20 Big Bicycle Highlights from 2020
Transit Forward Philadelphia Launches
We worked with organizations all over Philadelphia to help launch Transit Forward Philadelphia in March, dedicated to improving transit in the region. Over the next two months, the organization was able to triple its membership and hit the ground running with its Fair Fares campaign in May as SEPTA announced their Fare Restructuring Plan.
What happened? Through countless comments at SEPTA Board meetings and a sign-on letter that garnered 25+ signatures from organizations throughout the Greater Philadelphia region, the SEPTA Board voted and approved two of three Transit Forward Philadelphia’s recommendations: eliminate the transfer penalty for riders between buses, trolley, and subways, and to allow children under the age of 12 to ride the system for free.
What happens next: The coalition is now focusing its efforts on their Better Access, Better Service, Better Buses campaign, calling upon SEPTA to transform their current bus service to be faster, more frequent, and more reliable and move riders and residents in a safe and dignified manner.
$1 Million for Circuit Trails in NJ
The Bicycle Coalition led a campaign in 2019 to set aside funds from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ) as part of the NJ Transportation Improvement Program.
What happened: When the programming for the latest round of funding was announced the Delaware Valley Regional Planning noted that at least $1,000,000 has been set aside for Circuit Trails. This replicates a million dollar pledge for CMAQ made in 2018, however the NJ CMAQ committee awarded $2,000,000 for trail construction that year.
What happens next: The winners of the 2020 CMAQ round will be announced in early 2021.
MLK Drive Became a Street for People
What happened: The Bicycle Coalition proposed the city close Dr. Martin Luther King Drive indefinitely as a means to give folks an outdoor recreation and commuting area. After speaking with Councilmember Curtis Jones’ office, the Bicycle Coalition created a petition signed by more than 1,000 people in a single day, and Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration agreed with our idea. MLK Drive was officially closed to motor vehicles on March 20th. Within two months, MLK Drive was the most-used bike/ped path in the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, surpassing Schuylkill Banks and Kelly Drive, even as the number of users on those paths stayed consistent. More than 5,000 people have used MLK Drive each day, an increase of 1,300 percent when compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to information released by the City of Philadelphia.
What happens next: We believe, as do folks all over Philadelphia, that the future of MLK Drive is not the pre-COVID status quo. The pandemic has turned MLK into the most-used bike/ped path in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We will spend 2021 listening and advocating for a safe, open MLK Drive.
Municipal Bike Plans and Trail Projects
What happened: We worked with our Circuit Trails partners the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign to reach out to Maple Shade and Elk Township in NJ to apply for Local Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Assistance for the trails in their communities.
What happens next: Finally, after many years of negotiations, the City of Camden also applied for local bicycle and pedestrian planning assistance to develop a City Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan and is waiting for a decision from NJ DOT.
Recovery Streets for a Better Philadelphia
What happened: Through spring 2020, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia met with representatives in multiple organizations around the city to discuss how we could expand what was done on MLK Drive to all neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Alongside the Clean Air Council, Feet First Philly, and 5th Square, we created the Recovery Streets report, which was endorsed by more than 20 registered community organizations, City Councilmembers, and businesses. Recovery Streets called upon the city of Philadelphia to use numerous low-cost tools at their disposal to utilize our public space as a means to get through the pandemic. Among them: Closed streets, streeteries, temporary bike and bus lanes, and easier access to parks.
What happens next: At the end of 2020, the city has utilized some of these tools, including “streeteries” and closed streets — and the move has been very popular. Business owners were telling the Inquirer some streets should not reopen to cars. Our advocacy continues in 2021 to permanently give people better access to their streets.
A Successful 2020 Vision Zero Conference
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia hosted our fifth Vision Zero Conference in March 2020. For many, this became the last event they’d attend before the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled everything. But it was worth while.
What happened: The 2020 Conference had 209 registrants, 49 speakers and 27 sponsors. Speakers at the conference spanned multiple cities and disciplines, and featured send-off speaker Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
What happens next: The 2021 landscape will look much different, and we are planning next year’s Vision Zero Conference to reflect our new reality. Stay tuned for announcements about the 2021 conference in January.
BCYC Virtual SuperTeam
While the closure of Philadelphia Schools meant the cancellation of our 12 partner site teams, BCYC bounced back by hosting a Virtual SuperTeam.
What happened: Athletes across all partner sites were invited to join our conglomerate team from the comfort of their own homes. All participants were delivered an at-home starter kit including a bicycle, indoor trainer, Zwift membership, yoga mat, BCYC cycling kit, and supplies for cooking classes! Hats off to the self-named “Basement Warriors” who thrived under the incredible leadership of our new staff addition, Coach Malaku Mekonnen.
