for easy adjustment for height, with universal markings, making the raising and lowering of the seat a snap. (I'm tall, No. 12.)

The seat, which can't be detached, is a comfortable padded saddle seat.

While you might not see a bell (no chrome covering), it is there, a small lever on the left-hand side that produces a high-pitched bing. Like everything else on the bike, it is designed to frustrate thieves.

That's one reason there is no mirror. "Our concerns were adjustability and vandalism," explains Aaron Ritz, city bicycles and pedestrian programs planner.

The bikes are a lovely shade of blue, called Process Blue which (coincidentally?) matches the color of the Independence Blue Cross logo. Corporate sponsor IBC (not coincidentally) pledged to cough up $1.7 million for the next five years (after an initial city outlay of $3 million, to which I objected, but not to the idea itself).

When the first rollout is complete, there will be 70 docking stations around the city.

For the purpose of this experiment (and maybe for future use) I joined Indego, which is easy to do online at rideindego.com. I chose a $10 annual membership and basically $4 an hour for use.

After you join, you are mailed a kit containing a "key" (a disc for your key ring), a brochure with tips and a map that does not show docking stations. Huh? Find stations online.

So now I am ready for the Big Ride.

I start out knowing my walk to work, a little less than a mile, takes about 16 minutes.

I walk a little less than two blocks to the station near 15th on Spruce (taking up some of the Kimmel Center sidewalk, which might make for jams during and after concerts). I do not start my stopwatch until I take out the bike. The station releases it after I touch the silver button to "wake up" the machine, then wave my disc in front of an electric eye.

I adjust the seat and move the bike into the street and head west on Spruce, turn south on 15th and east on Pine into the safety of the bike lane. I hit a red light at Broad and stop for the red light - repeat, stop for the red light - which costs me time.

I also hit - and stop - for lights at 12th, 10th, 8th and 6th. Huh? Lights are timed at 20 mph. (even though the speed limit is 25 mph). Am I going that much less than 20 mph?

On Pine, I am passed by three bicyclists, each on a better, faster bike and each of whom ignores red lights.

As almost every bicyclist does, all the time.

I want to turn north on 5th from the right lane and that's a little tricky without a mirror. I'm not comfortable twisting all the way around so I listen carefully. You can hear if a car is near you.

I make the turn onto 5th and I am in traffic. I am on the right side of the right lane, cars pass on the left without being too close. (OK, one dope was too close.)

Close to Independence Hall I am on cobblestones, which creates an unstable ride, a little pain in a place I won't mention and a general feeling of instability.

I did not chose to ride on the sidewalk.

I arrive at 5th and Market, dock my bike and walk to 8th.

Total trip time: 21 minutes, 22 seconds. Biking has taken me almost 6 minutes longer than walking. That's almost one-third longer. And I'm breathing heavy because I used second gear.

So, for me, and for work, bike share is a loser.

But my case isn't your case.

You can try it yourself without much of an investment. Just remember to obey the law.

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

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