South Philadelphia: On the Road to Safer Streets for Cyclists

A man biked through an intersection in Philadelphia.
A young man biked in Philadelphia, avoiding public transit and traffic.

An estimated 4 percent of commuters who live in South Philadelphia ride their bike to work, making it the most popular biking community in the city, said Sarah Clark Stuart, campaign director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. This figure is twice as high as the Philadelphia average and comparable to cities such as San Francisco where biking has become increasingly popular and accepted.

“Philadelphia is a popular biking city because everything is so close,” said Elizabeth Archut, 21, an avid bike rider and South Philadelphia resident. “You can easily bike from South Philly to Center City in five to 10 minutes on a nice day.

“There is a need for the infrastructure in [South Philadelphia] to catch up with biking in the area,” Stuart said.

So the Bicycle Coalition formed the Safe Streets for Healthy Neighborhoods initiative in November 2011 to make the roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. The initiative aims to tackle the problem of narrow streets, specifically 10th, 13th and 15th streets between South Street and Oregon Avenue, by installing bike lanes and other safety measures.

After bike lanes were installed on Spruce and Pine streets, the city documented that motor vehicle crashes decreased by almost 40 percent. Since November, the Bicycle Coalition has developed various measures to make the streets more bike-friendly.

“We’re on the forefront to try to make transportation and the streets safer for all,” Stuart said.

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