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Cycling In The City

May is National Bike Month and Philly cyclists have reasons to celebrate. Our City has made biking safer and more accessible thanks to the lobbying efforts of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and Mayor Jim Kenney. We applaud these efforts because biking is good for the environment, your health, and your wallet. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cyclist, we want to give you the tools and tips to stay safe, enjoy the ride, and pedal it out.

Take a class


Indego, Philly’s Bike Share Program, offers a free, ten-minute Learn to Ride video as well as a 90-minute Zoom course on the rules of the road, riding safely in traffic, making sure your helmet fits, planning your route, and more. This class is relevant to bicyclists of all skill levels but is most important for beginners.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has monthly Learn to Ride classes for anyone over 18, April through October. Whatever your experience or age this class is a positive and encouraging setting to start building your bike riding skills. Don’t have a bike? No problem. You can rent a bike from Wheel Fun, on Boat House Row where classes start. Classes start with learning how to balance and practicing in the Azalea Garden behind the Art Museum before venturing onto the bike path along Kelly Drive. Private lessons are available.

Renting or Buying?


If you are not ready to purchase a bike, take advantage of Indego’s bike-share program, featuring hundreds of bright blue rental bicycles and white electric- assist bikes at over 140 stations around the City, accessible 24/7. You can check out a bike using a mobile app. Indego is celebrating Bike Month with reduced
fees. Check it out at www.rideindego.com/buy-a-pass/#/

Want your own wheels? Bicycle Therapy at 2211 South is a full-service independent bicycle shop. With over 28 years of experience, the shop’s friendly and knowledgeable staff will help you find a bike that matches your level of experience and budget.

Transport Cycles, located at Building Bok in South Philly and in South Kensington at 1315 N. Howard St, sells bikes for the serious aficionado, ranging in price from $475 to $1,200. Shop their online store and stop in for a free test ride.

Image: Transport Cycles

Feeling less Lance Armstrong and more in the market for a Schwinn? Pick up your easy rider by browsing the used bikes at Liberty Bicycles or on Facebook Marketplace.

Happy Trails

Over 300 miles of dedicated circuit trails for cyclists, linking Philadelphia with scenic routes to Valley Forge, Bucks County and Pennsylvania Dutch Country are in existence thanks to the efforts of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the William Penn Foundation. When completed, the Circuit Trails will include over 800 miles connecting urban, suburban and rural communities.

One of the most accessible routes is the 120 mile Schuylkill River Trail winding from the City to Manayunk and beyond. Meanwhile, West River Drive will continue to be a cyclist’s paradise, devoid of cars, until Labor Day 2021 when it will revert to its former schedule of being closed to traffic only on Saturdays and Sundays.

The best way to experience these trails is to participate in rides sponsored by the Philadelphia Bicycle Club. Traveling with other cyclists promotes safety, as well as deepening your knowledge of biking and expanding your social horizons. Besides weekly group rides, starting from the Art Museum, the Bike Club offers longer monthly rides with opportunities to explore intriguing destinations.

On May 21 st, the Bike club hosts a 3-day tour of the Susquehanna Valley, cycling through the countryside and quaint towns. Experience the Lebanon Valley Rail Train on June 12th and on August 7th the annual Chocolate Tour pedals through Amish country to benefit the treatment of pediatric cancer at CHOP and the Hershey Medical Center. Want to escape the heat? Consider the August 29 Brandywine Tour through horse farm country in Chester County. For all Philadelphia Bike Club events, visit their event calendar.

Safer Streets/Safer Bikes


When Mayor Kenney ran for office, he pledged to create 40 miles of protected bike lanes by 2026. As a result, Philly has its first raised bike lane, over six feet wide, with a concrete buffer on North American Street. Plans are also underway to make Washington Street in South Philly safer for cyclists by reducing the five-lane road to three lanes with a protected bike lane.

