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Mar 19 2015

10 Reasons Biking In Philadelphia Is On A Roll

New Bike Share, Thriving Biking Culture & Miles Of Trails & Lanes Make Philadelphia A Cycling Destination

The sound of ringing bicycle bells is constant in Philadelphia, where a grid layout, mostly flat terrain and 435 miles of bike lanes make it ideal for cyclists, whether they prefer mountain bikes, fixed-gears or classic cruisers. With the late April launch of Indego, the city’s first bike-share program, even more riders can explore Philadelphia’s great outdoors and fantastic attractions—from historic sites to beautiful riverside trails.

Here are 10 reasons Philly’s bike scene is taking off:

  1. Indego: Everybody Rides

In 1776, Philadelphia became the birthplace of a nation. This April, democracy takes to the streets with the launch of Indego, the city’s first bike-share program named for sponsor Independence Blue Cross. Here’s how Indego works: Riders (ages 16+) can check out a bike—there will be 600 available—at one of the 60 Indego stations in the city, from the Delaware River to the east, 44th and Walnut streets to the west, the East Passyunk neighborhood to the south and Temple University to the north. Indego bikes are meant for quick trips of up to 60 minutes. Once the ride is over, the rider can return the bike to any Indego station. Bikers can pay for each ride individually, or Indego members can opt for one of two pricing plans. Built by Trek, the three-speed bikes feature step-through frames, front and rear lights, comfortable and adjustable seats and baskets—making these check-out-and-go bikes the ultimate in convenience for both residents and visitors in Philadelphia.

  1. Festivals & Finish Lines

Every day is a good day for a bike ride in Philadelphia, but cycling enthusiasts have a few special dates circled on their calendars.

  • Philadelphia turns National Bike to Work Day into a citywide celebration of eco-friendly commuting with the mayor leading the pack. May 15, 2015.
  • Dozens of professional cycling teams compete in the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, a 12-mile circuit race through the city that begins and ends at the 17-degree-grade Manayunk Wall. Thousands of spectators come out for the event, and hundreds more compete in the 30-mile amateur race. June 7, 2015.
  • The not-safe-for-work Philly Naked Bike Ride is a 10-mile group ride featuring varying amounts of body paint, festive flair and many unmentionables. September, exact date TBD.
  • The Bikes & Beers Ride takes participants on a 14-mile loop that starts and ends at Yards Brewing Company. Riders get a small taster at each stop and a full pint at Yards. Twenty percent of proceeds benefit to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. October 3, 2015.
  • Founded by local bike-builder and industry sweetheart Bilenky Cycle Works, the annual Philly Bike Expo fills the Pennsylvania Convention Center with hundreds of cycling vendors and organizations. Seminars and panels cover everything from bike design to dressing for a commute. November 7-8, 2015.
  • The Bilenky crew is also behind the Bilenky Junkyard Cross, a much-loved race through a nearby junkyard, where the obstacles are car frames, refrigerators and crushed beer cans. December, exact date TBD.
  1. Spokes-People

As much as Philadelphia’s ample sights and diverse terrain make it inherently bikeable, a few organizations are to thank for getting more and more people riding. Founded in 1972, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is the region’s biggest cheerleader for safe cycling. In addition to educating Philadelphians about the environmental, health and economic effects of bike riding, the organization advocates for better opportunities and conditions—they’ve helped to create numerous new bike lanes and trails in the past half-decade alone. Seeing bicycles as excellent vehicles for personal growth, Neighborhood Bike Works focuses on helping young people and those with low-income backgrounds engage in their communities and green spaces by riding bikes they repair themselves. Programs include summer camps, group rides and classes for children and adults and its flagship Earn-A-Bike. “Moving in the right direction” is the motto at Gearing Up, which helps women in transition—from abuse, addiction and incarceration—incorporate bike riding into their lives. Women track their milestones, participate in group rides and “graduate” by earning refurbished bikes to call their own. The Circuit Coalition is a collaboration of non-profit organizations, foundations and agencies working to advance completion of a connected network of 750 miles of trails—The Circuit—in the region.

