Biking in Philly: Then and Now

A recent report issued by the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia shows a 260 percent increase in Philly biking between 2005 and 2013. More importantly, the activity has played a crucial role in the city's local history: its importance to women’s rights, its role in moving documents and packages, and its technological evolution.

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Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia
A recent report issued by the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia shows a 260 percent increase in Philly biking between 2005 and 2013. More importantly, the activity has played a crucial role in the city's local history: its importance to women’s rights, its role in moving documents and packages, and its technological evolution.
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Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia
There was a spike in Philly biking between 2005 and 2013. No wonder the activity has had a powerful influence over the years in the city of Philadelphia, Here, three women ride bikes at the intersection of Broad and Walnut Streets in 1884. Cyclist Katie Monroe feels like the bicycle is a symbol of liberation. "You feel like you have a key to the city," she said.
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Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia
A side-by-side comparison of Philly riders. On the left, a woman rides her bike to work in 1944. On the right, Shazana Goff, bike commuter, rides her bike in 2014. As Susan B. Anthony said, "I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel … the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
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Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia
Members of the Pennsylvania Bicycle Club line up before a bike workout in Fairmount Park in 1952.
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Kimberly Paynter
Bike courier Kenny Blackwell aka "Kenny Love" enjoys a sunny day at 'the wall.' Kenny's got 30 years of courier experience and agrees there's nothing like getting around on a bike. "We can get anywhere they can't get their vehicles," he said.
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James Craig/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia
Bicyclists gather to urge officials to encourage bicycle commuting in 1977.
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Amy Huntoon/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia
Who delivered it better? Bike courier Xander Robb maneuvers through traffic in 1986. Courier Julian Root does the same in 2014.
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Housing Association of Delaware Valley Records, Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia
A biker rides along Fitzwater between 12th and 13th streets in 1911, before the eruption of motor travel.
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Emma Lee/Newsworks.org
Cars and trucks parked in the bike lanes on Spruce and Pine streets force cyclists to take risky dodges into traffic.
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Otto Prinz/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia
Charles Moreno assembles a bicycle at the Ponnock Toy Co. in Philadelphia. Bike builder Steven Bilenky remembers having to endure a three-month wait for his Ponnock bike.
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Kimberly Paynter/WHYY
Steve Bilenky began building bikes in his basement when he was six-years-old, using the money he made to buy candy. Now, he's a custom builder who owns Bilenky Cycle Works in North Philadelphia. He's seen the different trends of bikes over the years and relies on the most die hard cyclists to maintain his business. When describing his bikes he says, "It has to be made with precision, aligned, proportioned, balanced, with quality materials." Here, he assembles one in 2014.
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Kimberly Paynter/WHYY
The first bike lane wasn't painted onto streets until 1998. In 2014, city officials are debating whether to add more cycling infrastructure, such as a proposed bike lane at 22nd and Spring Garden streets.
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