The Fast Rise of the Philadelphia Biking Scene During the Pandemic

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Philly’s biking scene has been increasing for yrs. Now, document quantities of rookies are turning to biking for physical exercise, vacation, and entry to the good outdoors.


Riders love the vast-open up areas of the trails of Valley Forge. Photograph by Colin Lenton

Area bikers are noticing a swell of traffic on their regular routes. Really, far more like a tsunami. In the initial two and a fifty percent weeks of March 2020, Kelly Push saw a 471 percent boost calendar year above calendar year: The path counted 3,288 riders in the course of March of 2019, whilst for the identical time period of time in 2020, that trail saw 18,759 visitors. March 2020 also observed will increase of amongst 75 and 181 per cent in biking on other big trails, like the Schuylkill Banking companies and the Port Richmond Trail, according to information from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

Paths that ended up ordinarily quick to navigate instantly necessary far more care thanks to the constant stream of riders whizzing by. Even at the quietest moments of working day, cyclists had to stay hypervigilant to make sure that all people experienced a risk-free and socially distant ride. The enhanced website traffic was agent of Philly’s diverse landscape: Riders of all races, backgrounds, ages and capabilities have been buying up cycling.

The escalating attractiveness of biking in Philly is a direct outcome of how 2020 turned our day-to-day routines upside down. COVID-19 posed myriad difficulties that brought about citizens to rethink the methods in which they transfer. In a city reliant on public transportation, modified community transit schedules (and anxiety of having sick) induced commuters to get creative with their mobility. And with health and fitness centers closing or lowering their capacities, biking proved to be a risk-free and efficient way to get exercise.

It’s not just Philly, either. Throughout the country, April 2020 sales for bikes, pieces, helmets, and other extras went up a blended 75 percent to $1 billion, and leisure bicycle gross sales grew 203 percent when compared to April 2019, in accordance to the market place exploration organization NPD Team.

The 2020 biking boom was not all rosy for area bike outlets, though. Lee Rogers, owner of Bicycle Treatment on South Avenue, states that with the surge, he was offered out of inventory by June. “Companies have been giving dealers in a trickle below and there, but nothing considerable, so most areas have been bought out,” suggests Rogers. He predicts the bicycle lack may possibly very last into 2021.

Shelly S. Walker, operator of Fairmount Bicycles and Brewerytown Bicycles, states she’s seen larger demand for repairs but concerns about what the nationwide bicycle lack will do for sales in the prolonged run. “With the entire world jogging out of bikes,” she states, “consistently selling a superior volume of bikes wasn’t sustainable, so our calendar year-to-date gross sales are really reduce than final year” as of October 2020.

Bicycle Therapy’s profits product has modified considering the fact that COVID, and enterprise in bicycle accessories and repairs — if not bikes — has jumped. “Sales of locks, helmets and pumps, which we’ve been executing curbside, have been a large success,” claims Rogers. “People would call us from outdoors, talk to for a couple solutions, and fork out through Venmo or credit history card.”

Henry Sam, operator of Kayuh Bicycles and Café — the shop’s named following the Malay word for “pedal” — has noticed a related trend. His add-ons and pieces revenue have amplified by just about 40 per cent because the beginning of the pandemic. His Girard Avenue organization has been open for 8 many years, but this biking frenzy has been unparalleled. “It’s usually peaceful this time of year, but we’re nevertheless backed up with repairs,” states Sam. As the months development, he hopes to be ready to restock and market new bikes to meet up with the substantial demand from customers.

philadelphia biking

Henry Sam, operator of Kayuh Bicycles and Café suggests the boom in the Philadelphia biking scene has led to a enormous increase in desire for repairs and parts. Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Irrespective of the short-term unavailability of enough new bikes in 2020 (Craigslist, any person?), the timing of this massive boost in driving was apt, taking into consideration the strides that Philadelphia and the ’burbs have designed with the growth of the Circuit Trails, an ever-increasing regional network of bike paths overseen by a coalition of advocacy organizations. In 2019, compact new additions created 70 miles of connected trails, extending the circuit from Montgomery County to Camden County in New Jersey, like places like Fort Washington Office environment Park and Pier 70 and Penn Treaty Park in Philly.