With all this riding around town, the CyclePhilly allows riders to record their routes and compare them with other users. Data from the app is shared with city planners who use it to prioritize the region’s bike infrastructure improvements. Keeping tabs on the Philly biking world is SPOKE Magazine, a new publication chronicling the city’s ever-growing cycling culture, infrastructure and community.

  1. Pedaling To The Masses

Simple tasks often are compared to riding a bike, but Philadelphia’s array of biking classes and group rides mean cycling can be as basic or challenging as riders choose.

  • The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia proves it’s never too late to try something new with its Adult Learn-to-Ride class, covering the basics of pedaling, steering and stopping.
  • The Bicycle Club of Philadelphia’s free weekly rides range from slow, beginner-friendly trips to brisk, 50-plus-mile rides.
  • With themes like “Tropical Paradise” and “Neon,” Philly Bike Party is a monthly series of nighttime rides featuring dancing, games, costumes and an outrageously fun time.
  • Howling is encouraged during the monthly Philadelphia Full Moon Bike Ride, a nighttime jaunt with plenty of moonlight to illuminate a new route each time.
  • Take Your Time Bicycle Rides specializes in socializing and slower paces. Its “Ladies Only” ride, coordinated with the Bicycle Coalition’s Women Bike PHL program, takes place every other month.
  • The pace picks up at shop Breakaway Bikes and Fitness, housing a Training Center that features classes and one-on-one coaching aimed at improving racing techniques and times. Its weekly Shake Shack Ride is a beginner-focused, 40-mile ride that ends, joyfully, with shakes and drinks at Shake Shack.
  • The younger set loves Kidical Mass, a monthly bike ride with adults supervising their little riders—on big-kid bikes, since training wheels are discouraged—on a new route each month.
  • Neighborhood Bike Works’ Ride Club is a four-part, after-school group ride for kids 8–18.
  • Switching gears: People’s inner bike mechanics come out during Neighborhood Bike Works’ four-week Adult Bike Repair Class, where fixing flats and adjusting brakes become as easy as riding a bike.
  1. Shop Around

An unexpected perk of biking through Philadelphia: With so many bike shops around the city, it’s a great way to window shop—or pop in for a tune-up, new gear or a fresh set of wheels. In the particularly active cycling community of West Philadelphia, Firehouse Bicycles advertises its selection of new and used bikes with a funky, colorful sign and bike sculpture on Baltimore Avenue, while Keswick Cycle pairs its original location in Glenside with a sprawling outpost near the University of Pennsylvania’s campus. Neighborhood Bike Works operates the nearby and beloved Bike Church, where an all-volunteer staff offers inexpensive used bikes and helps cyclists fix their own bikes, free of charge.

Repairs are the specialty at Fairmount’s Philadelphia Bikesmith, where mechanics get raves for both their know-how and patience. In the same ’hood, Fairmount Bicycles stocks such a large selection of sporty and city bikes that it extends to the sidewalk.

Bicycle Therapy in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood is ideal for repairs between rides on the nearby Schuylkill River Trail; Breakaway Bikes and Fitness near Rittenhouse Square is both a sleek showcase for bicycles and a training center for cyclists; fixed-gear and European-style bikes share space at the colorful Bicycle Revolutions in Queen Village; and Bell’s Bike Shop in the East Passyunk neighborhood makes excellent repairs, builds custom bikes and holds the designation of being the sole seller of PUBLIC bikes in Philadelphia. Across town, Fishtown’s aptly named Bicycle Stable (building once served as a stable for police horses) provides new and refurbished bikes and bicycle services, while Firth & Wilson Transport Cycles caters to urban cyclists with a collection of city and cargo bikes, meant for riding around town and hauling gear, groceries, Christmas trees—whatever needs transporting.

Riders within city limits and well beyond count on R.E.Load to tote their stuff; the messenger, roll-top and hip bags pack the brand’s Northern Liberties store.

