Philly bike share ambassador program rolls forward with a new structure

by Stefani Cox

Strawberry Mansion ambassadorSource: Strawberry Mansion CDC.

In Philadelphia, a new structure for bike share ambassadors means that the program now brings in entire organizations, not just individuals.

“We picked six organizations throughout the city,” said Waffiyyah Murray, Indego Community Coordinator at the City of Philadelphia. “We support work they’re already doing, and we support newer groups as well.” The six participating organizations are Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation, Latinas in Motion, Mantua Civic Association, Don’t Shoot, Brewerytown-Sharswood Community Civic Association, and Dare 2 Hope.

The program was moved from an individual to an organizational level, so as to create less of a burden on one person to plan rides and fulfill other ambassador duties. In addition, funds can now go directly to the representative organization in order to support many aspects of programming.

Two point people from each ambassador organization report to Murray. Every organization is required to create at least two group rides, and hold at least two classes. As of early August, most of the organizations were flying past those expectations. They will have a graduation ceremony next month to celebrate their achievements.

“They’ve hit the ground running,” said Murray. “They’ve already done their requirements and are onto the 3rd or 4th event.”

Creative rides make for engaged riders

De’Wayne Drummond is one of the liaisons for Mantua Civic Association, and he sees their partnership with Indego as a natural one. He was an Indego ambassador last year.

“Our organizational model is based on collaboration and partnership,” said Drummond. “That was one reason Mantua got chosen. When you go back and look at some of the other rides I did as a solo ambassador, it was always about collaboration and partnership.”

He described a ride he helped organize in partnership with the Lupus Foundation, to raise awareness about the disease after a resident brought up the idea.

“We had riders there of different cultures and ethnic groups to support this cause and the many people that lupus affects,” said Drummond. There were free shirts, a band, and even a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in attendance — State Rep. Donna Bullock.

Drummond notes that having the bike share event be oriented around a cause brought out some people who hadn’t ridden a bike in years.

“It shows the power of advocacy through cycling,” said Drummond.

Bike share events show off local resources

Strawberry Mansion CDC has worked closely with Indego bike share in the past, such as by helping to promote and program new stations introduced to the neighborhood. Jumping onboard under the new format of the ambassador program made sense to the CDC’s leaders.

“When it transitioned over to organizations, we jumped on,” said Tonnetta Graham, President of Strawberry Mansion CDC.

In early September, Graham and others led Strawberry Mansion Day, to engage the community and show off the historic homes that in many ways define the neighborhood.

Another ambassador organization, Brewerytown-Sharswood Community Civic Association, also seeks to increase knowledge of community resources through Indego bike share events.

“When you attend an event, now you see where your students are coming from,” said Stephanie Hardy, who works for the Association. “Now you know where the library is.”

Involve residents in ride planning for greater participation

However, it’s not always easy to get residents to come out to community events. Graham says that attendance and participation can sometimes be a challenge.

“The best way to engage residents is to get information out about opportunities to put a ride together,” said Graham. “You may have residents who have their own ideas, so plan for their involvement.”

As Hardy puts it, “Find something in the community that you want to bring everybody around.”

Graham also emphasizes the importance of letting as many people as possible know that the bikes are for them to use, and of being available for questions that come up. The need for an in-person connection, she says, can’t be overstated.

The Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by The JPB Foundation as a collaborative 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