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Photo courtesy Bike Philly via Uwishunu

The easiest, safest and most scenic bike commutes to and from Center City

Getting in and out of Center City on a bike during rush hour can be tricky (and scary). Check out these suggested routes and share your own.

Figuring out your favorite bike route in and out of Center City is like moving. It’s a never-ending process that’s constantly evolving, and is usually something that feels like it should be easier than it is.

Getting into and out of the middle of the city during rush hour can be a tricky game of sorts. Between dodging potholes, avoiding heavy traffic and searching for streets with decent bike lanes, the search for a favorite route is about more than convenience — it’s about safety and finding a space where you feel most comfortable.

So we reached out to some people in the city who routinely cycle in and out of Center City from neighborhoods within four miles, and mapped routes here (while also referencing the handy maps made by both the city and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.) A caveat: Not everyone agrees on the best routes to take, and the circumstances are ever-changing as construction projects take place. All we recommend: Try them out!

West Philly (University City area) to Center City

Tips

  • Try taking Chestnut Street east. The bike lane starts at 34th Street and you can continue along there across the bridge. Be careful: The bike lane ends at 23rd Street, but there is a right lane that is *supposed* to be for bikes and buses only.
  • From there, you have several choices of ways to make your way east. You can take 21st Street south to the wonderful Pine Street bike lane and then take that east.
  • Need to get to Market Street or north? Take 13th from farther south. One of the best streets for cyclists in Center City.

Center City to West Philly (University City area)

Tips

  • Try heading back on Spruce or Lombard and back over the South Street bridge.
  • If you have to go north from there, it’s worth trying out the Schuylkill River Trail.
  • Another cyclist recommended taking the Spruce Street bike lane west, taking either 22nd Street or 20th Street north. (Right now, 20th Street might be your best bet because of construction on 22nd.) Take a left on Walnut and hop in the bike lane that starts at 22nd. Ride it over the bridge and take your pick the rest of the way.

West Philly (Cedar Park area) to Center City

Tips

  • Try taking Spruce Street east and then riding over the South Street bridge. Lots of cyclists we spoke with say they prefer the South Street bridge — especially compared to the Grays Ferry bridge, where there can be broken glass lining the road and cars zipping by.
  • A note about Spruce: Watch out for delivery trucks and potholes. Sometimes it’s easier to just take Lombard, though there’s no bike lane.
  • Once you cross the South Street bridge, you can make your way east a number of ways. Again, Pine Street is one of our favorites. You can take 22nd Street north to Pine, cruise on east and then zip north on 13th Street.

Center City to West Philly (Cedar Park area)

Tips

  • Take the Grays Ferry bridge over if you dare, but most recommend riding north on 20th or 22nd Street to get to South Street and take the bridge west.
  • If you’re taking Spruce Street, instead of going north to get to Walnut, you can also try taking 23rd Street south to Lombard and following that to the South Street bridge to make your way west.

Fishtown/ No Libs/ East Kensington to Center City

Tips

  • If you live in the eastern portion of this area, it’s worth taking Delaware Avenue south to Spring Garden Street where there are bike lanes, then making your way west from there.
  • You can also try heading south toward Spring Garden via Sixth Street, but be careful: If you take Sixth Street past Spring Garden, the bike lane cuts across an exit from 676 just south of Callowhill Street. And it’s completely terrifying.
  • There are few super safe ways to get from Spring Garden south into Center City, and we’d really recommend avoiding 15th Street, especially during rush hour when cars can get crazy. One of our favorite ways to get south is 10th Street. The traffic in Chinatown can be tough, but there’s far less traffic than you’ll encounter elsewhere.
  • But if fighting Center City traffic to go west from 10th doesn’t sound like an ideal morning, give Broad Street a try. There’s usually enough room in the right lane to maintain a consistent speed, and cars move slowly enough south of Vine that biking is the fastest way to go.

Center City to Fishtown/ No Libs/ East Kensington

Tips

  • If you’re going north anywhere east of Broad Street, 13th Street is one of our favorite ways to get north.
  • Try taking 13th Street to Spring Garden from there and heading farther east. Left turns off Spring Garden can be tricky, so be mindful of that. Or take 13th farther north through Yorktown before heading east.
  • If you’re heading to Fishtown or Northern Liberties, Third Street is an option to take north from Spring Garden but be careful — there isn’t a bike lane, and construction in the area is making the street treacherous. It’s never a bad idea to take Spring Garden all the way to Delaware Avenue; the bike lanes north of that intersection are usually in good shape.

Fairmount/ Art Museum area to Center City

Tips

  • Live in the Art Museum area? Try taking the Schuylkill River Trail south to Locust Street and cutting over that way. Things might get dicey around Rittenhouse Square, but you can cut north or south from there.
  • If you live on the east side of Fairmount, we’d recommend taking Spring Garden east and then riding south from there.

Center City to Fairmount/ Art Museum area

Tips

  • If you’re going to the Fairmount area, we’d recommend taking 13th Street north to Spring Garden Street, then heading north on 22nd Street from there.
  • If you’re farther south in Center City, you can also try heading west toward the Schuylkill River Trail area and riding that up toward the Art Museum, then cutting northeast from there.

Brewerytown to Center City

Tips

  • A cyclist who lives in Brewerytown tells us her favorite route is heading south on 29th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue where there’s a bike lane, then cutting behind the Rodin Museum to get to 21st Street.
  • From there, try heading south on 21st Street to get to the Parkway, then take Race Street to 15th.
  • An even safer route with more bike lanes would be to take Pennsylvania Avenue then head east on Spring Garden to 17th Street. From there, you can go to Race Street and then 15th.

Center City to Brewerytown

Tips

  • Head north on 13th Street from Center City to Spring Garden. Travel west until you get to Pennsylvania Avenue, and then take that to 27th Street, which you can ride north. It’s not ideal, but you’ll avoid trolley tracks.

South Philly (East of Broad) to Center City

Tips

  • We think it’s best to head north on either Third Street or Fifth Street, especially if you’re coming from the Pennsport area. From there, you can cut west on Spruce Street and then head north on 13th Street.
  • If you’re in the Bella Vista/ Italian Market/ East Passyunk, we’d recommend taking 13th Street all the way north and using Pine Street, Spruce Street, Walnut and Chestnut to cut east or west, depending on your final destination.
  • Avoid taking Ninth Street north. Biking through the Italian Market — unless you’re doing it purposefully for people watching — can be tough.

Center City to South Philly (East of Broad)

Tips

  • We’d recommend taking 10th Street south from Center City. You can also take Sixth Street, but the bike lane cuts out south of Chestnut.

South Philly (West of Broad) to Center City

Tips

  • Try taking 22nd Street north. From there, you certainly can take Washington Avenue east. There’s a bike lane, but sometimes it more closely resembles a parking lot.
  • We think cutting east on Pine Street from 22nd Street is a much safer option, and the traffic on Pine Street can be easier to navigate than that on Washington Avenue, even when the bike lane is blocked.

Center City to South Philly (West of Broad)

Tips

  • Similar to how we recommend getting to Center City, we’d recommend taking Spruce Street west and then taking 21st Street south.

To and from Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill

Tips

  • Taking the Wissahickon and the Schuylkill River Trail to get to and from the Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill areas is one of the best rides in the city, even if it does break our four-mile rule. If this is your commute, we are jealous.
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