The I Bike PHL Challenge
Over the summer we wanted to create an event that would be exciting, fun and uniting for our community while fundamentally being safe and responsible in the pandemic.
What happened? So we schemed up and pulled off September’s I Bike PHL Challenge, thanks to the logistics expertise of Del Mo Sports and ultimately all y’alls unwavering enthusiasm for riding your dang bikes! 132 people participated in the first year of the Challenge, spending the month tackling the socially distanced rides we designed to highlight the infrastructure around the city and region that we’re most proud of working for (like the Ben Franklin Bridge Ramp, the Manayunk Swing Bridge, etc.)
What happens next: We will continue putting new rides on our RideWithGPS page for members and supporters to utilize — and maybe take some group rides in 2021.
Our First Virtual Gala
What happened: On October 1st, we hosted the first-ever virtual version of our Annual Gala and Awards. The event was in memory of longtime bike advocate and Bicycle Coalition Board Member Russell Meddin, and honored Dr. Val Arkoosh with the Circuit Trails Award, the amazing Sasha Catledge as 2020’s BCYC Athlete of the Year, and Stephen Del Monte of Delmo Sports with the Maguire Award. Sarah Clark Stuart and Taylor Kuyk-White were the stars of the show with MC Jeff Hammond at the helm. Synergetic Studios produced the event in their Bensalem studios and joined everyone onstage with our custom Bilenky bike (another star of the show).
What happens next: We are humbled to say we raised $22,000 in Bicycle Coalition Youth Cycling scholarship money in memory of Russell (which helps youth athletes pay for college), and over $105,000 overall. In a year of uncertainty, the money we raised will help keep us advocating for safe bicycling for years to come.
Route 130 Bypass Trail Project
In May of 2020 Burlington County completed 99 percent of the 130 Bypass Trail (Part of the Delaware River Heritage Trail). The missing piece was a crossing of the NJ TRANSIT RiverLINE Train tracks. NJ TRANSIT had an agreement to build the crossing but the County objected to details in the access agreement which held up construction.
What happened? The Bicycle Coalition joined the Tri State Transportation Campaign in advocating for the County and NJ TRANSIT to come up with an agreement. Long story short, an agreement to proceed was completed in November!
What happens next: County and NJ TRANSIT expect a spring 2021 completion connecting the trail between Bordentown and Roebling, NJ.
Circuit Action Teams
As part of the 500 Miles by 2025 Campaign, the Bicycle Coalition is now hosting Circuit Action Teams in all 9 counties. Our Action Teams include members of the Circuit Trails Steering Committee and Circuit Circuit Citizens, a new interconnected, multi-county network of advocates for the Circuit Trails.
What happened? We hosted 2 Facebook Live events in October introducing people to the priority projects that our Action Teams are working on for each county.
What happens next: Currently we are hosting County Action Team meetups on Zoom spelling out the issues and details for our county projects. For example, in Chester County the focus is on the Chester Valley Trail West, which will extend the Circuit Trails network to the Lancaster County Line. To learn more about our Action Teams and becoming a Circuit Citizen go to circuittrails.org/get-involved.
County Social and Explore the Circuit Rides
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the we were able to continue our Explore the Circuit rides this year. We partnered up and created two social rides for cyclists in Burlington, Delaware, and Montgomery County, as well as designed a series of RideWithGPS routes highlighting different part of the Circuit that folks could ride on their own time each month.
What happened? On Saturday, September 19th, Bike Burlington County hosted its first Social Ride beginning at the RiverLINE Station in Bordentown and taking the freshly resurfaced D&R Canal towpath into Trenton to attend the City’s Art All Day Festival. Following the success of this ride, Bike Delaware County and Bike Montgomery County hosted their 15-mile ride exploring the emerging Main Line Greenway. Both Social Rides were a success and now that we’ve practiced safe riding precautions, we are excited to create more rides in 2021! To accommodate the need to host safe rides, we moved our Explore the Circuit series to a virtual ride series available to members via RideGPS.
What happens next: The Bicycle Coalition will continue uploading routes throughout the region on our RideGPS route library (which is exclusively available to our members) and, hopefully in 2021, it will be safe to resume group rides.
BCYC Gets Innovative
In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Bicycle Coalition Youth Cycling developed inventive ways to support dedicated athletes.
