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Report: What Our Bike Counts Reveal About Philly Bicycling

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Every fall Bicycle Coalition staff and volunteers stand on corners and bridges in Philadelphia and count bicycles.1 We do this to spot trends and better inform the ways we work to make bicycling a safe and fun way to get around for anyone in Greater Philadelphia.

Today we are proud to release a fact report on the state of bicycling in Philadelphia. Bike PHL Facts draws on Bicycle Coalition and U.S. Census Bureau data to paint a picture of Philadelphia bicycling and put our city in a national context.

Lessons Within Philadelphia

Bicycling Continues to Rise | Between 2005 and 2013, bicycle commuting rates across the Schuylkill River rose 260%.

Infrastructure Matters | The South Street Bridge carries 44% of all bicycles across the Schuylkill during rush hour. By contrast, the Market Street Bridge carries only 10%. The main difference? The bike lanes on the South Street Bridge and the easy connection to bike lanes on Spruce, 33rd Street, and South Street.

Growth Outside the Core | Since 2009, the biggest growth in bicycle commuting rates have taken place outside of the tradition bicycling centers of Center and South Philly. Southwest Philadelphia, Brewerytown/Temple University area, and Fishtown/Kensington all experienced dramatic increases in bicycle commuting rates, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau.

As Bicycling Increases, Behavior Improves | Buffered bicycle lanes carry 131% more bicyclists than streets with no bike lanes. Meanwhile, buffered bike lanes see drastic reductions in sidewalk and wrong-way riding. Conclusion? If you want bicyclists off the sidewalk, give them a bike lane.

Philadelphia in a National Context

We’re Number 1…For Now | Philadelphia’s mode share for bicycle commuting increased to 2.3% in 2012, which remains highest among the ten biggest U.S. cities. It also places us 11th among cities with populations above 200,000. But Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. (among others) have started bike share programs that are not yet reflected in this data. So they’re coming for us.

South Philly and Center City Pride | These two neighborhoods are #21 and #23 in the rank of city neighborhoods by bicycle commuting rate.

Density Matters | The denser the city, the more likely that city will have lower rates of driving and higher rates of bicycling, transit, and walking. Chicago and Philadelphia have virtually identical densities, and their commuting rates are virtually identical (although Philly bikes and walks a tad more than Chicago).

What Comes Next

First comes data, then comes recommendations, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. As they say. In September we will be releasing a second, companion report to this one. That next report will contain policy and safety recommendations we want implemented to make Philadelphia an even better, safer city for anyone to ride a bicycle.

You can also find this and all our other reports on our Reports page.

  1. Our 2014 bike counts are coming up! If you want to help with this effort, visit our volunteer page.

Topics: Biking in Philly, Featured, research

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