Our History

Opening Ceremonies, Walnut St Bridge, Philadelphia, Oct 25, 1990

A 1990 Coalition-organized “die in” to protest the lack of a bicycle lane on the rebuilt Walnut Street Bridge.

In 1972, the “Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition” was founded in a bar. The founding members, John Dowlin, Bob Thomas, Al Hirsch, and Gihon Jordan, met for a time on the second Monday of each month in the back room of J. Mulligan’s, a pub in Amtrak’s 30th Street Station.

The Coalition changed its name several times during the 70’s and 80’s while it spent the bulk of its efforts on preserving bicyclists’ rights on roads, bridges, and on transit. Our work during this time produced some notable victories, impressive for the small and volunteer-run organization of that era.

In the 1990’s the “Bicycle Coalition of the Delaware Valley,” as we were called then, began to grow in size and stature across a nine county region (including and surrounding Philadelphia) along the Delaware River valley in PA and NJ. From 1990 to 1993 our membership rose from below 200 to more than 1,500. The Coalition was instrumental in securing millions of dollars in funding for bicycle infrastructure in Greater Philadelphia. Despite these achievements, civil disobedience still played a part in the Coalition’s activities (see photo above).

At the close of the century, the Bicycle Coalition had three staff and a part-time bookkeeper. In 1999, our “Youth Cycle & Recycle” program was spun off as an independent nonprofit, now called Neighborhood Bike Works.

In 2002 the organization changed its name to the “Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia” and, over the following decade, the work of the Coalition expanded rapidly to support this region’s burgeoning bicycling community. Representing this community remains at the core of our efforts. In 2015, we spearheaded the work to familiarize Philadelphia with the concepts of Vision Zero and its stated goal of eliminating traffic deaths. We maintain ceaseless advocacy for improved cycling infrastructure across the Delaware Valley, with its accompanying benefits to pedestrians and vehicle users alike.

In 2013, the Bicycle Coalition Youth Cycling program became part of this organization. Originally established in 2007 by the folks who founded the Cadence Multisport Center in Manayunk, BCYC is no longer directly affiliated with the shop (although they remain a constant supporter!). In 2017, thanks to the generous contributions of Mr. Jerry Jacobs, BCYC began awarding college scholarships to deserving student-athletes of this program.

You can dive deeper into our earlier years by checking out our Cyclegram archives on Scribd.

Today, you can review our current Staff and our more notable Victories as we continue to make cycling a fun and functional transportation alternative.

If you want to learn what the future holds for bicycling in our region, check out our active Campaigns and read our Blog. And if you want to play your own part in our history, become a Member today!

A 2014 ceremony to open the Schuylkill River Trail’s bike/ped boardwalk extension. (The SRT was recognized as the #1 trail in the U.S.A., soon after.)