The Five Best (and Five Worst) Places to Bike in Philly

By Daniel Denvir
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 42 | Posted Jun. 15, 2011

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There is no direct or really straightforward route, but taking 21st Street (and then 20th) through Point Breeze allows you to pass through FDR Park, where skateboarders hit the vast ramps under I-95, tennis players play and one old solitary and shirtless man in a beach chair takes in the sun over his leathery and tattooed skin.

5) Spruce and Pine streets Center City bike lanes and the new South Street Bridge revolutionized cross-town travel. “If I hit those green lights, I can get up my speed and move from Rittenhouse to Washington Square in a matter of minutes,” writes the Bicycle Coalition’s Megan Rosenbach. “A traffic buffer on my left and no car doors to worry about on my right create a very enjoyable ride!” West Philly to Old City was dangerous and exhaust-filled when you had to take Chestnut, but it’s better now.


1) Benjamin Franklin Parkway: Descending eastbound over the Spring Garden Bridge, I always get a lump in the back of my throat staring out into Eakins Oval, the hellish multi-pronged traffic circle at the western edge of Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This is a horrible place to bike, whether you plan to continue up the Parkway toward City Hall or to cut north onto Spring Garden. To accomplish the latter, you have to cut left into the bike lane, hoping that cars speeding at more than 50 miles per hour from two different directions don’t hit you and then cut right again, to cross onto Spring Garden.

“Too many lanes filled with impatient, oblivious cars,” says Mirra. “Even with the bike lane, I feel like I’m playing Frogger with cars.”

Unfortunately, this is a major and indispensable route for many bicycling Philadelphians. May the Rocky statue grant you the necessary courage.

 2) Girard Avenue. The great east-west throughway, named after the famous uber-wealthy Philly financier Stephen Girard, stretches from Fishtown, past the Zoo and into West Philly. But the road has (generally) just one lane of traffic each way, trolley tracks, no bike lane and parking on both sides. It’s a biking nightmare.

“Trolley tracks plus narrow lanes plus inconsistent shoulder equals unpleasant biking,” says Mirra.

Cecil B. Moore Avenue may be your best bet for parts of this route.

“Girard is a complicated street,” says Stober. “It has a lot of different types of traffic moving on it with the trolley and a high volume of vehicle traffic.”


3) Though the South Street Bridge is now open, Grays Ferry Bridge is still your best bet from much of Southwest and West Philly to South Philly.

“Biking that bridge feels like I’m playing Mario Kart, and not in a joyful way,” says Mirra. “Unseen cars ahead of me have tossed rocks, glass and nails on the shoulder to pop my tires. Cars behind me are roaring past at 45 mph. I half expect to get hit by a red turtle shell and tossed into the Schuylkill, but there’s no floating referee in a white cloud waiting to fish me out.”

Unfortunately, the bridge is covered with glass and other novel debris, which cyclists dodge as volleys of traffic shoot by.

“It is really convenient,” Stober acknowledges. “It makes it onto your worst list because people know it because they use it so much.”

A separated bike lane, a few speed bumps and an occasional cleanup would make a world of difference.

 4) Baltimore Avenue, West Spruce, Powelton, Kensington Avenue and all of those bike lanes next to parked cars: Baltimore Avenue, the main drag of queer, anarchist, vegan, crusty West Philly? It couldn’t be—but it is! I know two people who have had car doors opened into them, one of whom broke her collarbone. A sleepy side street where you can bike down the middle of the road may be slower than a big street bike lane, but it is always safer to bike without parked cars immediately to your right.

5) Along the Delaware River, Columbus and Delaware avenues are both horrible places to bike, along a generally nightmarish waterfront populated by big-box stores, the debacle of Penn’s Landing and a casino, sandwiched between highway-like thoroughfares and I-95, an actual highway. One day, this could get a whole lot better, as plans to remake the waterfront into something walkable, livable and truly-cool-to-be-at advance. A multi-use trail is in the proposed master plan.

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Comments 1 - 42 of 42
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1. Anonymous said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 09:05AM

“To the guy in the photo- WEAR A HELMET!”