American Street – Image courtesy of Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition

To protect your bike from theft, you need more than a good lock. Record your bicycle’s serial number and take photos of yourself with your bicycle, so you can prove ownership if it is stolen. Call your police district to see if they offer bicycle registration services. Besides the best lock, you can afford, consider GPS tracking devices for bike owners. Your local bike shop will help you identify the best products to keep your bike safe.

After a year of pandemic isolation, we encourage you to take advantage of Philly’s abundant cycling trails, classes and clubs. Cycling is good for your health and it’s great for our City.

A wheel winner: Bikes lanes make motorists safer too

A recent article on the benefits of bike lanes caught our attention. While some of the benefits listed are widely known, such as increasing the number of cyclists and improving safety for cyclists, this one in particular caught our eye: adding more bike lanes improves safety for motorists. Here’s how:

A study in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio found that without a marked bike lane, car drivers veer so far away from bicyclists that they swerve into the next car lane 90% of the time.

The researchers concluded that this is because the drivers don’t have lane lines to determine the appropriate amount of space to give cyclists, and are unable to gauge that amount of space sans bike lane.

When there was a bike lane on the other hand, fewer drivers veered away from the bike lane, and when they did, they only veered 40 percent as far as those who veered without a bike lane.

Here in Philadelphia, we have a solid and growing system of bike lanes, but there’s room for improvement yet. To see our current bicycle infrastructure, look out for the latest print version of the Philadelphia Bicycle Map, which will be released later this month (in the meantime you can use this online version).

However, the process of adding new bike lanes in Philly is challenging. In 2012, City Council passed a bill requiring a resolution from Council to create any new bike lanes that remove a parking or driving lane.

The City has seen at least one much-needed addition to the bike lane network thwarted due to this law: 22nd Street in the Fairmount neighborhood.

In the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP) blog post about the demise of the proposed bike lane, they too mention the fact that the bike lane would have improved safety for motorists as well as cyclists.

As we wrote about in our blog post on parking, infrastructure decisions such as these about parking or bike lanes boil down to whether the City will accommodate more cars, or more people (some of them on bikes).

We can either design the city to prioritize more people (some of them on bikes) or more cars
We can either design the city to prioritize more people (some of them on bikes) or more cars

 

At Solo, we are definitely in the “more people” camp! Luckily, some Council members are as well. Councilman Henon introduced a bill to add a buffered bike lane on Tyson Avenue from Frankford Avenue to Roosevelt Boulevard, which will require the removal of a traffic lane in each direction.

Philadelphia was also recently awarded federal and state funding to add multiple new protected bike lanes. Here’s a handy visual guide to and analysis of all the different methods to “protect” a bike lane; the new lanes being installed in Philly will use the second option on the list, flexible plastic delineator posts.

Another heartening sign came recently on Bike to Work Day (May 22nd) when three Councilpeople joined a group of about 50 cyclists biking down west Market Street. All three expressed support for adding a protected bike lane to the 5-lane wide arterial. The ride terminated at Dilworth Park, where Mayor Kenney himself spoke about the importance of bike infrastructure.

For the safety of motorists, cyclists, and even pedestrians, we hope the bike lane network in Philadelphia continues to expand. We’ve been saying as much here on the Solo blog for years.

We also practice what we preach! Solo is developing condos at 1326-1332 N 5th  Street with parking for bikes instead of cars, and currently house the headquarters for the City’s Indego Bike Share program in one of our buildings.

If this blog post has piqued your interest, check out the BCGP’s guide of where they believe bike lanes should be added in each Council District, and how to contact your Councilperson to advocate for them!

2nd image courtesy of Pixabay.

Solo Property Houses Indego Bike Share HQ

Philadelphia’s new bike share program, Indego, is launching this week! The program found the perfect home for its headquarters in a South Kensington property rented from a family partnership of Deborah Solo, Angel and Alex Franqui of Solo Real Estate.

 

Learn about the unique warehouse/office space hybrid they’ve created in the building to accommodate Indego’s diverse needs.