  1. Life In The Fast Lane

Thanks to Philadelphia’s grid-like system of streets, designed by founder William Penn, the city is easy to navigate. And thanks to Philadelphia’s 435 miles of bike lanes, it’s safe to navigate, too. In Center City, bike lanes run east on Pine Street, west on Spruce Street, north on 22nd Street and south on 10th Street. Bike lanes also run on either side of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, making it easy to ride to big-name destinations such as the Barnes Foundation, The Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

West Philadelphia, home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, makes biking to class—and the neighborhood’s many coffee shops and restaurants—safe with lanes on Walnut, Spruce and Market Streets and Baltimore and Woodland Avenues. Other major bike lanes in Philadelphia include Fairmount, Torresdale and Kensington Avenues north of Center City; Washington and Oregon Avenues to the south; and Columbus Boulevard at the city’s eastern edge, making biking along Philadelphia’s waterfront equally safe and scenic.

  1. Happy Trails

With two riverfronts and one of the country’s largest urban parks, the country’s fifth-largest city makes it easy for urban cyclists to hit the trail—hundreds of miles of trails, in fact. Opened in 2013, the Delaware River Trail connects riders to Philadelphia’s waterfront, where they can take in views of the Ben Franklin Bridge and New Jersey in the distance. Once completed, the trail will stretch six miles. In Northeast Philly, the Delaware River connects to Pennypack Trail, offering a challenging singletrack network and a paved bike path along Pennypack Creek.

Hugging both sides of the Schuylkill River, Fairmount Park encompasses some of the city’s most popular bike trails: Cobbs Creek Trail, featuring a lovely footbridge and plenty of shade (read: perfect for hotter months); the short-but-sweet Bartram’s Garden Trail, with a meadow that’s especially beautiful in summer; the paved, family-friendly Centennial 5K Route, which passes Please Touch Museum and Shofuso Japanese House and Garden; the winding singletracks and seemingly endless loops of Belmont Plateau; and Boxers’ Trail, once frequented by boxer Joe Frazier.

The newest bikers’ delight in Philadelphia is the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk; starting at South Street, this four-block paved path angles over the river and connects to the 26-mile Schuylkill River Trail. Between Center City and the trail’s end at Valley Forge, the Schuylkill River Trail connects to the leafy Kelly Drive–West River Drive Loop, the eight-mile East Falls Loop and the Manayunk Towpath that runs parallel to Manayunk’s shopping and dining destinations.

Farther west, a variety of bike paths and terrains populate Wissahickon Valley Park, whose most popular trail is the off-the-beaten-path Forbidden Drive; no kind of bike is forbidden, though mountain bikes are strongly encouraged.

Aimed at bringing all of the region’s fantastic biking trails together, The Circuit is a planned network of 750 miles of bike and pedestrian trails. More than 300 miles have been completed.

  1. Off-Road Riding

Philadelphia’s bucolic countryside offers near-endless trail-riding possibilities. For bikers looking for something even more off the beaten path, a few off-road opportunities excite. The Philly Pumptrack in Fairmount Park is a dirt track geared for BMX bikes, with X Games-style ramps, rolls and sharp curves. With both beginner and advanced tracks, the Pumptrack is kid-friendly and always monitored by volunteers. The walkways along the Benjamin Franklin Bridge have gained popularity among cyclists, who enjoy the 1.5-mile ride to Camden—not to mention to spectacular view of Philadelphia’s skyline on the way back. Pros and amateurs alike are gearing up for the proposed velodrome, currently titled Project 250. The building would feature a 250-meter, Olympic-size track intended for both public use and international cycling races.

