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Bicycle Coalition

Image from USA Today

As we reported in September according to the US Census bicycling to work in Philadelphia increased from 2.2 percent to 2.6 percent along with impressive gains at the County Level. That means Philadelphia cycling was up more than 20 percent between 2016 and 2017, which goes against a recent USA Today column claiming bicycling is suffering (though, admittedly, bicycling has gone down in some west coast cities, and New Orleans, as shown above.)

Anyway, with the December release of the 2017 5-year ACS data, we are able to drill down to the municipal and census tract level.

The Census ACS data can be thought of as a 5-year average of the one-year data and therefore has a smaller margin of error but it also tamps down year to year spikes.

The 5-year data therefore puts the Philadelphia Bike Commuter Percentage at 2.1 percent of all work commuters.

When you get down to the Census Tract level you can see the hot spots of bicycle commuters in the City. This year three Census Tracts in the City got more than 20 percent mode share of bike commuters.

Bicycle Coalition

From the Census tracts

Tract 9801 (Wissahickon Valley): 27.3 percent
Tract 38.01 (Part of Newbold): 23.5 percent
Tract 20 (Part of Point Breeze): 21.3 percent
Tract 13 (Devils Pocket/SW Center City): 21 percent

What’s important to note about these numbers is that they specifically ask about transportation “to work.” That means all students who use a bicycle to get to school, all Philadelphians who work from home but use a bicycle to get around, and anyone who uses a bicycle to get around their neighborhood for non-work reasons are not counted. Philadelphia’s mode share is likely much higher than these numbers indicate.

In the eight suburban counties, Tract 40 (Downtown Princeton) reported 224 bike commuters; the entire Municipality of Princeton has the highest mode share of 4.6 percent, followed by the City of Woodbury, NJ, at 3.6 percent. Narbeth has the highest mode share in Pennsylvania Counties (including Philadelphia) at 2.7 percent.

2013-2017 5 Yr Census Maps:
Bicycle Commuter Count (Census Tracts) (Municipalities)
Bicycle Commuter Mode Share (Census Tracts) (Municipalities)

John Boyle


John has been a commuting cyclist for more than 20 years. In 1994 he began working as a volunteer for the Bicycle Coalition of the Delaware Valley after attending a volunteer night, and later served as a board member in 1997-98. In 1999 John left Philadelphia for Charlottesville, VA, where he helped establish the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation (ACCT), a bicycle and walking advocacy group.

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