 

Peter Hoban, COO at Bicycle Transit Systems and General Manager of Indego, was struggling to find the perfect building to house the headquarters for Indego.

 

The building had to be inside the station map area: Tasker Street to Temple, Delaware River to 45th Street. In addition to office space for some 20 staff, it needed to be big enough to house 5-10% of the initial 600-bike fleet, with room to grow.

 

 

The room that will be used for bike maintenance (left) features one of the many skylights Solo installed in the building. A large storage/warehouse space (right) comprises the rear half of the building

Then, on Craigslist, Hoban found it: a small warehouse in South Kensington owned by Deborah Solo, Angel and Alex Franqui. The family worked with Hoban and Indego every step of the way from obtaining a use variance for light industrial and commercial use, to retrofitting the space to create the ideal hybrid of warehouse and industrial-chic office space.

Open-concept office space (left) currently being built-out, and the kitchen-in-progress (right) featuring yet another skylight

The arrangement is a win-win-win, the third win being for the neighborhood. South Kensington gains 20 new jobs from the Indego headquarters, which will also result in 20 new patrons for local businesses.
The neighborhood will also benefit from the activation of a building that has been unoccupied since 1983, including more lighting at night and the addition of security cameras.
No wonder the project received overwhelming support from the local Registered Community Organizations (RCOs), South Kensington Community Partners and Olde Kensington Neighbors Association.

Solo is extremely excited for the launch of Philadelphia’s bike share, and honored to have the opportunity to help implement the program!

Indego officially launches this Thursday (April 23rd). Attend the launch party and ride-off at Eakins Oval at 11:30am that day.

How Philly Can Maintain #1 Ranking for Bike Commuting

Despite lagging behind in biking amenities, Philadelphia was recently revealed to have the highest percentage of bike commuters among the largest U.S. cities. If the City steps up its bike infrastructure, could we become a contender for best bicycling City worldwide? The key word is “if.”

 

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP) released an impressively comprehensive study of Philadelphia’s biking infrastructure and its influence on attracting new riders and on existing riders’ behavior.

 

The information is particularly apt as Philadelphia plans to roll out its first bike share program, which the Solo Blog detailed a while back. With a bike share comes many cyclists biking in the city for the first time, and as the BCGP report reveals, proper cyclist amenities help produce proper cycling behavior.

 

What are proper cyclist amenities and behavior, you might ask? As for amenities, bike lanesare good, buffered bike lanes are better, protected bike lanes are best, and “sharrows” (share-the-road painted road markings) don’t cut it.

 

Philly’s quarter-mile of protected bike lane (left) on Delaware Avenue, and a bike “sharrow” (right) in Fishtown

 

Proper bicyclist behavior includes biking with the flow of traffic, not biking on the sidewalk, and wearing a helmet.

 

Unfortunately, Philadelphia does not yet have enough bicycle amenities to have cyclists on their best behavior all the time.

 

Yet despite falling behind some major cities in bike lane installation, protected bike lanes in particular, Philadelphia still has the highest percentage of bike commuters. Which means if the City installs more bike infrastructure, it is likely to retain and even expand upon that #1 ranking. This is because with bike infrastructure, if you build it, new cyclists will come–studies have shown as much.

 

Let’s keep them coming, then! This is an opportunity for Philadelphia to continue to distinguish itself among U.S. cities. Perhaps most importantly, biking in Philly is fun! Here’s to making it even more so, and encouraging more people to join in that fun.

 

Opening image courtesy of bicyclecoalition.org.

How Philadelphia Gets To Work

A new report from the Center City District (CCD) has some fascinating figures about how Philadelphians commute to work. Relying increasingly on public transit, bicycles and their own two feet, these eco-friendly commuting habits have become increasingly important to the city’s continued development.

 

The CCD’s new report reveals in depth statistics on how Philadelphia’s commuters are uniquely different and far more environmentally-friendly than that of the average American. Unlike almost every other American community, Philadelphia’s urban core residents hardly use cars to get to work.

