First Section of Delaware River Waterfront Bike and Pedestrian Trail Now Open

“We’ve raised the bar for Philadelphia by providing a world-class amenity for bikers and pedestrians." - Mayor Michael Nutter

Rendering of trail facing south from aboveThe Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) is hard at work reintroducing city residents to a long lost friend -- The Delaware River. With support from Michael Nutter and government officials, DRWC emerged in 2009 with the fundamental purpose of designing, developing and managing Philly’s Delaware River waterfront. The Corporation’s work focuses on implementing their Master Plan for the Central Delaware, a blueprint for transforming Philly’s underutilized waterfront into a vibrant destination for recreational, cultural and commercial activities.

Rendering of trail facing north at grade

Unlike most urban design documents, the DRWC’s Master Plan is actually being implemented. On the morning of June 17, Mayor Nutter and the DRWC officially opened the first segment of the master bike and pedestrian trail, which runs 1400 linear feet from Spring Garden to Ellen Street in Northern Liberties. It incorporates streetscape improvements that will be used for the entire waterfront master plan, including rain gardens that collect the first inch of stormwater, benches and bike racks, decorative street pavers and innovative solar trail lighting.

The finished waterfront trail will eventually run from Oregon Avenue to Allegheny Avenue. The new trails will link cyclists to the East Coast Greenway and the Circuit, two crucial bicycle connections currently serving city cyclists. DRWC’s trails will also link the cycling community to the recently approved plans for a major bike corridor along Spring Garden. This corridor will link cyclists using DRWC’s trails to the Schuylkill River trail system.

The Master Plan for the Central Delaware will take several years to complete. The good news however is that the master trail system is moving forward, expanding our city’s bicycle infrastructure just in time for Philly’s Bike Share Program in 2014. And while it may be a few more years before Philadelphia can join the likes of Chicago and Copenhagen by offering its residents a swimmable urban waterway, we can at least look forward to cruising and strolling along the Delaware’s post-industrial banks.   


Andrew Schlesinger is a passionate environmental thinker and designer. He can be contacted at