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2. LKS said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 09:33AM

“Lombard Street should be on this list. I am always shocked when i see people biking along this too narrow for 2 lanes of cars so why add a bicycle street. Ditto for Walnut.

Having just returned from a 3 yr stint in NYC I am really pleased to see how biking in philly has exploded in such a short period of time. However I am equally horrified to see how many people don't wear helmets. (though to be fair not as many people ride opposite to traffic as in NYC, so we are one up on that- yeah!)

People please wear your helmets. They save lives. Doesn't matter if you are the best biker on the planet, the cell phone yapping, text messaging driver that hits you will not care.

Ride safe,


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3. Mickie said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 09:38AM

“This is great news, but what about those of us who commute north-south on the west of Broad St.? There's a lane on 22nd St. which puts me smack dab in the scariest neighborhood for a girl to ride alone.

Please keep it up! I'd like to see the kind of lane protection Amsterdam has here in the City of Brotherly Love. That'd be ideal.”

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4. Not a bike hater, but... said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 09:58AM

“...what would also be "ideal" is some accountability among CC cyclists for their riding behavior. As a longtime resident of this wonderful, walkable city, I'm becoming convinced that the biggest threat to my safety as a pedestrian does not come from aggressive/distracted automobile drivers, but from the many reckless nitwit cyclists who routinely run red lights & stop signs, go the wrong way on one-way streets, and ride on the sidewalk — all at maximum speed of course, as if it's a birthright or something.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 10:29AM

“I don't understand the helmet issue. If people don't want to wear a helmet - who cares? Its entirely silly (and don't give me the song and dance about health care costs)”

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6. flowerlvr66 said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 10:45AM

“A cyclist/bike must follow the same rules as a car. Ride on right hand side of road, stop at stop signs & red lights & be VISIBLE!! When on trails, announce when passing others & just use common sense!!”

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7. bthny said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 10:47AM

“"The northbound bike lane will head down 13th Street, passing through the Gayborhood and the Marcie Turney-Valerie Safran restaurant empire, across Market and through the northern tip of Chinatown just above Reading Terminal Market, discontinuing up past the Standard Tap on Second Street."

That's an...interesting sense of geography.

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8. Anonymous said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 11:44AM

“I don't understand why this article doesn't mention sidewalks. I see more and more cyclists on sidewalks, even on streets with large dedicated bike lanes. Riding bikes on streets is for suckers.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 12:03PM

“The article doesn't mention sidewalks because riding on the sidewalk, if you're over 12 years old, is illegal. The police are now giving tickets to bikers who do that.”

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10. brendancalling said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 12:03PM

“@not a bike hater: I'm in NYC pretty much every other weekend, and so i get to see what bike culture is like in other cities. Speaking as a bicyclist AND a driver, Philadelphians have NO IDEA how good they have it, and how well-behaved our bicyclists are. Yeah, we have some bad apples, but in comparison to the anarchy I see on NY streets, we oughta have halos over our heads”

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11. A F said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 12:17PM

“"Baltimore avenue, the main drag of queer, anarchist, vegan, and crusty west philly" How about poly cultural, multi ethnic, creatively saturated, and open minded?? Its ok though people like you keep my rent cheap. suprised you didn't write "where the black people live"”

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12. cyclist said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 01:06PM

“I LOVE the bike lanes on Spruce and Pine, but I challenge any cyclist to ride for a few minutes and not have to swerve into the traffic lane because there is a car parked in the bike lane. Especially on Sundays. What I have reverted to doing is spitting on the cars that are parked in the bike line. One one particular occasion, I smashed the car's side mirror with my U-lock. This is not some pent-up adolescent aggression, but a calculated strategy to convince cars not to park in a bike lane. Cops don't ticket enough, so the next step of deterrence can come from the cyclists themselves. How many people would park in a bike lane if every time they did, their mirrors were smashed. This would solve the problem in a hurry. I urge all cyclists to join me in the crusade to clean up Philly's bike lanes.”

