On May 17, 2016 in honor of Bike to Work Week, Redfin posted an article titled “The Top 10 Most Bikeable Downtowns.” In their ranking, Center City West in Philadelphia was ranked number one over cities such as Tucson, AZ, Washington, D.C and Chicago, IL.  Center City West is bordered by the Schuylkill River and South Broad Street, and the area is home to Philadelphia City Hall and a variety of major corporations, such as Bank of America and Comcast.
Redfin, which created the ranking, is a real estate company based out of Seattle. They publish WalkScore, Transit Scores, and Bike Scores for cities across the nation and worldwide. The goal of these scores is to help customers find homes and rentals in areas that are walkable, transit oriented, and/or bikeable. The organization is guided by an advisory board of planners, environmentalists and technical experts. Their Bike Score gave Center City West a 96.4 out of 100 rating in bikeability. This high score deems the area a “Biker’s Paradise.” Center City West Philadelphia also has a walk score of 99 and a transit score of 100 both out of 100.
According to the organization, “Bike Score measures whether an area is good for bicycling. For a given location, a Bike Score is calculated by measuring bicycle infrastructure (lanes, trails, etc.), hills, destinations and road connectivity.” Each of these components is weighted to determine the final bike score.
The first component is the bicycle lane score; it is used to measure the amount of bicycle infrastructure and is calculated by summing the length of all on- and off-street bicycle lanes. The hill score component, used to measure the ‘hilliness’ of an area, is calculated by measuring the steepest grade. Locations with grades less than 10%, based on data from the United States Geological Survey, rank high in ease of riding. The destinations and connectivity component uses distance to calculate how well bicycle infrastructure connects with other travel infrastructure such as bikeways or transit lines and a variety of amenities such as shopping and office centers. The bicycle mode share component, used to assess the popularity of cycling, is calculated using United States Census data to determine how many people use their bicycle as a mode of transportation.
The City of Philadelphia has done a lot over the last eight years for pedestrians and bicyclists that enabled the city to receive this recognition. In 2009, former Mayor Micheal Nutter issued “Executive Order No. 5-09: Establishment of a Complete Streets Policy.” The policy captures the City’s goal of making streets accessible to all users. In 2012, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission established the City’s first pedestrian and bicycle plan, with the themes of increasing safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, encouraging walking and bicycling for healthier lifestyles, connecting bikeway and walkway networks to amenities, promoting streets and sidewalks as the public realm, and increasing the recognition of the City as a leader in pedestrian and bicycle achievement.
In 2015, the City of Philadelphia teamed up with local and national sponsors to create Indego, a citywide bicycle sharing system. Similar to systems in New York City and San Francisco, the bicycle share system maximizes connectivity to different parts of the city for commuters or those just going for a ride. There are currently sixty stations across Philadelphia and eleven of them are located within Center City West. In March 2016, the Philadelphia Streets Department received a grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) to install and transform existing bicycle lanes into protected bicycle lanes. The City plans to begin implementation of the program in 2018. Also in March 2016, DVRPC attended a New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Council (NJ BPAC) meeting to discuss the success of their pedestrian and bicycle counting program in Philadelphia and also in Camden, Gloucester, and Mercer counties in New Jersey. NJ BPAC is funded by NJ DOT and serves as the states advisory group to advance bicycling and walking as modes of transportation.
These are just some of the notable accomplishments that Philadelphia has made in increasing walkability and bikeability for residents. With continued support from City administration and interest from pedestrians, cyclists, and advocacy from groups such as the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the City can continue to lead the way in bikeability.