  1. Touring The Town

Organized bike tours take the guesswork out of sightseeing. The Philly Bike Tour Co. operates a trio of three-hour tours: the greatest-hits Classic City Tour, the sculpture-focused Art Is All Around Us Tour and the leafy Fairmount Park Tour. Philadelphia Bike Tours offers another guided option, with a three-hour ride covering popular and lesser-known landmarks between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers—with a snack included. DIYers love the self-guided tours from Wheel Fun Rentals, with detailed maps guiding the way through either Center City or Fairmount Park. The Association for Public Art’s Outdoor Sculpture Bike Map, which includes more than 30 public works and six scenic views, strengthens legs and opens minds as it winds around the Schuylkill River and Philadelphia Museum of Art. Created in collaboration with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the self-guided tour (four-mile or 10-mile routes) includes stops featured in the Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program, so cyclists can hear three- to four-minute segments about the sculptures on their phone or via an app.

  1. Wheels To Go

While Indego is meant for short trips, those looking for a longer ride are in luck—bike rentals are available all over the city. No matter where visitors roam in Philly, they can rent bikes for an hour or more from Wheel Fun Rentals, with locations at Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row, at Capriccio at Café Cret along the Ben Franklin Parkway and at the Independence Visitor Center on Independence Mall. Brewerytown Bicycles sits along Girard Avenue in the Brewerytown neighborhood, just a quick ride to the Philadelphia Zoo, Kelly Drive or anywhere in Fairmount Park; mountain and fat bikes are available for daily rentals or several days. Brewerytown’s sister store is Fairmount Bicycles, located just north of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway; the fleet includes sporty and city-friendly options and Big Dummies—perfect for toting kids or shopping bags. Farther east toward Northern Liberties, urban-cycling specialist Firth & Wilson Transport Cycles provides city and cargo bikes for an hour, four hours or a full day.

More Bells And Whistles: 13 Philly Biking Facts

  1. Philadelphia is the #1 big city in the country for bike commuters per capita, at 2.3%. (Source: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, U.S. Census Bureau)
  2. South Philly and Center City are among the top 25 neighborhoods in the country for commuting by bike. (Source: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, U.S. Census Bureau)
  3. With Indego, Philadelphia becomes the first U.S. city to offer a bike-share program that doesn’t require credit cards. This makes bikes more accessible to a broader range of riders, including those from low-income backgrounds.
  4. Between 2015 and 2020, the Indego program is projected to increase annual ridership in Philadelphia 500%, from 500,000 to 2.5 million.
  5. Among the reasons Temple University received the honor of a “Bike-Friendly University” by The League of American Cyclists: The school offers more than 1,700 bicycle parking spaces, free courses on urban bike safety and an on-campus bike mechanic.
  6. The internationally renowned Fuji Bikes, launched in Japan in 1899, now calls its North Philadelphia headquarters home, and its bikes are staples in shops across the city.
  7. North Bowl and South Bowl, the ultra-popular bowling alleys in Northern Liberties and South Philadelphia, respectively, offer free shoe rentals to those who roll in with a bike helmet.
  8. More than 100 artists—from Philadelphia to the Netherlands—submitted creative takes on bike racks for a 2014 contest held by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. The top 10 designs were installed at Boathouse Row, City Hall and elsewhere in the city.
  9. Hotel Palomar and Hotel Monaco, Philadelphia’s two Kimpton properties, offer complimentary PUBLIC bikes for their guests. The Palomar’s Pedal for Perks program encourages bike riding by offering perks, such as room upgrades and glasses of wine, based on guests’ total mileage.
  10. Simon Firth, the owner of Firth & Wilson Transport Cycles, is the only certified Brooks saddle (seat) repairperson in the United States.
  11. For those riders who want to keep up with their friends or improve their hill rides, Philly Electric Wheels in Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy neighborhood rents and sells electric-assist bikes.
  12. Old-school elbow grease and new-wave innovation collide at Bilenky Cycle Works, custom-creators of tandem bikes and other quirky rides that can run around $10,000.
  13. One rider who doesn’t mind the workout: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker and fan favorite Connor Barwin, who is often seen riding his bike to games at Lincoln Financial Field.

VISIT PHILADELPHIA® makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.

On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.

Contact(s):
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