Complications Hindering 22nd Street Bike Lane Extension


A few weeks ago, 22nd Street between Spring Garden Street and Fairmount Avenue was milled and prepared for resurfacing. The City’s 2012 Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan calls for a bike lane for this stretch of 22nd Street, and the Streets Department is prepared to install the bike lane. But things have gotten complicated.

For these five blocks of 22nd Street, the street gradually narrows. The street did not have lane markings before it was milled. Although some car drivers have treated the street as having two travel lanes it is not officially marked that way.

Confusion over whether cars should be traveling in one or two lanes as the street narrows over several blocks is confusing and unsafe for car drivers, buses and bicyclists. While 22nd Street is too narrow for two lanes it’s also too wide for one, and an overly wide travel lane invites aggressive drivers to drive two abreast and to speed. Streets Department engineers have often used a bike lane in this situation to absorb the excess space and clearly mark a single travel lane. It’s a great boon to bicyclist safety but is also necessary for the safety of motorists. If a bike lane were not available, traffic engineers would use something else to stripe a single, normal-width travel lane.

Councilman Bill Greenlee argues that there is neighborhood opposition to striping the street as one travel lane with a bike lane. We know that there is also neighborhood support for the bike lane, as several neighbors have expressed their support to Councilman Greenlee and Council President Darrell Clarke (then informed us that they did so).

Is the 22nd Street bike lane primarily for accommodating bicyclists or is it necessary to make the street safer for everyone, including motorists? You can make an argument for needing a demonstration of neighborhood support before adding a new amenity like a bike lane or a bike parking corral. It seems absurd to require a demonstration of neighborhood support in order for Streets Department engineers to do an essential part of their jobs and reduce crashes.

Unfortunately, none of this muddle was sorted out before the street was milled. Under a tight deadline to repave, the Streets Department may decide to repave 22nd Street and delay striping the street until the conflict can be resolved.

We will continue to advocate for the safety of all users of 22nd Street, motorists and bicyclists alike, through the addition of the bike lane. We will keep you updated on our progress.

If you live in the area and want to voice your support for the 22nd Street bike lanes, please contact Susan ( for more information.

Topics: Action Center, Biking in Philly, Featured

26 comments on “Complications Hindering 22nd Street Bike Lane Extension

  1. Marjorie Wilhite

    The corridor has typically been two lanes, excepting when one is near a SEPTA bus especially as they stop to the right, but then head left around the corner of the prison. Traffic turning right gets in the right lane and then traffic either going left or around the corner of prison typically get in the left lane. What one would probably want to do is study what the effect of one lane would be on traffic congestion from Spring Garden to Fairmount, i.e. I would suspect it would be very congested during rush hours periods and back up to the Parkway. Putting a bike lane might stem some of the ambiguity along this area, but you would have traffic headaches, too. What about making 24th St. the other way between Penn. Ave and Poplar? I sure hope this city will move toward physically separated bike lanes as I do not feel the current lanes are safe, barring ones that are painted bright green. Look to Amsterdam and Copenhagen long term. Traffic lights and fines for bikers, too.

  2. Tanya

    I bike north on 22nd from South Philly up to Fairmount and I’d love it if the bike lane continued. It’s always so ambiguous to go from structured lanes where everyone know where to be to a free-for-all wide street. I can’t see how formalizing a protected bike lane here is anything but good.

  3. Another Opinion

    Local business manager here. I’d love to see one car lane and a bike lane here, though it’s important to note that I don’t live in the neighborhood and would ultimately defer to those who do. I’ve been passed unsafely many, many times (in a car, by cars) on this stretch of 22nd. I’ve actually appreciated the rough road, because it’s encouraged people to slow down and travel in the center while navigating around manholes and such.

    • Nicholas

      Are you a business manager of a business on that stretch of 22nd Street?

      • Another Opinion

        No, there are few businesses on that stretch. Dry cleaners, cat doctor, the gas station. I might be missing something else, but there isn’t much. The business I am associated with is on Fairmount, but I travel 22nd Street daily.

        • Nicholas

          Cool – reason I ask is that neighborhood businesses can be helpful and persuasive supporters for things like bike lanes or bike parking. If your business supports this little stretch of bike lane (and I see some clear reasons why this would be good for biz’), we encourage you to lend your voice to the cause. If this is something you’d be interested in doing, please contact Susan at

  4. Fairmount Resident

    A bike lane here is idiotic. The street already is a major SEPTA route and is the only northbound lanes between 20th (and the Whole Foods/Rite Aid messes) and 25th and the intersection with Kelly Drive.

    These roads are used as two lanes (sorry, bike advocates, there’s NO confusion when the potholes aren’t there) and eliminating one to accommodate a few bikes a day is as insane as the Chinatown idea was. And despite your 3 or 4 advocates, Bill Greenlee is right and there is overwhelming opposition!!!!

    • Nicholas

      Thank you for sharing your views. Obviously, we respectfully disagree. If it’s the only real northbound street in that neighborhood, that is a reason TO install a bike lane. Because the bicycling volume is greater than you might think, and people on bicycles also need to head north.

