by Pete Mazzaccaro

Just before its taking off for the summer, Philadelphia City Council passed a law authorizing bike sharing in the city.

The bill paves the way for a more than 150 stations where some 1,800 bicycles will be available for anyone who wants to use a public bike to get around.

Proponents of the bill note that the bike-share program will be equitable – no credit card needed – and promote a healthier lifestyle. It will not only get people exercising but cut down on unnecessary emissions. Need to take a quick trip? Why not use a bike and not have to worry about finding a parking space?

It’s hard to argue with the benefits of the program. Especially if it manages as promised to be revenue neutral for the city. Perhaps the only organizations that stand to lose are parking garages and the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

I have yet to see a map of where these bike stations will be located, but the news made me wonder (1) if one was headed to Chestnut Hill, and (2) if a bike-share station or two would make much sense in Chestnut Hill? And that is without considering whether or not Hillers would find the bike stations attractive enough for the neighborhood (those bike racks better come in colonial colors).

One of the things proponents of bike sharing tout as a benefit of bike sharing is a program that promotes tourism around the city. This would likely not help Chestnut Hill, which is not an easy ride from Center City because of busy roads and elevation. Some, though, may enjoy the 9-mile-ride from the Art Museum to Valley Green Inn along Kelly and Forbidden Drive.

While riders in the Wissahickon along Forbidden Drive are common, a bicycle commuter or shopper is a rare sight along the Avenue. It’s just not ideal for cycling.

Take it from someone who has occasionally biked to work here. It’s not the easiest neighborhood in which to bike around. There is no dedicated cycle lane – the road is just too narrow – and parking lanes on both sides of the street and the trolley tracks can make it a treacherous bike route. And then there’s the fact that Chestnut Hill is, well, a hill. It’s easy to head south, not so easy to ride north. This isn’t an issue in much of Center City, which is relatively flat.

The Hill’s side roads are O.K. for cycling. Ardleigh street isn’t bad for getting from one end of the retail district to the other. Side streets on the west side of the avenue are cycle-friendly enough for a nice ride.

What other benefits might be in a bike exchange for Chestnut Hill?

I could see Weavers Way Co-op being a good location and/or destination for a bike exchange. As parking gets harder and harder in the Acadia-owned lot behind the co-op, a non-car alternative might be helpful.

Would Hill employees or residents use a bike exchange? Would we ride to Morris Arboretum? Or to Mt. Airy for a meal at McMenamin’s? Would it really be a popular option in Northwest Philly where train stations and bus stops are so plentiful?

It would be nice if a few bike share stations could find a home in Chestnut Hill. It would be even nicer to see more people cycling through the streets of Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy. Getting more people around on bikes can’t hurt.

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