Weekly Press • Wed, May 18, 2011
By Nicole Contosta
Even though we’re the city where our nation’s forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia’s accomplishments sometimes lag behind other major cities. But not when it comes to its bicyclists.
According to a report issued by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, “Philadelphia has, per capita, twice as many bicycle commuters as any other big city in the country,” explained the organization’s Executive Director, Alex Doty. What’s more, bicycle commuting has increased 151 percent in Philadelphia from 2000 to 2009. Or to look at those statistics in other terms, the amount of people who commuted to work on their bikes in 2009 was 2.16 percent of the city’s population.The results of that report, Doty explained, were determined by “census figures and breaking down neighborhoods into individual counts.” For example, the percentage of commuters biking to work from South Philly and Center City is particularly high, said Doty. In fact, Doty continued, Center and South Philadelphia rank among the top 25 out of 2,100 neighborhoods nationally, said Doty. Only neighborhoods in Portland and Santa Barbara rank higher than Center City and South Philly, Doty added.
Besides the city’s increase in commuting to work on bikes, the report also tracked bicyclist behavior, Doty explained. The increase of bicyclists, said Doty, led to more bikes lanes and that led to better behavior. For instance: Sidewalk riding drops from 19.8 percent on streets with no bike lane to 8.6 percent on streets with a bike lane to 2.4 percent on streets with a buffered bike lane,” Doty explained. In addition, between 2006 and 2010, “riding against traffic decreased while helmet use has risen.”
When looking at the decrease in riding on the sidewalk as well as riding against traffic, Doty attributes those findings to the city’s increased bike lanes. “The Bicycle Coalition’s counts found streets with bike lanes had more cyclists than streets without them, and had more growth in bicyclists than streets without bike lanes,” Doty explained.
The results of the study indicate that Philadelphia needs more bike lanes, argued Doty. Part of this has already been accomplished by the Philadelphia Planning Commission and Philadelphia Department of Health and Human Services, which recently completed Phase One of its Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan. Part of that plan included installing buffered bike lanes along Spruce and Pine Streets, said Doty. As for Phase Two of that plan, “we’re particularly excited about the promenade that’s going to connect West Philly to the Schuylkill trail from the South Street Bridge,” said Doty. Then there’s bicycle connection between Bartram’s Gardens and the Cobbs Creek Trail. Phase Two “will give West Philly a great connector to the river and the underused Cobbs Creek Trail,” said Doty.
The Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan compliment elements of the Philadelphia 2035. For more information:www.tooledesign.com/philadelphia.
For more information on the Bicycle Coalition’s study or to become a member:www.bicyclecoalition.org.