Tidbit Tuesday | Expanding the Bicycle Network, 2008-2013

On Tuesdays, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

Back in November, we showed not only that bicycle commuting in Philadelphia has been increasing rapidly, but also that we have the largest bicycle commute mode share of the ten largest U.S. cities. Keeping with that trend, the City has been busy expanding the on-street bike network.

This week, we take a look at how many new miles of on-street bike lanes were installed throughout Philadelphia over the past few years.


Even before 2008, Philadelphia already counted nearly 220 miles of roadway with on-street bike lanes (not to mention quite a few miles of trails as well). Today, that total has grown to 240 miles.

And if you were wondering, this photo was taken along Market Street at 54th Street just after new bike lanes were constructed in 2013.

Clarification: the totals above do NOT include sharrows, only actual bike lanes (conventional, buffered, and green). From 2008-2013, we added 9 miles of sharrows to the street network.


The Urban Street Design Guide: a guidebook for complete streets nationwide

In recent years, cities have been leading innovators in shaping complete streets that accommodate the needs of pedestrians, transit vehicles, bicyclists, freight and motorists, all while considering the businesses and residents located along the street.  The Urban Street Design Guide (USDG) is a new compilation of the design concepts and the lessons learned in the complete streets movement.  Published back in September by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), the handbook offers detailed guidance on all sorts of complete street retrofits, such as reimagining the urban boulevard, installing a raised intersection, or tightening a turning radius.  It also advises on how to use limited resources to make improvements through incremental, interim progress.

An Urban Street Design Guide illustration of an interim public plaza. (Credit: http://nacto.org/usdg/interim-design-strategies/interim-public-plazas/)

The USDG is grounded in the philosophy that streets in cities and town are not merely for conveying traffic but are also public spaces that should be safe, sustainable, economically beneficial, and enhance the quality of life.  Roadway design in the U.S. has traditionally been oriented toward moving lots of cars safely, quickly, and over long distances. However, urban areas also need walking, transit, bicycles, and freight to maximize the efficiency of their transportation system.  The USDG is the first comprehensive national guidebook to emphasize city street design as a unique practice with its own set of design goals, parameters, and tools.  NACTO believes that this guidance will help allay the political and legal concerns over trying out new roadway design standards.

As a founding organizer of NACTO, Philadelphia has been a key part of the complete streets conversation.  The city’s 2012 complete streets ordinance led to the development of the Philadelphia Complete Streets Design Handbook, a document that communicates design guidance for engineers, architects, and planners and helps communities understand the tools available for creating better streets.  Today, development proposals and roadway projects that meet certain thresholds are required to fill out a Complete Streets Checklist demonstrating consideration and compliance with complete streets guidance in Philadelphia.  Find out more at the Streets Department Complete Streets website.

Urban Street Design Guide before-and-after example of a “Slow Zone” street. (Credit: http://nacto.org/usdg/streets/neighborhood-street/)

MOTU@5 | 5 Years in Review: Safety Success Stories

The Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities released a report titled MOTU@5: 5 Years in Review.  We will be featuring a section per day on the blog from now through the end of the month.  You can find the full report online here.

“Safety Success Stories: Safety Matters” describes how MOTU has worked to ensure that Philadelphians can get where they need to go in a safe manner.  From this section, we picked what we thought were the top 3 most interesting facts:

3. 400 pedestrian countdown signals were installed in 2012


2. 40% decrease in serious accidents following the introduction of bike lanes on Spruce and Pine


1. 2,400 intersections were retimed for your safety


What Streets do Bicyclists Take?

Check out this great map that Jon Sinker from the Philadelphia Department of Health put together showing the number of bicyclists and pedestrians that move through the city.


This interactive map shows not only the number of bicyclists or pedestrians who pass by a specific point in the city, but also Philadelphia’s bike lane network and the locations of bike racks.

Take a closer look and see which streets are most used by bicyclists and pedestrians.  Streets with bike lanes, such as Pine, Spruce, and 22nd, are those most used by bicyclists, while the streets closest to City Hall appear to be the most popular with pedestrians.

