Since we began as a collection of interested cyclists having a beer in a bar at 30th Street Station, we have been winning victories for bicyclists across the Greater Philadelphia region. Whether working alone or by building coalitions, we look for ways to make our streets safer.
A derelict steel bridge spanning the Schuylkill River is transformed and reopened, creating another cycle-friendly connection between Lower Merion and Manayunk (in addition to the iconic Manayunk Bridge, opened just the year before).
On August 19th, after decades of delay, a dedicated pedestrian & cycling bridge opened across the Schuylkill River, restoring a safe route between Valley Forge and the Schuylkill River Trail.
In June, delineator posts were installed to buffer the bicycle lane from the vehicle lane, transforming the 5th Street tunnel into a much more pleasant, and safe, cycle commuting route.
On September 28th, the City of Philadelphia opened the first parking-protected bike lanes along Ryan Avenue, an important step to continue improving this area’s cycling infrastructure.
In October 2015, the Manayunk Bridge Trail — a former rail bridge from Montgomery County to Philadelphia, over the Schuylkill River — reopened as a bike/ped-only bridge.
The Bicycle Coalition spearheaded the effort to bring the concepts of Vision Zero (some day eliminating traffic deaths through engineering, education and enforcement) to Philadelphia. In December 2015 our first full-day Vision Zero Symposium was attended by panelists from all over the country and included an address by incoming Mayor Jim Kenney.
In April 2015, Philadelphia got its first bike sharing system, Indego Bike Share! The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is collaborating with the city on the Better Bike Share Partnership, a program to help bring bike sharing to neighborhoods outside of Center City.
Philadelphia built out the Schuylkill Banks Trail in fall 2014 by connecting the trail to the South Street Bridge via a new boardwalk on the water. This boardwalk provides a new pathway for cyclist to get through west Center City without having to ride on city streets.
In 2013 we won a grant from the Knight Arts Challenge to hold a design contest for bicycle racks. Partnering with the Office of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy, we solicited bike rack designs for racks to be placed at prominent locations in and near Center City Philadelphia.
The contest drew over 100 entries from 83 individuals and firms, representing 21 states, as well as the Netherlands and Poland; 35 entries came from the Philadelphia. Most of the winning racks were debuted at the Philadelphia Flower Show in March 2014, and are scheduled to be installed at locations like the Cira Center, Boathouse Row, and the PMA’s Perelman Building in late summer.
Fairmount Avenue is a wide neighborhood street with significant bicycle traffic. Frequent double parking caused confused and dangerous car-bicycle interactions. We canvassed Fairmount businesses and presented to neighborhood groups, making the case that bike lanes would make the street safer and more orderly. The response was overwhelming positive, we helped the City of Philadelphia obtain City Council approval, and the lanes were installed in June 2013.
Our Safe Routes Philly program worked intensively with the School District of Philadelphia to encourage bicycling and walking to school. During the program’s first two years, 50,000 students received our bicycle and pedestrian safety lessons.
With the backing of the William Penn Foundation, we helped found The Circuit Coalition, a collaboration of non-profit organizations, foundations, and agencies working to advance completion of a connected network of trails – The Circuit Trails – across the Greater Philadelphia region.
When the Philadelphia Parking Authority removed coin parking meters in its conversion to multiple-spot meters, it jeopardized a lot of bike parking. In our 2008 report we had proposed converting the retired meters into back racks. With our encouragement, the City and Parking Authority collaborated on the installation of over 1500 bike rack conversion kits in Center City and University City.
In 2003 the Bicycle Coalition got involved in the design process of the Scudder Falls during the earliest part of the design phase with the main objective to include a bicycle and pedestrian pathway on the new Scudder Falls Bridge. After much uncertainty and discussion the Delawware Joint Toll Bridge Commission adopted the option to include the walkway in the new design of the bridge which could begin construction in 2016.
As a result of the exponential increase Philadelphia’s cycle commuting, we worked with the City of Philadelphia to pilot buffered bike lanes on Spruce and Pine Streets. The lanes were installed on a trial basis in 2009 and the City recommends they be made permanent in 2010.
We helped Philadelphia and Camden secure a $23 million grant from the federal TIGER grant program (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) for trails in both counties.
Among the projects funded by this grant are multiple segments of the Schuylkill River Trail, the Port Richmond Trail, the improvements in Camden along Pearl, Pine, and MLK Blvd, and the Connector Bridge and Boardwalk at Schuylkill Banks.
