Nowhere to Ride: Bike Lane Issues in Philadelphia

December 5, 2016

Those of us who call the City of Brotherly Love home like to think of it as a modern metropolis on par with other great cities. Of course, it does boast amazing history, world-class museums, prestigious institutions of higher learning, beloved professional sports teams, and much more, but until September, it was the largest U.S. city without protected bike lanes. Is it really unreasonable to expect safer roadway initiatives in the fifth-most populous U.S. city?

Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney doesn’t think so. He has vowed to add 30 miles of protected bike lanes during his time in office, beginning this fall with a mile-long, two-way lane on Ryan Avenue between Rowland and Lexington Avenues in the Northeast Philly’s Mayfair section. The lanes run along Abraham Lincoln High School, Austin Meehan Middle School, and Pennypack Park. Using funds from the federal Transportation Alternative Program, the Philadelphia Streets Department has plans to phase in new protected and buffered bike lanes on roads across the city. Protected lanes use plastic delineator posts to separate vehicle traffic from bicyclists, while buffered lanes offer a wider pathway with bright paint to alert drivers of the separation. In some places, streets may be reconfigured to add a parking lane between biking and driving lanes.

Proposed areas for new lanes or upgrades include:

  • 30th Street
  • Lindbergh Boulevard
  • Lombard Street/South Street
  • North 33rd Street
  • Parkside Avenue
  • Passyunk Avenue/Oregon Avenue
  • Race Street
  • Spruce Street/Pine Street
  • Torresdale/Frankford Avenue
  • Walnut Street.

The bike lanes reduce the number of conflict points between all the categories of people using the streets, improving protection for bikers and pedestrians, and reducing congestion for motorists. New York City saw a 20 percent drop in total injuries where protected bike lanes were installed. Last year, Philadelphia had its highest total of traffic crashes in five years and nine bicyclist fatalities. There have been more than 1,500 bike crashes here since 2014, spiking to an average of 80 per month beginning in June. That number continued to rise until September when the average number of bicycle-involved crashes peaked at 95. No statistic can truly reflect the devastation that results from a serious injury or fatality caused by a bicycle/motor vehicle accident. Anything that can be done to make it easier to share the road safely is worth considering.

Riding a bike is risky enough without the added danger of feeling there is no safe place to ride. If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident, are the survivor of a bicyclist who was killed by a negligent driver, or have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of our attorneys.