The data was collected by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and they and the City are able to use this map to identify locations where active transportation is most prevalent. In addition to this, the map idenfities those areas in Philadelphia that are well used by pedestrians and bicyclists and could receive more investment.

Which streets in Philadelphia do you walk or bike on?

Be sure to explore some of The City of Philadelphia’s other great maps.

Bike Lane Sweeping


The Streets Department sweeper truck cleans the bike lane on the South Street Bridge

One of the many responsibilities of Philadelphia’s Streets Department is to maintain the sidewalks and roadways in the city, this includes laying down salt, plowing snow, and sweeping the street of trash.  In addition to sweeping the roadways, the Streets Department sweeps the bike lanes as well.

Street sweeping of bike lanes, sidewalks, and roadways is an important part of successfully developing Philadelphia’s Complete Streets.  Not only are Complete Streets about building and expanding the transportation network for all modes, but also about maintaining the existing complete streets for everyone’s safe and convenient use.  Street sweeping of the bike lanes is of vital importance to all bicyclists, because the bicycles are especially susceptible to flat tires from bits of glass, metal, or even hard plastics.

The sweeper truck on Pine Street.

On Pine Street.

Although many cyclists have advocated for more bike lane only sweeping, it is important to know that the Streets Department regularly sweeps 426 miles of bike lanes as part of their standard street sweeping operations and the most used bike lanes, such as Ben Franklin Parkway, Spruce Street, 13th Street, and Grays Ferry Avenue are swept every week.  Incorporating bike lane sweeping into the standard street cleaning allows the city to achieve two goals with fewer resources.  It’s just another way that Philly is doing more with less.


On Grays Ferry Bridge

What’s the Link Between Consumer Behavior and Travel Mode?

The conventional thinking for retail businesses such as convenience stores, restaurants, bars, and supermarkets is that customers will be traveling to the establishment by way of private automobile.  Unfortunately, this has also led to business owners fearing that they would lose business without adequate space for automobiles.

Recently, Professor Kelly Clifton, Christopher Muhs, Sara Morrissey, Tomas Morrissey, Kristina Currans, and Cloe Ritter of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium have published a study that examines the consumer preferences of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists to determine whether the mode of transportation significantly affects consumer behavior, particularly the frequency of visiting businesses and the amount spent during each visit.

Two charts compare the frequency of visits and amount of spending per transportation mode. (Courtesy Oregon Transportation Research)

Two charts compare the frequency of visits and amount of spending per transportation mode. (Courtesy Oregon Transportation Research)

The study used intercept surveys to ask restaurant, bar, convenience store, and supermarket patrons about their mode of transportation, how often they visit the establishment, and how much they spend on average.  The results showed that there are clear distinctions in the frequency of visits and the average amounts spent per trip, dependent on the customer’s mode of access.

There are two key findings from this study.  First, at restaurants, bars, and convenience stores, non-motorists (pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders) are competitive consumers, meaning that mode choice does not significantly impact consumer spending at convenience stores.  Further, over the course of a month, non-motorists actually spend more on average than motorists at convenience stores, bars, and restaurants.

A bike corral outside Reading Terminal Market.

A bike corral outside Reading Terminal Market.

Second, the built environment, including factors such as density, proximity to transit, and bicycling infrastructure, explain the use of non-automobile modes.  In particular, bike corrals and bike racks are significant predictors of bike use at nearby business establishments.

This research is important for Philadelphia in that it helps illustrate the link between mode choice and consumer spending.  Moreover, it empirically shows that removing a parking space for bicycle racks or pedestrian facilities will not adversely affect business at an establishment.  As Philadelphia continues to grow and redesign the streets for all modes of transportation it will be necessary to incorporate non-automobile infrastructure as an approach to encourage equitable transportation and activity in all neighborhoods.

Read the Full Report:

Consumer Behavior and Travel Mode Choices

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