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City of Philadelphia Wants To Get 'Instant' Bicycle Rentals Rolling

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The next and latest transportation option may allow Philadelphians to -- without getting arrested -- grab a bike from a street corner when they need one, then leave it somewhere else when they're done.

City Hall is now officially pushing a "bike share" program and will be asking City Council to help fund it to get it started.

The city envisions getting a business plan together by next spring, then selecting a vendor, with the first bikes hitting the streets in 2014.

"We will need $3 million of city capital money," says deputy mayor for transportation Rina Cutler, "then we hope to raise an additional five or six million in federal, state, and private funds."

Cutler would like to see 1,200 bikes made available in the first two phases.

How does it work?  A streetcorner vending contraption keeps the bikes locked up until you insert your credit card or another form of identification and/or payment.  A bicycle is released, and off you go.

Later, you leave the bicycle at one of the expected 120 rental stations -- mostly around center city, University City, and around the Temple campus in North Philadelphia.

The sturdy, utilitarian bikes would be three-speed jobs, weighing about 40 pounds.   No racers here.

The pricing structure is likely to include daily, monthly, or annual rental rates.  (Most systems in other American cities run $50-$90 for an annual membership.)

Cutler says they're still working out how users will pay for the bicycles.   Credit or debit cards might ensure that the bikes don't get stolen, but she says they also want to figure out a cash model or cell-phone technology for payment that shows up on your phone bill, so they don't eliminate low-income users.

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