Last week the League Of American Bicyclists announced its latest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities and Philadelphia was upgraded to Silver status, making it only one of three cities over 1 million people to reach that level (Chicago and New York). Philadelphia had been awarded Bronze level in 2009.
Philadelphia's routine installation of bike lanes between 1995-2006 was not enough for the city to earn a bicycle friendly community status. Philly received an honorable mention in 2006. Philly broke through to Bronze level in 2009 on the merit of its encouragement activities - a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator was on the job, a new bike parking ordinance was passed, the Bicycle Ambassadors program was starting up, and a complete streets executive order was put out by the Mayor.
What changed between 2009 and 2012 to warrant the bump to silver? We've rolled out more innovative bicycle facilities, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian staff has increased from one to four City Employees, bicycle parking has expanded, and the City's Health Department continues to support our Safe Routes Philly education program. These measures warranted a Silver rating and none of this would have been possible without the Bicycle Coalition advocating for change and partnering with the City.
Perhaps most importantly for people on bicycles, the award came with a list of recommendations to further improve bicycling. The recommendations, sent to the City, include implementing bike sharing, encouraging employee shower facilities (there is already a petition for city employees), increased training for law enforcement officers, and creating bicycle friendly streets and protected bikeways.
Philadelphia is still well behind cities such as Boulder and Portland, who have been awarded Platinum status. However, even those cities are below the standards set by Northern European cities, which is why the BFC program has created a new top level: Diamond (it is unclear if the recently discovered planet-sized diamond will diminish the sheen on this new level). So there is still much room for improvement here in town.
Lastly, congratulations to Ocean City, NJ for earning a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community award, and to Princeton University for its Bronze Bicycle Friendly University award (did you hear that Penn?).