This past week we lost Russell Meddin, who many consider to be the godfather of bikeshare. Russell was my co-author on this blog as well as the curator of The Bike-sharing World Map. Russell was well-known in the bikeshare world having been part of this nascent industry since at least 2008. If you’ve ever attended a bikeshare conference on most any continent, you’ve likely heard Russell speak.
I had the pleasure of meeting Russell at the Bike Share Philadelphia Public Forum in January 2008. He was one of the event’s organizers and their goal was to bring bikeshare to Philadelphia, his adopted hometown. The event was probably the first bikeshare-related in the U.S. From it, he sowed the seeds of what would become the Indego bikeshare system in Philadelphia. After the Forum, a couple folks including Russell and I went out to talk. He was the oldest in the group, but the most young-at-heart.
Russell was a one-of-a-kind with his quick wit, outspokenness, quirkiness, and boisterous laugh. If ever needing to locate him at the many North American Bikeshare Association conferences that we attended, I knew Russell was nearby when I’d hear his booming laughter coming from afar. Then I’d know in which direction to walk through the thongs of conference attendees to find him. Also, Russell didn’t need to be called on at conferences. He’d speak up, voice booming from the back of the room, to share his opinion on the topic. And he had plenty of opinions to share!
I remember Russell would wear his reading glasses with the magnifying factor sticker still attached. I always thought this was interesting, and one day asked him why he didn’t simply remove the sticker. “I keep the sticker on to be memorable,” he said. “Memorable is good.”
Over the years I got to know his wife and daughter during my visits to their home, just off of a trail. The entire family, including their son, loves to travel and has spent a good deal of time in Europe and Asia. During their travels, Russell would visit the local bikeshare system in every city to meet staff and talk about the service.
Anybody who has used The Bike-sharing World Map has him to thank. As more cities around the world were waking up to bikeshare, updating The Map become a huge job. He took it over from me in 2009 and spent hours each day, usually over his morning coffee, reading about what was going on around the globe and talking to colleagues to keep The Map updated. Talk about a herculean effort! He did this to index the state of the industry and help spread best practices.
Russell was a friend, colleague, and one of the most passionate, and memorable, people I’ve ever met. I’ll miss our regular calls and visits where we’d catch up personally and share bikeshare news.
My condolences go to his family and to those that knew him. He’s sorely missed.