Getting People to the Parks is One Reason This Foundation is Backing Bike Sharing

Public transportation and traffic are big concerns in cities all across America, and Philadelphia is no exception. One of the most eco-friendly approaches to this problem is bike sharing, and the William Penn Foundation recently kicked in $1.5 million to expand Philadelphia’s bike sharing program, Indego.

But for a locally focused funder like Penn, it seems that such a grant might not just be for environmental conservation, but also for the economy, public health, and community development, too.

"The foundation is committed to ensuring that public spaces in Philadelphia are well used by all people in Philadelphia, visitors and people who live here," said Penn’s program director for watershed protection, Andrew Johnson. "We see bike share and Indego as an opportunity to provide people with the means to get from various neighborhoods to these great public spaces that we have, many of which are along our spectacular rivers."

Related: Read IP’s profile of Program Director Andrew Johnson

With this new grant money, Indego will install 24 new bike stations. Although the locations of all the new stations haven’t been determined, we expect them to pop up in at least some of the city’s underserved neighborhoods with persistent transportation challenges. Bikes can bring people to neighborhoods they might not otherwise visit, boost local businesses with increased bike traffic, and, of course, provide some much-needed exercise, too.

The William Penn Foundation has also been really into making the region’s parks and waterfront areas more accessible, and this bike expansion will take those priorities into account. Watershed protection is a huge part of Penn’s current local grantmaking strategy, so upon a closer look, this grant makes a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things. 

In the Penn staff’s eyes, this is a great opportunity for residents and visitors to see the city’s growing network of waterways, parks, and trails, many of which have been funded by the Penn Foundation. The hope is that the more people who see these natural places will come to love them and support a strong parks system in various ways. The foundation is keenly aware that for public goods to thrive, they need a strong constituency. 


However, a bike sharing program is only useful if residents are actually using the bikes on a regular basis. Fortunately, in Philadelphia, they are. Indego launched in April 2015, and since then, residents have taken over a quarter-million rides. There will now be 96 bike stations around the city. One-time ride passes and unlimited one-hour bike trip passes are available for purchase.

“I am proud that Indego has been such a huge success during just four months of operation,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “With the popularity of the system increasing during such a short period of time, it’s fortuitous that the William Penn Foundation has stepped up with generous support so that we can expand Indego’s network to reach even more residents and visitors. Philadelphia is a very bike-friendly city and there’s no better way to get around for a reasonable price than on an Indego bike.”

To learn more about Penn’s support for projects like this, check out the Watershed Protection’s Constituency Building page. Grant application dates and instructions for this program can be found on the How We Fund page.