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Bicycle commutes on rise in Philadelphia

Posting in Cities

The most popular city for bicycling in the United States continues to plow (pedal?) ahead.

Commutes by bicycle to Philadelphia's Center City district from surrounding neighborhoods to the south has increased 10.5 percent over the last two years in Philadelphia's downtown Center City district, according to a new study.

An average of 873 bikers entered the city's downtown area between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on northbound streets during the first two weeks of October 2012, according to the Central Philadelphia Development Corp. That's almost 100 more than the same time two years ago.

That may not seem like much for a city with a population of 1.5 million, but the direction of the trend is what's notable here. The district believes that there are three drivers: continued population growth in the city's core (particularly by people aged 25 to 34, who represent a quarter of the total influx), the growing availability of bicycle lanes on city streets (several lanes were installed between 2010 and 2012) and the rising price of gasoline in the U.S. (making alternatives more attractive).

A few other reasons help make the case: Philadelphia's public transit infrastructure is lacking coverage in some of these neighborhoods, and most of those areas are also relatively flat -- not something to understate for human-powered transport.

As the City of Philadelphia continues to install dedicated bike lanes, the number who choose this method to commute to work or school, or to carry out other necessary functions, will continue to increase, especially given the level topography of nearly all the neighborhoods that surround downtown.

Do bicycle lanes stoke demand, or does demand create a need for bicycle lanes? That relationship isn't crystal clear here, but the same conditions that are responsible for Philadelphia's rising bicycle usage also apply to other U.S. cities seeing urban renewal.

— By on October 24, 2012, 11:49 PM PST

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure