Hey, remember 2019? Highlights included shark attacks at the Jersey Shore, the de-aging of Robert Deniro and … professional sports? But for Philadelphia bicyclists it was the opening the Ben Franklin Bridge Ramp, the long-awaited improvements to Spruce and Pine Streets (with more still to come), a two way protected bike lane on South 11th Street, and the expansion of Indego e-bikes.
Our 2018 bike counts recorded the lowest bike traffic counts since 2011. During our September/October fall bike count period, measurable rain was reported on 27 days, making Fall 2018 one of the wettest seasons on record. Congestion, shared ride services and the lack of new infrastructure didn’t help, either. Losses were also seen by Indego, Center City District, and the 2018 US Census American Community Survey.
So it was relief to find that our 2019 counts rebounded nicely, if not to the peak-2017 bike count levels. Overall bike traffic rose by 6 percent and traffic on the bridges over the Schuylkill River jumped by 10 percent. The South Street Bridge remains the busiest location for bike traffic, with 470 bikes per hour. That’s the highest average count recorded since we’ve recorded at any location — literally since we started annual counts in 2005.
Additionally, since 2018, we’ve added two new count locations to our work — the Wissahickon Trail (to count cyclists commuting into the city from Germantown and Mount Airy), and 38th and Lancaster in West Philadelphia. Both locations saw huge increases over 2018, with 38th and Lancaster seeing a more than 100 percent increase over the previous year. These locations, and future locations we are still working to add to our counts, are part of our work to better represent cyclists in Black, Brown, Indigenous and Immigrant communities — as well as the locations in North and South Philadelphia (and other outside-Center City locations) we’ve been counting since at least 2012.
Indego reported 740,000 bike trips — an increase of 11 percent over 2018. Our counters found that Indego bikes represented 6 percent of all bikes counted. We can’t truthfully extrapolate an estimate of total annual bike trips based on this data since Indego covers a larger area than our current counts. But we can reliably say that there are millions of bike trips annually within a 5-mile radius of City Hall — and that our investment in bike infrastructure should reflect that.
But the good news is not confined to the bubble of Philadelphia’s core. DVRPC’s automated bike counters on Circuit Trails showed increases in 2019 and those numbers have gone even higher since March of this year. Next week we’ll be posting the results of our MLK Counts user counts, where we saw 800 users per hour on a weekend in May.