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13. Nicholas said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 01:17PM

“@cyclist I'm a cyclist too and use Pine/Spruce a lot. Hate to say it because I know it's frustrating, but cars are allowed to load/unload in bike lanes. They can't PARK, but they can load/unload with flashers. It's legal. Reasoning is that moving temporary stopping to the bike lane keeps the single lane of car traffic unobstructed. And it's much safer for bicycles to cut into the car lane, than cars to cut into the bike lane. So I'd advise you not to get too righteous with that U-lock.”

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14. Katherine said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 01:56PM

“I think bike lanes are wonderful and use them frequently, and while it's annoying when cars are parked there, it's not a slight against cyclists. Drivers are stupid and selfish to other drivers, too, and it's a bit over-the-top to expect that cars will be more considerate to bike lanes than they are to regular lanes. Cars block and park in inappropriate places all the time -- cyclists need to be more like drivers and just deal with it.”

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15. Emily said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 03:23PM

“Pennypack Park anyone? Yeah they might have had a few rabid beavers, but that is by far my favorite place to bike in the city. You can't beat miles of a smooth, gently hilly trail that follows along a beautiful creek and feeds into a family-friendly picturesque park on the Delaware River. I am disappointed in PW for forgetting one of the Philadelphia's true gems.”

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16. Anonymous said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 03:59PM

“I have had many near misses with cyclists being a pedestrian, and in my car it's like a video game. Cyclists flying out from every direction, they don't stop at red lights or stop signs, and they get mad at ME when they are the ones not obeying any traffic laws or any kind of basic road or sidewalk courtesy. I can't swivel my head 360 degrees to see where they are going to pop out next.

It was bound to happen. I was driving down a narrow cobblestone street with a stop sign at the end. I pulled forward to look at the one way oncoming traffic. A cyclist, riding on the sidewalk, against oncoming traffic, flew into the intersection and I knocked her off her bike because the traffic had cleared and I could proceed.

Thank goodness she was not hurt and her bike was fine except for some misalignment in the handlebars. I never saw her.

We all need to be more careful out there!

PS. Smashing side view mirrors is despicable, by the way.”

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17. Andrew said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 06:56PM

“It certainly is more difficult to drive when people are riding bicycles quickly on the sidewalk. One of the problems we have is that hitting people with a car isn't particularly illegal, and certainly is never punished with substantial fines or jail time. So when people don't spend the kind of attention that's required to safely operate a massive car in the complex environment of a city, and they then inevitably hit a jogger or a person on a bicycle, they say 'it's bound to happen', rather than going to jail.”

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18. Anonymous said... on Jun 15, 2011 at 08:43PM

“Going to jail? That's a little harsh. It's called an accident for a reason. No one is intentionally hitting people, whether they are on a bike and hit a pedestrian or in a car and hit a cyclist. Plus the cyclist is at fault here. Not on a bike path, going against traffic on a sidewalk and not stopping to look when approaching an intersection.”

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19. sonja said... on Jun 16, 2011 at 09:54AM

“I don't even like bike lanes! I think this is a experienced biker v baby biker issue. Bike lanes are GHETTOs. Once a place is made for you, you're not allowed any other place. When I get in the left lane because I'm about to turn left, cars yell at me, "get in the bike lane." Also, bike lanes are placed at the most dangerous part of the street. I want to ride in the middle of the left lane. I'm a vehicle. For big fast streets, like broad street where even the left lane is going more than 20 mph, they should put the bike lane in the middle of the street, where the left turn lane is. Bikes can share w left turners. They can take out the useless medians.”

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20. kelvyn said... on Jun 16, 2011 at 03:36PM

“I've been a daily bike commuter for about a decade now and I think a lot of the conflicts we see on the road are a combination of a bike riders experience (or lack thereof) and (in)tolerance. My approach is similar to Sonja's but I like the bike lanes -- when they work well. For most of my ride to work from West Philly along Spring Garden, the bike lanes are cool, but as Sonja notes, you inevitably get to a point where you need to move out of the lane and hang with car traffic. Broad & Spring Garden is a good example, with the food trucks and construction, the bike lane eastbound is useless. Learn to ride off the saddle for visibility and maneuverability, and be forgiving to other commuters, if they're on foot, biking or in a car. I think spitting on someone's car cause they got in your way is stupid and potentially fatal. Smile and move on, it'll keep the ulcers away.”

