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Camden County looking to implement area's first county-wide bike sharing program

While bike sharing has caught on in American cities as large as New York City and as small as Hollywood, Fla., it has yet to catch on in any large way in Greater Philadelphia. While Montgomery County’s Pottstown and Camden County’s Collingswood do have bike sharing programs, they are two of a kind in the Delaware Valley. Despite the efforts of many, no such service exists in Philadelphia. However, various boroughs and cities in Camden County are looking to build off of Collingswood’s success and offer the first cross-county bike sharing service in the region in a project conveniently known as BikeShare.
The Camden County Division of Environmental Affairs is working with the national bicycle advocacy group Rails to Trails Conservancy to expand upon Collingswood’s popular bike share. BikeShare organizers currently have 250 bicycles, although many are in need of maintenance, says Jack Sworaski, the director of the Division of Environmental Affairs. Sworaski adds that a few of the bikes might be beyond salvage, in which case they’ll be used for parts. 

While Sworaski can’t give a definitive timeline, he says that “in the coming months, a few locations will be up and running" and anticipates more growth in the fall and next spring. He’s ambitious, as his overarching goal is to make BikeShare available for all Camden County residents. Sworaski says rates for joining BikeShare will depend on each individual municipality. For example, lower-income communities will have far cheaper rates to join than will affluent neighborhoods. This is to make the program accessible to all neighborhoods, regardless of wealth.

BikeShare will likely be used for recreation in some areas and commuting in other parts of the county. In more affluent  boroughs, Sworaski sees bicycles being used for fun by people who have access to private automobiles or the train. However, “for others, particularly in the City, where many residents do not own cars, a bike will provide the means to get to work, school, or other community events,” he says. The director makes sure to add that this will encourage an active lifestyle, benefit the environment, and save participants money, regardless of why they’re using BikeShare. 

The organizers of the bike sharing service are also working with Camden youth to repair their bikes and teach safety. Sworaski says the timing is ripe with summer around the corner. Also, BikeShare architects are working with the CYCLE program to teach children about bike safety and repair. This is a one-month program that will pair kids with trained bike instructors to make sure that they enjoy riding safely and know how to make repairs.  

Source: Jack Sworaski, Camden County Division of Environmental Affairs
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Photo courtesy of Evan Kalish
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