Pittsburgh’s bike share approach emphasizes outreach, expansion, and low cost

by Stefani Cox

Welcome back to our series introducing the 2018-19 Better Bike Share Challenge and Research grantees! Today, we’re looking at Pittsburgh’s work through the Healthy Ride system. You can see the original post and links to all articles in the series here.

Source: Healthy Ride.

When it comes to bike share, Pittsburgh is taking a multi-faceted approach to making the system as accessible and affordable as possible.

The Healthy Ride bike share system has been around since 2015, but it’s still fully committed to doing the hard work of community engagement. New work includes an ambassador program, an outreach manager hire, a system expansion, transit card integration, and more.

Commitment to community engagement

The ambassador training program started this month with a bang. Participants learned the ins and outs of the system, and started brainstorming outreach activities.

“We went through the fundamentals of Healthy Ride and some of the basics and expectations of the program,” said Heather McClain, Community Initiatives Manager for Healthy Ride. “We talked about how to manage community partnerships, as well as how to help support their ideas and all the different types of collaboration that they want to do.”

McClain’s hiring was a key stride forward for Healthy Ride’s outreach work, and she’s jumped into her work from the get go with the ambassador training.

“The ambassador program can help in getting the communities used to the concept of bike share and how it can be used for everyday purposes,” said McClain. “Including how to do recreational riding safely.”

Healthy Ride said there is room for community education around how to best navigate public space on a bike, including not riding on sidewalks. (They acknowledge this practice as quite understandable when roads with cars seem unsafe or intimidating.)

Like all bike share equity work, Healthy Ride’s outreach doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Some of the other organizations they work with include Homewood Children’s Village, Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycle Club, the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, the Thelma Lovette YMCA, Grounded Strategies, and the Port Authority of Allegheny County. Healthy Ride said that such voices are critical to guiding outreach work, particularly when it comes to station siting.

An integrated initiative

Healthy Ride is also engaged in expanding the entire bike share system to make it more accessible in underserved communities. The outreach that Healthy Ride does is meant to coordinate with the expansion into three key communities — Hill District, Larimer, and Homewood, which are predominantly black and low-income neighborhoods. These areas are on the edge of the current system and are thus provide a prime opportunity for inclusion through getting their own (or a greater number of) stations.

Healthy Ride has also gained some bike share fame by becoming the first U.S. city to offer free bike share to riders with a transit card.

“We saw the partnership with the Port Authority and the ConnectCard [transit fare card] as the launching point for some of these programs that we’re developing out,” said Erin Potts, Director of Marketing and Outreach for Healthy Ride. “The nice thing about the ConnectCard is that it allows people to set up a full account without connecting a credit or debit card.”

Healthy Ride has received 300 donated ConnectCards from the Port Authority with a prepaid $5 annual membership for low-income riders. The cards will be distributed to community partners who will distribute them to local residents in need.

>Missed the beginning of the 2018-19 grantee series? Start here.

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.