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21. Anonymous said... on Jun 16, 2011 at 09:01PM

“@not a bike hater, but...: the number one danger on my daily 10 mile RT commute into CC is pedestrians, not cars. Pedestrians walk out into the bike lane to wait for the light, forcing me to brake suddenly or swerve into the path of cars, walk out in front of me because they have no ability to judge speed or are texting and relying on their ears rather than their eyes, or have an entitled attitude about wandering into traffic because walking is a birthright or something. I don't do any of the things you describe and I still have close calls with pedestrians because of their behavior multiple times a week. Pedestrians and cyclists actually have much in common but we are never going to be able to make common cause until pedestrians start to behave responsibly and not blame others for near-accidents they cause. And if you are the single solitary person in CC who actually waits on the sidewalk for the light to turn green and never jaywalks, I apologize for maligning you.”

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22. @harveymilk said... on Jun 17, 2011 at 07:26AM

“How funny that "Manayunk" autocorrected to "Manhunt" in the description of the Schuylkill River Trail...”

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23. Mike said... on Jun 17, 2011 at 08:03AM

“Who's the hot dude on the cover? And can you give him my phone number?”

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24. Louis said... on Jun 17, 2011 at 03:18PM

“Add Washington Ave bike lanes to WORST.
I'd rather ride down Carpenter or any other sleepy side street during rush hour than play chicken with fork lifts while skidding through spilled gravel, and construction debris.”

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25. Anonymous said... on Jun 17, 2011 at 03:38PM

“Henry Ave should be listed in the worst column. It looks like it would be great, but there is so much debris in the bike lane, traffic moves ridiculously fast and the bike lane just ends so suddenly.”

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26. Anonymous said... on Jun 17, 2011 at 08:15PM

“Obviously, the author has never tried biking on Germantown Ave: no shoulder, SEPTA buses, trolley rails, and (oh yeah!) cobble stones.”

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27. Jean said... on Jun 20, 2011 at 01:46PM

“What about the Wissahickon? A long stretch of beautiful trail that connects Ridge Avenue to the far northern border of the city. In terms of the conflicts between those of us on bikes, on foot or in cars, in Philly, there is more than enough rudeness to go around. No one group behaves well all of the time. One thing that would make bike riding much safer is that runners and walker (or roller bladers) with both ears plugged with music cannot hear polite requests to move over on the sidewalk (i.e. on the river drives), veer into the middle of the sidewalk and then are angry when startled by a passing bike. Leave one ear open to know what is happening around you, everyone. You and everyone else will be much safer.”

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28. Anonymous said... on Jun 21, 2011 at 10:43AM

“Only good thing about this article is that the author's reference to Manayunk as "Manhunt". It makes me laugh.

Everything else in the article is pathetic The bicycle coalition is destroying the allure of cycling by demanding all these silly bike lanes and rules.
I like those who yell to me "where's your helmet" while they are smoking cigarettes and jaywalking at the same time.”

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29. MKK said... on Jun 21, 2011 at 10:50AM

“Its unfortunate this article and the author, along with bike lanes, Bicycle Coalition encourages that biking is dangerous, when in fact it really is not dangerous at all. Riding a bike is tremendous fun, but along with that one should learn how to navigate potholes, trolley tracks, open car doors, a car turning into you without seeing you, etc. utilize your senses. Accidents happen. People drive recklessly, open a car door on you. And to dsicourage people from riding Delaware Av, Girard, Baltimore Av and many other places just because the shoulder is unequal or there are trolley tracks or big warehouse businesses? Unfortunately bike lanes give riders a false sense of security and entitlement. And the silly hlmet comments! Philadelphia is one of the easiest places to ride a bike in and a great place to ride. It just seems that the author and a lot of people want to make it into this candyland fantasy place where there would be no car doors open, no potoles, not in my bike lane!”

