When it was revealed late last year that Philadelphia would be the next major city to unveil a bike share program, the announcement was met with both excitement and skepticism.
But the system, named Indego (after its sponsor Independence Blue Cross), aims to surpass similar programs in cities like New York City and Chicago.
Starting as temporary contractors, the youth’s involvement with bike share has now evolved into what will be a long-term partnership between Neighborhood Bike Works and Indego.
After Bicycle Transit Systems had hired two of the youth, according to Neighborhood Bike Works’s Youth Bike Education & Empowerment Program Coordinator Taylor Kuyk-White, the group went on the field trip to visit Bicycle Transit Systems, during which they built approximately 50 bikes.
Bicycle Transit Systems was so impressed that they asked Kuyk-White if they could bring on 3-5 more teenagers to build bikes until Indego’s launch on April 23.
“I think we’re a big representative of their mechanical staff right now,” she said. “I’m really glad that everyone — Bicycle Transit Systems, the Bicycle Coalition, Better Bike Share — has been receptive to this partnership.”
As a result of a long series of conversations and hard work from all involved organizations, Neighborhood Bike Works has now established a three-year partnership with the organizations involved with the bike share. Youth from Neighborhood Bike Works will act as bike share ambassadors, representing the program at community events.
“That kind of partnership is something we’re just launching next month and hope to continue and elaborate on over the next three years,” said Kuyk-White.
Kuyk-White said that having low-income/no-income youths build and maintain bikes for the bike share, as well as represent the program, is in the community’s best interest.
“This community has been really excited and receptive and we’ve worked hard to work together to see why it’s not only in the youths interest, but in the interest of the city,” she said.
Having youth spread the word about bicycle transit to other youth and to underserved communities will only result in a healthier city now and in the future, according to Kuyk-White.
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The partnership has also been a great way to connect more of the teenagers of Neighborhood Bike Works to job opportunities.
That’s what makes this bike share different than similar programs in other cities. While the bike share in New York City contracted youth temporarily through Recycle-A-Bicycle, Philadelphia is taking it a step further with this multi-year, multi-faceted partnership.
“[Youth] are finding a real niche in the bicycle industry in Philadelphia. They’re the perfect vehicle to spread this message about bikes and how important commuting is to the health of the city,” said Kuyk-White.
“I hope the next big city to launch a bike share can also take some tips from us about that.”
Image via Neighborhood Bike Works