Between 1988 on 1990, the Bicycle Coalition of the Delaware Valley campaigned to convince PennDOT to include a simple bike lane on the reconstruction of the Walnut Street Bridge. PennDOT ignored our pleas and in response on October 25, 1990, the Bicycle Coalition of the Delaware Valley staged a die in at the ribbon cutting for the new bridge.
The direct action got significant press coverage and was a watershed moment for the bicycle movement in Philadelphia. As part of the campaign, the Coalition recorded its first bike counts on the Schuylkill River Bridges between South Street and JFK Blvd in October and Early November.
The 1990 counts on the bridges serve as the baseline for our annual bike counts which have been conducted every Fall by the BCGP since 2005. As a supplement, the Coalition counts a total of 18 locations including 14 intersections and the Ben Franklin Bridge. The findings are published in our Annual Bike Count Report.
Bike Counts vs the Census Data
The US Census Bureau counts transportation to work data every year as part of the American Community Survey (ACS). As you can see in the graph below, the data that we collect tracks fairly close with the ACS table S0801 “Commuting Characteristics By Sex”. In 2022 we saw a significant jump from 2021 (1.7% to 2.3% of all commuters). That does not meet our 2017 ACS peak of 2.6%. However, another table B08006 estimates that more than 17,300 commuters bike to work at least 3 days a week, the highest ever recorded in Philadelphia. This may indicate that bicycling may be increasing faster in neighborhoods outside of the City core. The League of American Bicyclists has a comprehensive look at the American Community Survey Data in their Benchmarking Report that compares Philadelphia with 75 other US Cities.
Other Bicycle Data Collection Sources
In recent years, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission manages automated bicycle and pedestrian counts throughout the 9 county region. We highlight these counts in our Annual Bike Count Reports. Other private entities use remote sensing or cell phone data to track bicycle activity and trends, notably Strava Metro, Streetlight Data and INRIX however none of these sources are readily available to the public.
Help Us Count Bikes
We still have a few bike counts slots available, not everyone who signs up for bike counts shows up so there will be more opportunities to count in October. Want to volunteer? Sign up here.