What happened? In addition to granting six college scholarships, BCYC gave our seniors the unique opportunity to apply for a mini-grant for a personal graduation year project. We celebrated Jasmine’s launching a spotlight on Black-Owned Businesses YouTube channel, Maurice for putting his artistic skills to work to benefit near-peer teammates, Jahmiel and Emir for collaborating to launch a racial justice [odcast called the “Vision of Color,” and Sahmeer, Devin, and Marc for committing to off-season and post-graduate training to continue their racing careers.
What happens next: 2021 will see new Bicycle Coalition Youth Cycling seasons — and staff leadership. Stay tuned.
Funding Philadelphia's First Bicycle Traffic Park
The Bicycle Coalition and our funders were incredibly excited to finally announce our proposal for a bicycle traffic park received a grant from Kaboom! and the William Penn Foundation this fall.
The Lil’ Philly Safety Village, a bicycle park where children and adults can learn how to better navigate city streets and infrastructure, is the recipient of a Play Everywhere Philly Challenge grant — and we hope to see the new traffic park constructed in Hunting Park in North Philadelphia. We received $60,000 but need to raise about $50,000 more to make the project a reality.
What happened? So on Giving Tuesday, we raised over $9,800 in support of the Lil’ Philly Safety Village. Matching funds from Mimi Sheller, an anonymous donor, and Piscitello Law spurred our Tuesday on to new heights, along with the support of 139 of our community members.
What happens next: On our wishlist for years, this new innovative space will be built in the Hunting Park neighborhood of Philly, and will be a place where children and adults can safely learn how to ride bikes and the rules of the road. We look forward to seeing everyone at the ribbon cutting in May!
Spruce and Pine Streets Get Safer
In October 2019, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia received word that intersection improvements set to be installed along Spruce and Pine Streets in Center City would not be installed east of Eighth Street. Why? That wasn’t clear. It also wasn’t acceptable.
What happened? We joined neighbors in that community to talk about making sure the city install the protection that had been planned, approved, and promised. After discussion with several neighbors, it became clear that the neighborhood civic association leadership had convinced the city not to install the improvements, without notifying those who would be affected. After nearly a year of meetings, organizing, and advocacy, an understanding was reached between neighbors and their civic association leadership, and intersection improvements were installed in October 2020. Such changes would not have happened without the neighbors involved here. Those who spoke up for the safety of all road users in their community understood the importance of the project, and countless people will be positively impacted by their advocacy for years to come.
What’s next: While Spruce and Pine Streets are safer because of community members valuing safety, they are not as safe as they should be, and still invite illegal parking. Over the next year, several protected bike lane projects, including 10th Street, 13th Street, Washington Avenue, American Street, and others, are scheduled to be built out.
Celebrate Our Culture: Parkside and Indego Neighborhood Resource Guides
The Celebrate Our Culture event is a festivity where community leaders and advocates who have been actively working with the community discuss historic landmarks and the vital job each organization has done to impact and strengthen Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
What happened? After working with valuable community organizations who have provided resources to the community, the Better Bike Share Partnership, in conjunction with Indego, published a Parkside, Point Breeze, and a Spanish North and South Philadelphia Indego Neighborhood Ride Guide.
Better Bike Share Partnership launches 'Changing Gears'
Design Credit: Jasmine Alston
The BBSP also hosted a series of Changing Gears online discussions.
What happened? Changing Gears is an online event that allows participants to directly engage with the Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP) education team to discuss different biking topics in the region and create a safe space for conversation. One of the most memorable moments from this event was a discussion about safety on trails, because we unpacked issues about safety on trails for the BIPOC, LGBTQ, and female-identifying communities, all of which have been underrepresented by the cycling industry.
What happens next? Changing Gears will continue in 2021 — and, hopefully, we will be able to meet up in person!
and a Learn-to-Ride video
What happened? Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the absence face-to-face classes, the BBSP team continued developing programming and education material to provide the public, creating a Learn to Ride video for participants to learn from home with the help of the Indego Champions. Our video is based on our in-person workshops and covers six easy steps to getting comfortable on a bike.
What happens next? The video will be released on Tuesday, December 22, to the Bicycle Coalition’s YouTube channel and later available on all social media platforms in both English and Spanish.
and last but not least, BBSP's Virtual Urban Riding Basics
Design Credit: Jasmine Alston
What happened? The BBSP team hosted 21 Urban Riding Basics classes over Zoom and Facebook Live this season, in both English and Spanish. We updated our material, to begin with, with health guidance on how to ride a bike safely during COVID-19. We are thankful for our engaged participants and viewers who asked questions about sharrows, shared stories about trolley tracks, and made the virtual experience positive and productive.
What happens next? The Urban Riding Basics series will pick back up in the spring. In the meantime, you can revisit some of the classes from this year on our Facebook page if you need a refresher!