How Philadelphia’s public bike share system created a 10-minute video tutorial to suit a wide range of riders—and came in under budget.
Alejandro Utria was hired as the Bilingual Community Liaison for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, a local partner to Indego bike share, in the middle of the pandemic. “I started with the expectation that the responsibilities I was initially brought on for—teaching in-person classrooms and rides—had already shifted to bringing more material online and presenting things virtually,” says Utria.
Utria, who was drawn to his position at the Bicycle Coalition due to the opportunity to educate, wasn’t deterred. Thanks to the pandemic, there was also money left in the organization’s budget, originally allocated for in-person events that were no longer on the docket for 2020. An online tutorial for beginners was a natural fit for the coalition and within a couple of weeks of starting, Utria found himself in an empty downtown parking lot giving a riding lesson on an Indego bike (first in English, then in Spanish) while his boss filmed on an iPhone.
“She sent that material to a video producer at a production company and the quote they gave us to produce a formal video was double our budget,” says Utria. “So the project was put to the side.” Come the end of September, however, Utria’s team decided to just go for it and create the video themselves. When all was said and done, Utria served as the video’s writer and designer, as well as its co-producer and co-director alongside Joshua Mallory of Noise Soul Cinema. The result was a high-quality, 10-minute tutorial:
Ultria is no stranger to the theater and has experience writing, adapting scripts and directing, as well as working as a stage manager and a production assistant. Still, he underestimated just how big a project he was taking on. “I wish I had really dug my heels in more at the beginning to acknowledge all the things I didn’t know and ask for advice from people in our BBSP circle,” says Ultria. “I realized two months in that I had promised a timeframe that was unrealistic.” The video ultimately took about four months to complete but, after paying Mallory and the actors, cost roughly a third of the price of the original quote.
Although Ultria’s labor was the biggest money-saving factor, forgoing professional actors also helped keep costs down. By soliciting community members familiar with the “Learn to Ride” programs to be the talent, Ultria’s team also ensured the video authentically represented the audience Indego and the Bicycle Coalition serves. In fact, one of the video’s riders didn’t learn to ride a bike until last year during the pandemic. “Since the pool of people we were choosing from was already diverse and representative of Philly,” says Ultria, “the people we ultimately selected to participate in it were always going to be representative.”
Although there are plenty of bike riding tutorials on YouTube, branded videos from city agencies or bike share companies using their specific bikes are virtually nonexistent. Bicycles vary, however, and it’s important that new riders familiarize themselves with the models they’ll actually be riding. Utria says the script used for the video is the same as the one used in the Bicycle Coalition’s two-hour in-person classes, just minus the riding component and one-on-one attention students typically receive.
“The video will always exist as an advertisement of the in-person class,” says Ultria. “And as an option for people who would rather not or can’t come to a class.” With the video, adults can teach themselves with clear, step-by-step instructions that are particular to Indego’s bikes. “I think the fact that the class is designed for adults is really important,” says Utria. “As an adult, you’re less likely to come in contact with someone who’s going to teach you to ride.”
A Spanish version of the video is currently in production, as are minute-long clips designed to be shared on social media and cater to the “Instagram attention span.” Utria anticipates both being ready for release in February and emphasizes that the clips will serve as fun “trailers” for the longer video, meant to pique people’s interest. The Bicycle Coalition plans on following up with Facebook Live Q&A sessions, where people can “meet-up” virtually to talk about learning to ride a bike.
“What we’re hoping to achieve with the video is to get more Indego riders,” says Ultria. “You don’t need your own bike to learn how to ride—that’s a message I think anyone can replicate using their own bike share and people.”
The Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by The JPB Foundation as a collaborative between the City of Philadelphia, theNational 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. Got a question or a story idea? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.