Bikeadelphia: Philly gets some love for its ‘bike-ability’

    First there was “walk-ability”– a score ranking neighborhoods on ease of getting around on foot.

    Now there’s “bikeability,” which does the same thing for cities, only for biking.

    It turns out Philadelphia is doing really well. A survey by the real estate information service finds Philadelphia the fourth most bike-able city in the nation.

    On a brisk December weekday, NewsWorks took to the streets of center city to find some bikers in action.

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    Headed south on 6th street, Lewis Colburn waited at a red-light to cross Arch.

    He didn’t exactly plan on being the type of person who travels exclusively by bike. When he moved to the city four years ago, he was still tethered to his car, but that changed quickly.

    “It was like August of ’09. I come down, walk outside, car’s gone,” Colburn said.

    “Two weeks later I get a call from the police. They say, ‘Hey we found your car: it’s burned in an alley.'”

    He took the theft as a sign, dusted off his bike and never looked back. Now, he commutes every day from his home in Kensington to his job on South Broad St.

    “There’s a straight shot down from where I am to the bike lane on Spruce,” he said.

    Those bike lanes have a lot to do with how a city’s bikeability is judged by Walkscore.

    For biking, they synthesize four criteria:

    “We look at the nearby bike lanes,” said Matt Lerner, walkscore’s co-founder. “We look at whether it’s hilly or flat. We look at how much stuff there is to ride to, and we look at how many other bike commuters there are.”

    A flat city with a lot of bike lanes, bikers and attractions will score high.

    Based on these criteria, Philadelphia scored 68 out of 100 – tying with Boston for fourth best in the nation.

    Minneapolis was the number one bike city, followed by Portland and San Francisco.

    Philly ranked fifth for walkability.

    Split opinion

    Not everybody is celebrating Philly’s biking clout. Claire Luebbert is a cycling die-hard, but hears complaints from others.

    “Like, even my mom’ll be like, ‘you guys are so annoying,'” she said.

    Muhammed Imran can relate to that sentiment. He’s a taxi driver who wishes bikers would just stick to the sidewalks.

    “Doesn’t matter if you drive a private vehicle or you drive a commercial vehicle, the bike lane bothers you,” said the Pakistani native.

    Bother some though it may, it appears biking is here to stay.

    The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia estimates that the number of bike commuters jumped more than 75 percent in the last twenty years.

    Just two weeks ago, Mayor Nutter proposed a citywide bike share that would add 1,200 bikes by 2015.

    Aaron Papalka, a mechanic at “Bicycle Revolutions” in south Philadelphia, thinks harmony between bikers and drivers can be achieved.

    “For the most part I find that if people are just courteous on the bike, people are, for the most part, courteous in the car,” he said.

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