 

This auto-less commute is possible in part thanks to the sheer density of jobs in the area – the CCD report states that while our suburbs have just 0.9 jobs per acre, Center City boasts an impressive 203 jobs per acre. This remarkable density allows workers to eschew long, car-focused commutes and find jobs reachable by low-carbon emitting means of transit.

 

As one might suspect, the CCD report also states that the location and layout of different neighborhoods influences their residents’ commuting patterns. For instance, the close proximity of Center City’s residential and business areas means that fewer than one quarter of its residents drive to work. On the other hand, residents of Fairmount, who are near Downtown but have fewer public transit options, are the most likely to bike to work, while Chinatown residents, many of whom live right above their businesses, are the most likely to walk to work.

 

This map from the CCD Report shows the rate of car-free commuters in Center City. 75% or more of residents in Light Green areas do not use a car to get to work. Yellow areas indicate 50-75% and Orange areas under 50% of resident car-free commuters. (Image courtesy of C.C.D.)
This map from the CCD Report shows the rate of car-free commuters in Center City. 75% or more of residents in Light Green areas do not use a car to get to work. Yellow areas indicate 50-75% and Orange areas under 50% of resident car-free commuters. (Image courtesy of C.C.D.)

 

So what does all this information mean for the city of Philadelphia and its future development? According to Jerry Sweeny, President and CEO of the mega-developer Brandywine Realty Trust, a whole lot. He argues that access to solid transit systems is now a benchmark requirement for smart commercial real estate investment. At a recent forum on development, Sweeny said “There is no question that properties that have access to more than one form of transportation will perform better through peaks and valleys in economic cycles.” After years of market instability, this statement clearly suggests good things for Philadelphia’s continued development.

 

Of course, this transit-based growth is dependent on our civic leaders maintaining and expanding support for SEPTA, bike lanes, sidewalks and the other transit options that allow Philadelphians to make their green commutes. Like all perks of urban life, it’s something we cannot take for granted.

Bike Share Program Coming to Philadelphia

Philly.com has reported that the City will launch its first ever bicycle sharing program some time in 2014. With similar popular programs in cities like Paris, Montreal and Berlin, Philadelphians and visitors alike will soon join other global urbanites who all have the chance explore their city via rented bicycle.

 

Final program details have yet to be flushed out, but Philly.com author Katie Monroe affirms that Philadelphia will soon bring a pay-as-you-go style bikeshare with over 100 “docking locations” across the city where bicycles can be rented and parked. The new system will likely allow users to rent the bicycles for short periods of time (30 to 45 minutes), which is meant to encourage using the bikeshare program for transit rather than leisure.

 

Of course, bicycles are nothing new on the streets of Philadelphia. In a city laid out during the time of the horse and buggy and with few practical public transportation options, bicycles are a popular means of getting around the city. Indeed, just like the citizens of famously-bike friendly Amsterdam and Copenhagen use their cities’ pre-automobile scale to their advantage, so too do thousands of Philadelphia’s cyclists.

 

Packed bike racks demonstrate cycling’s popularity in Philadelphia.

 

For Philadelphia to realize its full potential as a great bicycling city though, let alone one with a successful bike sharing system, City Hall will need to step up and manage bicycling systems just as it does cars, pedestrians, trains and other forms of transit. In her fascinating article on the subject published last month, Philly.com architectural critic Inga Saffron notes that Mayor Nutter is well aware of this need, having already pledged “$3 million toward the (bikeshare program)…which would (ultimately) cost $8 million to $11 million to launch.” Saffron also reports that the city is taking active steps to decide the different spots throughout the city where this new fleet of  bicycles will be placed in Philadelphia’s already tight and congested streets.

 

Environmentally-friendly and budget conscious, we believe that bicycling is going to play a key role in Philadelphia’s future, and bikeshare program would be a critical component in that success. After all, if bikeshare programs can succeed on the hectic streets of New York City and unruly roundabouts of Washington, D.C., so too can they thrive in here Philadelphia!