Promoting bicycling as a healthy, low-cost, and environmentally-friendly form of transportation and recreation.

Mode Shift: Philadelphia's Two-Wheeled Revolution in Progress

The Bicycle Coalition's newest report on bicycling in the Greater Philadelphia Region, entitled, Mode Shift: Philadelphia's Two-Wheeled Revolution in Progress, provides an in-depth look at why Philadelphia can now boast some of the highest rates of bicycling in the country. Below is the summary of findings from the report.

Summary of Findings

Over the last decade, significant numbers of Philadelphians have shifted to bicycle commuting and positioned Philadelphia as an excellent big city for biking. By building on these trends, Philadelphia has the opportunity to transform itself into a world-class bicycling city.

  • Philadelphia has, per capita, twice as many bicycle commuters as any other big city in the US.
  • Bicycle commuting increased 151 percent from 2000 to 2009.
  • Bike lanes lead to better bicyclist behavior: bicyclists are more than twice as likely to ride on the sidewalk when there is no bike lane.
  • Streets with bike lanes have more bike traffic.

Of the nation’s 10 biggest cities, Philadelphia’s bicycle mode share is twice as high as next-best Chicago. Philadelphia’s city-wide bicycle mode share (the percentage of commuters who bike to work) for 2009 was 2.16 percent. Philadelphia’s share of female cyclists is also very high, an indicator often used to test how bicycle-friendly a city is.  In Center City and South Philly, bike commuting rates are among the highest anywhere in the country, comparable with Santa Barbara, and rank among the Top 25 of 2,100 census neighborhoods. Only Portland, Minneapolis and San Francisco have 2 or more neighborhoods in the Top 25.

Philadelphia’s rate of growth in bike commuting is astonishing. Between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of workers who bike to work counted by the US Census grew by 151 percent.  This rate is similar to what the Bicycle Coalition documented by counting bicyclists on the street during the morning and evening rush hours; between 2005 and 2010, the average number of bikes per hour counted grew 127 percent. Between 1990 and 2009, the number of bicyclists crossing the Schuylkill River grew by 361 percent.

Bike lanes, and more bicyclists, lead to better behavior.  Sidewalk riding drops from 19.8% on streets with no bike lane to 8.6% on streets with a bike lane to 2.4% on streets with a buffered bike lane. The Bicycle Coalition’s counts document that, between 2006 and 2010, while helmet use has risen, sidewalk riding and riding the wrong way have fallen at all counted locations. 

Bicyclists like bike lanes, and they like buffered bike lanes even better.  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. 

They also have more female bicyclists, less sidewalk riding, less wrong way riding, and more cyclists wearing helmets than streets without bike lanes.  The buffered bike lanes had the same result, but even more amplified. These results confirm that better behavior goes hand in hand with better bicycling facilities.  Facilities like buffered bike lanes make bicyclists feel safer.

A pdf of the report is available for download.

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