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30. david sylvester said... on Jun 21, 2011 at 11:01AM

“Pls review my bike book “Traveling at the Speed of Life”? on 9/11 I lost Philadelphian Kevin Bowser and bicycled North America, Washington state- Philly- to honor him in ‘02 and bicycled Africa, Cairo -Cape Town, ‘04. My North American trip took me to the edge of what I believed possible- Africa pushed me completely over.

I planned to pedal S A- Columbia to Argentina- but was stopped when a DUI hit and injured me. But my trips had steeled my will- I was bicycling Asia- Istanbul to Beijing- in ‘07.

ESPN contacted me and my words- story garnered two million hits. I was so touched that I wanted to do more but something a different and bicycled NA again -San Diego to NYC- in ‘08 with weekly charitable stops.

I wrote ‘Traveling at the Speed of Life’- a book about how the simple acts, meetings and things that I’ve encountered around the globe have touched me. GO TO AMAZON - after a decade of tumult people need a good story about a man searching for hugs, smiles, high5’s.”

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31. Anonymous said... on Jun 24, 2011 at 12:45PM

“PW, why do you hate on West Philly so much? Here we're all "crusty" and in your review of Desi Chaat House you described a neighborhood with beautiful old houses and a vibrant culture as some kind of backwoods.

But I do agree, Baltimore Ave is a nightmare to bike. I've got a nice big scar on my leg from when a car pulled out of a parking space right in front of me and made me swerve straight into the trolley tracks. Tires hit the tracks and I skidded about five feet down the street. Jerk didn't even see if I was OK.

Really, though, show some West Philly some love. We're one of the most vibrant and diverse parts of the city and you just perpetuate the perception that no one in their right mind should ever dare go west of Penn.”

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32. Paul said... on Jun 29, 2011 at 09:09AM

“Whenever i hear the motorist/cyclist/pedestriest argument my mind always settles on this poem
"The Drunken Driver Has the Right Of Way"
By Ethan Coen

The loudest have the final say,
The wanton win, the rash hold sway,
The realist's rules of order say
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The Kubla Khan can butt in line;
The biggest brute can take what's mine;
When heavyweights break wind, that's fine;
No matter what a judge might say
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The guiltiest feel free of guilt;
Who care not bloom; who worry, wilt;
Plans laid better are rarely built
For forethought seldom rules the day;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The most attentive and unfailing
Attentiveness if unavailing
Wheresoever fools are flailing;
Wisdom there is held at bay;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

De jure is de facto's slave;
The most foolhardy beat the brave;
Brass routs restraint; low lies high's grave;
When conscience leads you”

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33. Anonymous said... on Jul 20, 2011 at 06:09PM

“The bike lanes are going to be the straw that broke the camel's back for me and my family. I have two young kids and biking is just not practical. The Spruce Street bike lane added significant time from my work (Jefferson) to my kids across town. Now, the bike lane on 10th street not only doubles that time, but I am losing patients because of it. The biggest gripe about coming to Jefferson was getting there and parking, and in the last week it's been horrendous. I have not seen gridlock like this in the twenty years that I've lived in Philadelphia. Suburbs here I come!”

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34. Greg LeMond's Mom said... on Jul 27, 2011 at 10:25AM

“I'm ok with breaking mirrors and spitting on cars parked in the bike lane as long as I can stick my broom handle through your spokes as you ride on my pavement. If you prefer, I could "clothes line" you off your Trek with my forearm. Philly schools are literally falling apart and these numbnuts (intentional pun) want funding so that they can get from river to river without breaking a sweat.”

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35. Anonymous said... on Aug 3, 2011 at 08:56AM

“If the one page spread that was important enough to have one of the only cover lines you'd think someone would have spent more time with it, let alone gave it more space to be a real article to be featured on the cover.

In citing the north/south bike lanes your writer mentions the lane going up 13th street thru Chinatown, and Reading Terminal, Really? How about under the huge new addition to the convention center? Did anyone actually ride the bike lanes before writing this story? And discontinuing at second street to Standard Tap. Who checks this stuff? Or who is paying you guys to mention establishments in the city that have no relation to the stories you write.

