While the mild Winter has been a real boon for bicycling, the recent pandemic, which has closed businesses and kept people off public transit, has changed the landscape of all travel in the Philadelphia region (and, let’s be honest, everywhere.)
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Planning Commission maintains automated counters on Circuit Trails around the region. We reached out to them to figure out just how many more people are using bicycles to get around during this pandemic period, and here’s what we found:
First off, the mild winter and general interest in bicycling had an impact on bike counts before the pandemic made its way to the United States. Between January 1 and February 29th, the counters measured an 80 percent increase in bike traffic on the Schuylkill River Trail at the Spring Mill SEPTA Station in Montgomery County when compared with the same time period last year.
We looked at the data at 5 counter locations for the first 18 days of March the change was even more substantial. The increased usage of trails during the Covid-19 Emergency is clearly having an effect.
Automated Bike Counts
|3/1/19 to 3/18/19
|3/1/20 to 3/18/20
|SRT Spring Mill
|Chester Valley Trail
|Port Richmond Trail
Source: Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
So far in March, counts are basically off the charts. DVRPC data show a 471 percent increase in bicycling along Kelly Drive between 2019 and 2020 — which is unprecedented. All trails are way up, according to DVRPC and, on average, bicycling is up 151 percent, compared to the same period in 2019.
That means it’s time for a change. We have called upon the city to close Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, immediately to make up for the increase in people using the trail system.
However, it’s not just people who have access to MLK Drive that need a safe, motor vehicle-free place to ride. Gyms and fitness studios are closed; the city and state are asking people to not take public transportation. Biking is the best way to get around the city right now, and, for some people, the only way to get some real physical and mental exercise.
Once MLK is closed, we believe it will be important to shut down more streets, around the city, to motor vehicle traffic. All neighborhoods are effected by the pandemic. All neighborhoods should have access to safe travel and recreation.