Skip to content
CityLab
Transportation

The Secrets to Philadelphia's Bicycle Success

For one thing: narrow, European-style streets.
Philadelphia recently launched a bike-share program called Indego.
Philadelphia recently launched a bike-share program called Indego.AP Photo/Matt Rourke

If you were to name the big American city with the highest rate of commuter cycling, Philadelphia might not be the first place that would come to mind. But Philly is, in fact, the U.S. city with more a million people that has that distinction. In 2012, according to estimates based on U.S. Census data, the bicycle-commuting rate in Philadelphia was 2.3 percent. That compares favorably to Chicago, with 1.6 percent, or New York, with a mere 1 percent.

Why is Philly such a good place for riding a bike? Not because it has the most or best bike lanes, according to a new video from Streetfilms. It’s because the fabric of the city itself is bicycle-friendly. Narrow streets, originally meant for walking and horseback, mean naturally slow speeds. In many ways, Philly looks and feels more like a European city than an American one.