We helped make SEPTA a more bicycle-friendly transit system and encouraged bicyclists to use public transit to complete their journeys by helping get bike racks on all SEPTA buses.
SEPTA’s original policy for allowing bicycles on trains required applicants to buy a $5 annual permit in person during business hours. They later made the permits available by mail. After long conversation, in 1997 the Bicycle Coalition convinced SEPTA to drop the permit entirely.
Twenty years after its conception, the bike trail to Valley Forge is completed. The Bicycle Coalition’s annual Bike Freedom Valley ride raised $50,000 towards its construction.
Philadelphia’s first bike lanes are installed, on a half-mile stretch of Delaware Ave (later Columbus Blvd) near the Home Depot. In Northeast Philadelphia, the wide 4-lane Morrell Avenue is reduced to 3 lanes and bicycle lanes are added.
In 1993, PennDOT fenced off the Betzwood Bridge which provided bicycle and pedestrian access from the Schuylkill Rive Trail to Valley Forge National Park. This spurred a Bicycle Coalition protest which included a civil disobedience protest involving the arrest of Bicycle Coalition President Noel Weyrich and Executive Director Sue McNamera (for cutting the fence; they were released later in the day).
The Bicycle Coalition negotiated an access solution: the building of a fenced-in shoulder and railing on the nearby US 422 bridge.
In 1993 the Fairmount Park Commission agreed to close the West River (MLK) Drive to through-traffic on weekends from 7AM-5PM from April to October.
In 1995 radio talk show host Mary Mason launched a campaign on her show to end the weekend road closure. Her campaign peaked at boisterous and racially-charged hearings at the Fairmount Park Greenhouse in February of 1995.
In the end, the Fairmount Park Commission opted for a partial-closing compromise, proposed by Mayor Ed Rendell, to open the lower 1.2 miles at Sweet Briar Cutoff at 12PM. Those hours remain in effect to this day.
The Bicycle Coalition extracts a campaign promise from Mayor Ed Rendell to design and build a 300-mile network of bike lanes and bicycle friendly streets.
The program was never formally adopted but this laid the groundwork for the creation of more than 200 miles of lanes installed over time within the Street Department’s repaving program.
The Bicycle Coalition’s bikes-on-trains campaign was extended to PATCO. Despite initial resistance from the Delaware River Port Authority, DRPA eventually votes to adopt a policy allowing bikes on PATCO trains.
Bike access to the SEPTA regional rail system was an early goal for the nascent Bicycle Coalition but that goal was not achieved until a sustained campaign begun in 1990 by then-president Noel Weyrich. SEPTA’s new policy required passengers to purchase a bike permit to take their bike on the train during off peak hours. In 1997, the Bicycle Coalition convinced SEPTA to drop the permit requirement.
In October, 1988, quick action by the Coalition led to the removal of “No Bicycle” signs along the South Street Bridge. Neither the Philadelphia Streets Department nor PennDOT were certain why the signs had appeared, so Coalition representatives met with the Police Traffic Engineering Coordinating Committee to resolve this issue. (Evidently, the signs had only meant to indicate “No Bicycles on the Sidewalk” – which is illegal for anyone over the age of 12, in any event – and had been installed based upon a single complaint.)
The Coalition retains a lawyer to defend 3 cyclists who had been charged with Disobeying a Police Officer’s order to get off a roadway. The charges were later dismissed.
The Coalition installed 3 bike racks beside the Philadelphia Parking Authority offices (then at Broad & Callowhill Streets), to provide an enduring demonstration of the benefits that dedicated bicycle parking could offer.
In the era before computers, the internet, bike lanes or even multi-use trails, the Coalition produced this map to show preferred on-street bike routes to navigate the Philadelphia region.
The very first of these fundraising rides, originally organized by the Sierra Club, was held this year to raise funds for the “Valley Forge Trail.” These annual rides were promoted and later sustained by the Coalition, and continued for 30 years. The trail they helped fund is now known as the “Schuylkill River Trail,” and is one of the premier trails in the United States.
The bridge walkways on the iconic bridge had been closed to bicyclists and pedestrians since 1950. One of the Bicycle Coalition’s first big accomplishments was successfully negotiating with the Delaware River Port Authority to remove the ‘No Trespassing’ signage on the walkways and establish access times.