(One of our Student Professional Workers, Jose Tchopourian, took a trip to the Northeast during his Spring Break from UCLA. In this post he shares his experience getting around by bicycle during his visit to three East Coast cities.)
The Northeastern United States may not be the most popular Spring Break destination for folks trying to avoid winter weather, however I decided to take on the challenge. Over the course of a week, my wife and I explored Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. on two wheels.
Chillin’ in Philly
Our first stop on this journey was Philadelphia. Our home base was the Fishtown neighborhood, located three miles northeast of the Center City and walking distance to cafes, restaurants, and the Girard MFL Subway Station. We explored the city on foot, by bike, and on transit. The compact footprint allowed us to visit multiple neighborhoods, but also destinations such as City Hall, Reding Terminal Market, Barnes Foundation, Schuylkill River Trail, South Philadelphia’s scenic architecture, and many more cultural and historic institutions.
Although temperatures were below freezing, us two Angelenos managed to tough it out by traveling via trains and buses into the Center City and walking and biking between the many attractions. We found that pedestrian-oriented facilities are common around the Central City. Ample sidewalks and crosswalks, benches and trees, street lighting, squares and parks, and river banks create a pleasant walking environment. We found that bike facilities vary and include off-street bike paths along the rivers, on-street facilities such as buffered bike lanes, sharrowed routes, and streets without markings. Philadelphia’s narrow streets in the urban core facilitate transportation on bike and foot due to low motor-vehicles speeds and volumes.
For all these reasons, Philadelphia is in the top-tier of bicycle commuting cities in the nation. Bicycle mode share is 2.3%, compared to 0.6% nationally. Notably, the share of women bicycle commuters is 33%, compared to 24% nationally. With the arrival of a bike share program later this year, the city will most likely maintain its lead and continue growing.
New York Citi
New York City, my former residence, is just two hours away from Philadelphia by bus. Upon arrival, we were received with a light snow fall that continued until midnight. Our destination was Fort Green, Brooklyn, just off the Lafayette Subway Station serving the A and C subway lines.
Once most of the snow had melted, my friend and I left Fort Green on bike headed towards Manhattan. Our route included a variety of bike facilities such as on-street protected bike lanes (Sand Street), bike lanes (6th Ave), off-street bike paths (Central Park Loop), and bridges (Manhattan Bridge Bikeway). Some of the attractions we encountered along the way included the Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Washington Square Arch, Union Square Park, New York Public Library, Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, East Harlem, and the Roosevelt Island Tram.
With the sheer number of people who inhabit the city, it has the largest number of bicyclists on streets with Los Angeles coming in second. A 2013 Report by the League of American Bicyclists shows that: 1) 46,065 people rode bikes in NYC in 2013, and 2) 1.2% of total commutes are undertaken by bicycle. Since then, Citi Bike has launched. New York City’s bike share system provides an alternative option for those looking to use a bike for a short time, either for commuting or recreational purposes. Like in Los Angeles, distances in NYC seem longer due to the size of the region. Providing a robust and safe network could allow more commuters to choose bicycling over other alternatives such as transit or walking. Finally, we found NYC’s transportation options abundant and reliable for people living car-free.
Birthplace of our nation’s bike share: Washington D.C.
Washington, D.C., a city of about 658,893 residents with a land area of approximately 61.5 square miles, is home to many of our federal buildings but also Capital Bikeshare, the nation’s first bike share system. With over 2,500 bikes and 300 stations, bike share is an affordable and easy way to travel in our capital.
Neighboring the Capitol Building, the Shaw neighborhood offered us plenty of cafes and restaurants but also a number bike share stations and two metro stations, walking distance from our front door. With this many transportation options, D.C. proved to be a friendly city for visitors like us traveling by foot, bicycle, and transit. Our favorite places in D.C.’s included Union Station, U Street, D City Smokehouse, Union Market, Meridian Hill Park, Right Proper Brewing Company, all accessible by bicycle and transit.
Among the 70 largest U.S. cities with the highest share of bicycle commuting, D.C. ranks second at 4.5%, (only after Portland, OR, 5.9%) (League of American Bicyclists, 2014). D.C.’s increase in bicycling in the last years has largely resulted from the construction of more bikeways and Capital Bikeshare’s success in making bicycles more accessible to residents and visitors. Like in Philadelphia and NYC, D.C. has various trails along rivers and creeks, allowing people to enjoy natural areas on two wheels. A number of on-street facilities such as protected bike lanes, sharrowed routes, and signed routes shape the landscape of the city.
Riding bicycles in the 30 degree temperatures wasn’t easy, but we had a great time! Our trip also made us extremely grateful to live in Los Angeles, the perfect place to ride a bike. The dry, mild weather requires little additional preparation, other than a smile. Hope to see you on the road!
For additional information on bicycling in Los Angeles and where to get started, please visit our website.