Recently I've become a fan of the Indego bike-share program in Philly. I'm not an intensive user, but I am a member, and I enjoy occasionally riding to the office instead of walking, or riding over to the Reading Terminal Market on a warm day, when less effort and more breeze seem quite attractive.
Quicker transit time, a different view of the street -- and I might add drivers who seem much calmer than they were even a year ago.
The other morning I discovered another benefit, which probably shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. I showed up at the bike stand at 17th and Pine a bit late -- after 8:30. Usually by that point there are no bikes left. But this day there was one. I rushed to grab it, even though there was nobody else around. But I couldn't get it out of the stanchion. The light wouldn't go green. Only the odd little orange amoeba was willing to light.
Just as I was giving up and getting ready to walk to work, another bicyclist showed up and parked his bike in the stand. I walked over and thanked him for saving my morning ride, and we exchanged a few pleasantries. He went on his way, I took his bike out of its stanchion, and as I was leaving, I noticed that the other bike -- the one I couldn't get out of its stanchion -- had a flat tire.
How civil of Indego to refuse to let me ride a bike with a flat tire. But the real civility was the interaction with the other bike rider, the one whose bike I took and rode to work. How often have you had a pleasant, if inconsequential, conversation with a total stranger on the street in a big city? I'm pretty sure it's never happened to me when I was driving. And, while walking, the protocol is generally a smile and a nod, and perhaps a good morning. People are wary. After all, it's the big city.
Dogs are another safe way through the wariness, and I've praised a lot of dogs over the years. But I think the bikes are a nice addition.