How does biking in Philly fit into summer in Philadelphia?
Among water ice, urban gardens, Phillies games, farmers markets, block parties, pop-up Ferris wheels and roller rinks, and other pastimes that make hot Philadelphia days and nights seem cooler, biking in Philly in the summer keeps the wind in your face, frees you from an eternal search for parking — and does your part to fight climate change during the season when we feel it the most.
According to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the rate of city cycling, as measured from the Schuylkill River Bridge, increased 29 percent from 2020 to 2021. (Indego, the city’s bikeshare program, reports a 15.8 percent year-over-year ridership increase over the same period.
The Coalition also reports that Philly has the highest bicycle mode share — 2.1 percent — of any large U.S. city. We’re a city of bicyclists, growing in numbers, and vocal about claiming space for person-powered wheels.
Quick tips for new bikers in Philadelphia 🚲
1. Where to buy a bike in Philly — or get one fixed
Supply chain woes? Not so bad anymore. Whereas a couple of years ago, it seemed near impossible to score a pair of wheels, Philly bicycle shops are open and thriving.
Just beware: Not all bikes are meant for all people. Be sure to get one-on-one attention to find the right bike for your height, frame and lifestyle. Some beloved local shops to check out:
- Bell’s Bikes on E. Passyunk near Pat’s and Geno’s
- Firehouse Bicycles in Cedar Park / Cobbs Creek
- Firth & Wilson Transport Cycles in Fishtown and South Philly at Bok
- Frankenstein Bike Worx in Center City / Rittenhouse
- Keswick Cycle in University City and the suburbs (Glenside and Paoli)
- South Philly Bikes in East Passyunk
- Trophy Bikes Fitler Square
- Velojawn in West Philly / University City)
- Via Bicycle South Broad Street / Graduate Hospital
Neighborhood Bike Works in West Philly (more on them later) sells refurbished and as-is bikes in their bike shop.
There are also lots of bikes to be found on social media. Join your neighborhood “Buy Nothing” or “Virtual Yard Sale” group, follow Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP), Neighborhood Bike Works, and Folx N Spokes PHL. Kusuma Schofield, one of the volunteer moderators of Folx n Spokes PHL emphasizes you should plan to bring to your local shop for a tune-up, and to make sure it’s safe and ready to ride.
2. Great places to ride your bike in Philly
One of the safest places to ride your bike in Philly these days is MLK Drive, the four-mile stretch from East Falls Bridge to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Drive is always closed to cars on weekends.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s website also lists other great places to ride your bike in Philly on their “Where to Ride” tab, including East Fairmount Park, West Fairmount Park, Pennypack Park, Bartram’s Garden, and the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Fairmount Park’s Wissahickon section, aka “the Wis,” is famous for its bike trails, which range from mild to wild.
3. Learn about safety
Jessica West, executive director at Neighborhood Bikes Works focuses on equitable access to bikes and biking through youth and community programming — and encourages all riders to wear helmets, keep enough space in front of and behind other riders, and use hand signals.
The BCGP has set up a great venue for children to learn bike safety in the Lil’ Philly Safety Village across the street from the Hunting Park Farmers Market. On Saturdays in July 2022, from 10am to 1pm, the organization offers kids free bike rentals, helmets and bike lights — and hosts drop-in bike safety games.
4. Ride with others
As anyone who’s ever seen a pack of doughy middle-aged white men in head-to-toe spandex on sleek designer bikes can attest, city biking can have an air of elitism about it. But several community groups are working to change that.
There’s the aforementioned Neighborhood Bike Works, which in the non-pandemic era ran its flagship, free Earn-A-Bike program, teaching kids bike mechanics and safe urban biking tactics as well as job-readiness and leadership skills. Kids come in and choose a donated bike from the group’s stock; then, over the course of the eight-week class, learn how to get their bike road-ready and how to do some basic maintenance. At the completion of the program, they graduate with a bike, as well as a helmet and lock.
Neighborhood Bike Works also runs Mel’s Community DIY Bike Shop, inviting people from the community to bring their bikes in and use the shop’s tools and stands to work on their bikes, with volunteers and expert mechanics on hand.
They welcome bike donations on Thursdays from noon to 6pm, as well as financial donations online; $100 will provide everything needed to get a safe bike into the hands of a rider who needs one.
There’s also Folx n Spokes PHL, an online community that focuses on drawing women and non-binary riders at all levels into the sport. These and other groups are all about removing the financial and social barriers to entry — getting bikes into the hands of people of all ages, genders and socioeconomic status.
Happy riding, people!
This post was originally published in June 2020 and updated in July 2022.
A DEEP DIVE INTO BIKES AS PROBLEM SOLVERSHeader photo courtesy Lora Reehling Photography / BCGP