Written by: Gretchen Snethen
The Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP) is an effort led by the City of Philadelphia that works to ensure that Indego is accessible to all Philadelphians. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is a non-profit advocacy and education organization working as part of the Better Bike Share Partnership to support bike share and biking education. Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by the JPB Foundation.
Transportation, physical activity, fresh air, I have diabetes, something to do with my son, spending time with others… These are the reasons identified by a group of individuals from Philadelphia mental health centers about why they would use Indego. We also found out that 96% wanted to ride a bike but needed some support to do so! So we decided to do something about it.
In a collaboration between the Better Bike Share Partnership and the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities, Matt Eshelman (Indego Community Ambassador) and Gretchen Snethen (Assistant Director of the TU Collaborative) developed and piloted ICAN:BIKE, a 4-session program, to connect consumers of mental health services to Indego. Matt is a student in the Therapeutic Recreation program at Temple University and a Marine Corps Veteran who knows first hand the power of biking.
During the first two sessions, we covered personal motivations and bike safety topics. We talked about individual motivations participants had for biking: health, fresh air, and spending time with others; where they wanted to go: church, touristy-sites, and appointments; and any anxiety they had about biking: biking on the streets, remembering how to bike, and strategies to avoid overage fees. We covered street safety and helped participants fit the helmets they would take home when the class was done. We developed a reminder card to help participants identify frequently used Indego kiosks, remember what to check on the bike before riding, and identify friends they could invite to ride with them. In the last two sessions we practiced bike skills: stopping, starting, balancing, street riding, box turns, and steering clear of trolley tracks and potholes!
On our group ride, we made sure to navigate traditional bike lanes, sharrow routes, box turns, right turns, a hill or two, and using hand signals. We visited Norris Square and the new Better Bike Share Partnership Mural at Progress Plaza, because who couldn’t resist the opportunity for amazing pictures!
Our ride was filled with laughter, bike bells, and even some opera singing. During the ride, participants said, “I feel like I’ve done something today!” and “I want to show my family!” After the event, one participant planned to ride bike share back to his house.
Participants who attended all four sessions left with a 6 month Indego pass. We plan to continue coordinating ICAN:BIKE classes with other local mental health agencies to encourage access and community participation. Beyond Philadelphia, we hope to inspire other bike share operators and community mental health centers to consider strategies support consumers to mental health services to access bike share. To spur those efforts, we presented at the Better Bike Share Conference hosted in Philadelphia on June 24, 2016.
Gretchen Snethen is an assistant professor at Temple University in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and the Assistant Director for the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities. She’s driven by the fact that individuals with mental illnesses face significant barriers to community participation, experience high levels of loneliness and isolation, and are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Her work focuses on developing evidence-based strategies to support individuals with mental illness to participate independently in the community and bikes are a fun and sustainable way to get out and go!