Monday, March 29, 2010

City's Street Furniture Bid Features Sheltered Bike Parking-Omits Bike Sharing

The City has put out a Request For Proposals For its Street Furniture contract.

Design, construction, installation, maintenance and operation of transit shelters, arts, culture and public information panels, honor box corrals, sheltered bicycle parking and installation and maintenance of advertising panels and the sale of advertising on previously mentioned structures, and the sale of advertising on City-owned transit headhouses, solar powered compacting litter baskets and recycling bins.

As expected Bike Sharing was not included in the Street Furniture contract despite the recent release of the Bike Sharing study that showed that bike sharing in Philadelphia is feasible.

Russell Meddin of Bike Share Philadelphia is disappointed that the city did not include a Bike Sharing program as one of the amenities of the request for proposals being asked of street furniture companies. He said:

“With over 80% of all bike sharing programs world wide affiliated with street furniture contracts, Philadelphia should have explored this option to fund a program. The just released Philadelphia bike share feasibility study promotes the exploration of this option. With street furniture contracts lasting up to 20 years, it is rare that a possible street furniture and bike sharing program contract coincide. When asked last year, the street furniture companies, indicated they would respond to this request for proposals if it was crafted to required a response with and without Bike Sharing. In this fashion the financial ramification of a program could easily be compared. The city is missing an incredible opportunity to, at best, deliver a bike share program at little or no cost to the city’s general fund, or to, at least, gather valuable information on the 'best practices' of setting up a program here.”

The RFP calls for 12 7' X 10' bike parking shelters similar to the ones installed in New York City. 4 will be located in Center City, 4 in University City and 4 will be located in other neighborhoods or at Regional Rail Stations. All 12 shelters will be built within 3 years of the start date of the contract.

View NYCDOT Sheltered Bicycle Parking Locations in a larger map

Shelter on 23rd St in New York City. The shelter offers only marginal weather protection but it greatly improves the visibility of good bike parking and is a convenient location for bicycle information.


Unknown said...

Michael McGettigan of Trophy Bikes Philadelphia applauds the common sense move of leaving the Bike Sharing Program infrastructure out of the city's Request For Proposals on Street Furniture.

The widely-heralded Paris Velib Program has suffered 25% bike losses and the giant multinational billboard company, JCDecaux, is demanding millions more to maintain their profits. The Paris bikes are widely viewed as toys for tourists and yuppies and an entire new field of Youtube moviemaking has sprung up dedicated to filming Velib bikes being imaginatively destroyed. Like public robot bathrooms and the Segway, the utopian ideal of a bicycle which falls into your hands only when you need one, is less appealing in reality.

In Philadelphia, which is rapidly creating its own vibrant bike culture, ranging from new immigrants aboard $79 Wal-Mart bikes to the hipster/student single-speed/fixie movement, the need for a $1,400, 45-pound, poorly-fitting bicycle backed by a public private partnership which would claim prime spaces in our center city for parking kiosks and electronic billboards is shrinking just as quickly.

The next common sense move will be to review the street furniture program, currently structured as a top-down mallification of our business districts. A better program would favor neighborhood based design with zero advertising, based on neighborhood desires, styles and needs, rather than on where a multinational corporation needs to place their advertising.

Philadelphia's sense and impression of place is a huge part of its brand. A citywide street furniture program, with designs that originate in a multinational, with zero connection our past or present, will hurt that brand and make the city less competitive. A more subtle, but equally important effect, is the shift of ad revenue away from the news media--print, tv, radio and internet. The news media place ads in a medium which includes political reporting and other information that helps Philadelphia's citizens relate to the metropolis and one another. The urban adscape which JCDecaux and the street furniture/bikeshare backers seek to create would use the city's beauty as a medium for their ads, which carry no message other than increased consumption. Thus they would weaken our news media while simultaneously degrading the city environment.

Finally, these partnerships create learned dependency, with cities giving up their ability to economically provide basic services and amenities with corporations profiting from this learned helplessness.

Michael McGetttigan, Trophy Bikes University City
Trophy Bikes Northern Liberties

Note: recent studies show that bicycle shops tend to become more profitable in cities which implement Bikesharing programs. Nonetheless, I oppose billboard-backed bike share programs because of their negative effects on the urban environment and their numbing effect on bike culture and bike advocacy. I also feel that there are many more cost-efficient and equitable ways to bring bicycling to all of the city, not just a few select areas.