Philadelphia builds skills by combining computer literacy and bike share

by Stefani Cox

Digital Skills Bicycle Thrills
Source: Darren Burton.

You might not expect digital literacy and bike share to go together, but that’s exactly what’s been happening in Philadelphia for the past year-and-a-half.

The Digital Skills and Bicycle Thrills (DSBT) program graduated its fourth cohort last week. DSBT is a skills-based learning curriculum that teaches computer literacy along with information on bicycle safety and how to access Indego bike share. The program includes a four-week online course that has participants complete assignments related to bike share. Members of the program also participate in a group ride and receive a free six-month Indego pass when they finish.

Digital Skills Bicycle Thrills 2
Source: Darren Burton.

In a past article, we wrote about the why DSBT got started. In short, Philadelphia recognized the growing need for computer skills and access in today’s world. This understanding was paired with the reality that low-income residents wanted a physical location where they could sign up for bike share and ask questions about it at the same time.

DSBT uses the excitement that people feel about giving bike share a try as a motivating factor for growing computer skills. The program is a partnership between the City of Philadelphia Office of Adult Education, Indego, and the Better Bike Share Partnership, and is sponsored by Independence Blue Cross.

Digital Skills Bicycle Thrills 3
Source: Darren Burton.

Digital Skills Bicycle Thrills 4
Source: Darren Burton.

Jonathan Fikru was a member of the third DSBT cohort. He is currently a membership services coordinator at Back On My Feet, a nonprofit that assists homeless individuals with recovery and transitional housing, while they also learn the practice of running. Fikru sees strong potential in DSBT for helping the people he works with on a regular basis.

“I think the ‘digital skills’ is definitely something that could benefit our members,” he says. “We work with a variety of ages, and there are individuals who can use the opportunity as a stepping stool for improving their computer skills. The ‘bicycle thrills’ part is convenient for people who don’t have access to a TransPass.”

Indeed, the hope is that the DSBT experience will ultimately make it easier for community members to use the Indego system, and thus better navigate Philadelphia.

“I believe indego is a good source of transportation for low-income communities,” says Fikru. “I think that, being in so many spots, it is very accessible and it’s a benefit, because transportation could be a barrier for our members to get places.”

The Better Bike Share Partnership is a JPB Foundation-funded collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the PeopleForBikes Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or sign up for our weekly newsletter. Story tip? Write