“Even before the pandemic, biking was rising in this location thanks to improvements in path and road infrastructure,” explains Edward Chang, the board chair of the Bicycle Coalition of Bigger Philadelphia, which is a founding member of the Circuit Trails coalition. “COVID-19 has proven just how important different varieties of transportation like bicycling and the continued progress of our public areas actually are.” Chang desires to see additional trails, safer routes, and greater schooling on how Philly’s citizens can use the spaces we have. His favored routes, he states, are outside the house the metropolis, in Chester County: “Access to nature and the outdoor is a crucial element of our perfectly-becoming. And we’re blessed with miles of very low-visitors roads and rolling terrain that reminds me of the European countryside.”

“COVID-19 has revealed just how crucial substitute forms of transportation like bicycling and the ongoing advancement of our community areas really are.”

All of these enhancements necessarily mean we could get started to see a city the place biking — not car journey or even community transit — is the favored method of transportation. After all, there is been a longtime combat to keep improving and expanding our available outdoor spaces. The aforementioned Bicycle Coalition of Better Philadelphia, a collaboration of community nonprofit companies, foundations and agencies, is advocating to increase this connected community of trails to extra than 500 miles by 2025. (Higher Philadelphia was currently residence to 341 miles of multi-use trails as of October 2019.)

Rogers, whose store is in its 30th yr, thinks it’s no shock that Philly’s biking scene was booming even right before coronavirus changed the way we stay — and that cycling fervor is below to keep. “A good deal of people today are heading to get into cycling and continue to be into cycling,” he states, “because they’ll have acquired that it is easier to get all around city, it costs fewer dollars than any other way, and it is fantastic workout.” It’s also a self-paced exercise that citizens young and previous can choose advantage of. Which is just one reason the Bicycle Coalition commenced its Youth Biking (BCYC) system for younger men and women ages 12 to 18. The group will work to teach children bicycle protection and empowers them to deal with sports like cycle racing and triathlons.

philadelphia biking

A commuter rides an Indego bike in Heart Metropolis. Photograph by Jeff Fusco

In the meantime, Philly must continue on to do the job to turn out to be a safer metropolis to bicycle in — especially with extra newbies on the highway. According to the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition, motor motor vehicles triggered 16 bicycle fatalities from 2016 to 2020, whilst 205 pedestrians were being killed. In March of 2020, just right before the metropolis shut down, the Eyesight Zero Philadelphia Conference introduced far more than 200 stakeholders from the community and non-public sectors alongside one another at Temple to strategize safer strolling and riding paths.

The mission of Vision Zero, a coverage platform focused on reducing traffic deaths, is to make Philadelphia far more accommodating to bikers by encouraging the city to adopt proposed techniques, Chang suggests, including design of extra secured bicycle lanes, development of safer crossings and sidewalks for pedestrians, and the establishment of automated velocity enforcement, “which assists make streets safer for absolutely everyone.” Vision Zero also prioritizes the passage of expenditures that would make it possible for PennDOT to build parking-secured bicycle lanes, a fight getting led in Harrisburg by the group Family members for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia.

Preferably, Philly and the surrounding area will grow to be extra bicycle-friendly for both equally new and seasoned riders and capitalize on the climbing biking tide. Background unquestionably indicates the craze is in this article to continue to be: For decades, Philadelphia has experienced a bigger for each capita proportion of citizens commuting by bicycle than major cities which include Chicago and New York. With the Circuit Trail planting roots close to the area and the ongoing strides by the metropolis to increase protection, there’s lots of explanation to bet that once our bicycle retailers are stocked all over again, Philadelphia’s cycling scene will proceed to flourish.

Posted as “Pedal Power” in the Be Effectively Philly 2021 wellbeing and wellness guidebook.