"Manhunt" where is this place? Your staff is embarrassing itself for not reading and properly spelling areas they are reporting on.

The whole thing begs to be revisited again, especially since it was a cover story. Total fail guys, really. Birdcage bound for your paper, maybe all the time.”

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36. mazin said... on Sep 13, 2011 at 02:36PM

visit the best bicycle store online where you will find the best bicycles at the best cheapest prices!”

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37. mazin said... on Sep 13, 2011 at 02:36PM

visit the best bicycle store online where you will find the best bicycles at the best cheapest prices!”

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38. Spencer said... on Dec 19, 2012 at 12:42PM

“To those who have complained that the bike lanes have had a negative impact on your automobile commute time...I am glad – this will go a long way to discourage people from driving around CC and encourage walking and public transit. Philadelphia truly has a small downtown, and unless you are commuting from a suburb without any access to transit, or carpooling with a full car of people, I see no excuse for daily driving.”

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39. mikebike said... on May 21, 2014 at 06:42PM

“Anytime you see a vehicle illegally blocking the bike lane or a cab using a bike lane, call 911, the PPA, or the media. You might think it won't make a difference, but eventually the city will get sick of hearing complaints and dispatch their collection crews to generate more revenue. When riding the bike lanes on Chestnut and Walnut, prevent cars and cabs from using the bike lane by slowing in front of them (not during rush hour). Some cyclist will have to become marters to bring awareness to the issue. If enough cyclist get hurt, the city will have to do something. Follow the rules of the rode and pray. If you have the resources, invest in a helmet cam, that way you can prove who was at fault, if anything you can use it to record your last words. Remember, if you want to pick a fight as a cyclist , YOU WILL LOSE. Wear a helmet. If you are a cyclist you know you have broken the law at some point, we all do. Wait for green even if you feel like a idiot, set an example.”

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40. carlos said... on Oct 29, 2014 at 07:57AM

“Most ppl I know mildly vandalize the cars and it seems to get the message across, I haven't actually done this as I also drive and I don't park in the lanes but just saying”

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41. Anonymous said... on Feb 27, 2015 at 11:38PM

“Trader Joe's on N. 22nd St has it's parking team appropriate the bike line on a regular ongoing basis to queue cars turning into their parking lot. On Friday, evening about 6pm, January 23, 2015, I was on foot and saw a commuter cyclist swerve out into rush hour traffic while coming across Market St be because the bike lane was clogged. All I could think of was some cyclist is going to get killed. I cleared the PUBLIC bike lane much to the displeasure of Trader Joe's staff who claimed that I was harrassing THEIR customers. I asked why they didn't keep the bike lane clear themselves then suddenly they have no authority because the streets are public! Trader Joe's staff stated they were calling the Police, I said Good call them to clear this bike lane. The police came at the behest of Trader Joe's to 302 me. I was drugged & involuntarily commited for 3 days in Pennsylvania Hospital. While in 4 point key-locked restraints, I was told that they could not call my lawyer! 215.253.2134”

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42. Pasquale said... on May 20, 2015 at 02:21PM

“The posting space seems to have become a venting ground for angry bicyclists/drivers/pedestrians. Well, I am all 3 and I'd like to bring a little calm sanity to the discussion with these helpful tips:
Biker: please signal! yes, you can raise a right or left arm before turning, it's easy! And while you can safely pass signals and stop signs if going slow enough, always yield! And watch for other bikers!
It is illegal and dangerous to ride on sidewalks, but if you must on occasion do it slowly! and yield!
Car drivers: pay attention! pay attention! pay attention! Look before opening your car door. ALWAYS SIGNAL when turning! If you are so concerned with bikers following the rules, how about you stop speeding and give us 4 feet of clearance as is required under PA law?
Pedestrians: pay attention. Look both ways before crossing and cross at the corner. Many of you are LISTENING for cars and can't hear bikers.”


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