      It is demonstrably true that lowering speeds by narrowing travel lanes reduces car crashes (it happened on Pine/Spruce). Per engineering standards, that street is not wide enough for two travel lanes, no matter how creative Philly drivers get. It would be reckless and possibly illegal for Philly’s Streets Department to knowingly create unsafe street conditions. Given that, it makes all the sense in the world to install a bicycle lane. All we want are smart streets where people can get where they’re going safely however they choose to get there.

      If there is indeed overwhelming neighborhood opposition, that is something to consider. To date we have not seen any evidence of that opposition.

    • another Fairmount resident

      I support the 22nd st bike lane. I have been a motorist in the city for decades, and I have always been confused as to whether this section of 22nd street was 2 lanes or 1 lane. It feels too narrow and unsafe to be 2 car lanes and so I avoid the area all together (I am at the other end of Fairmount). There is a high volume of cyclist commuter traffic on this stretch (actually, throughout the city, Philly has an unusually high percentage of commuter cyclists). Your other example, Chinatown, is also very unpleasant for driving as it is only marginally wide enough for 2 car lanes and there is no designated bike lane so cyclists come from all directions. I avoid unpleasantness and so as a driver I avoid these areas.

      The streets that have designated bike lanes, like the center city sections of Pine, Spruce, 10th, and 13th, have also become much safer and less congested for driving a car. I find that my leisure and business activities have migrated into these bike lane areas. Likewise I avoid areas with congested car traffic and no bike lanes. Obviously I end up patronizing the businesses where I spend most of my time.

      I think there are many people like me, who prefer to spend their time in neighborhoods that are pleasant and safe not just for cyclists but for motorists as well. We end up patronizing businesses in the areas that we spend time. Bike lanes in Fairmount are good for business as well as for community and safety.

  5. singlespeeddemon

    If the city and BCGP is going to continue to fluff it’s own feathers on how wonderful the city is going to be then make the bike lane it happen. Residents in the area will like it or hate it, remember you can’t please everyone. But if Philly is going to change for the better they be part of the change or get out of the way.

    We need more bike lanes and ENFORCEMENT when they are encroached upon. Idling engines happen all the time, there are laws against doing this for too long and these are not enforced as well. The city is crying it has no money, if they simply enforced the laws already on the books and handed out tickets people would shape up, and we’d have more money, for schools maybe.

  6. bikes and cars

    I both drive and bike. As a driver, I love taking 22nd street because there are fewer traffic lights and stop signs, and I get to Fairmount Ave pretty quickly. Because of that, people drive dangerously fast on that section of 22nd street. Sometimes it’s to pass someone and sometimes it’s just because they have a car and cars can go fast. As a cyclist, I absolutely never take 22nd street past Spring Garden for that same exact reason. I currently scoot over to 20th Street, where it’s just one lane, and cars tend to bully bicycles. (the good ol’ “get on the sidewalk” line)

    I love the idea of the bike lane slowing down traffic to a normal speed. Everyone’s in such a hurry all the time, and I know there are studies about the calming effect of only having one lane to drive in. (The lanes on Pine & Spruce have been great btw.) I doubt it will cause the congestion that people are worrying about, even with the bus route. What will likely happen with the bus, anyway, is that they’ll pull into the bike lane, and cars will still get to go around the bus.

    Anywho, just my two cents.

  7. Owen Sindler

    When riding north on 22nd there is a bit of a climb north of the Parkway. The current bike lane ending at Spring Garden separates auto and bicycle traffic and allows for the differences in speed between the two modes. The climb between Spring Garden and Fairmount is even steeper—a bike lane in this section would be a positive safety feature.
    As for the “bus arguement”–isn’t there a bus on Spring Garden St.?
    Can we share the road please?

  8. CRD

    Great point here: “It seems absurd to require a demonstration of neighborhood support in order for Streets Department engineers to do an essential part of their jobs and reduce crashes.” Where does the wanton politicization of transportation infrastructure investment end? “I want a higher platform! Wider seats on the El! ATV parking spaces!” Horrible precedent here.

    Question: What is the cross section of 22nd St. curb-to-curb? Walk us through the minimum allowable travel lane width in each direction, the minimum bike lane width and same with parking. The Streets Department needs to stick to its guns on this and be professionals and cite AASHTO/NACTO guidelines for the minimum allowable width of these lanes. It’s not their opinion that two travel lanes in each direction won’t work. Not sure where Bill Greenlee got his P.E.

  9. Ray

    So the options for this street are (1) one giant travel lane for cars or (2) a normal sized travel lane and a buffered bike lane, where the buffer gradually decreases in size approaching Fairmount? That makes it seem like a no-brainer.

    I think its only if two car travel lanes are in-play that it makes sense to consider not putting in a bike lane and drawing sharrows instead.

  10. Brandon Shaw

    I used to drive up 22nd street when driving into town and I agree that it is confusing as to whether or not it should be two lanes or 1. With SEPTA and the PHLASH running up the roadway, not to mention cars parked on both sidesnof the street, there isn’t enough room to safely make this a two lane road.

    Perhaps this would be a great opportunity for a protected bike lane. Make the roadway one lane that is comfortable for buses and cars (with turn lanes and bus stop zones), move the parking lane over a little bit to be located right next to the travel lane, and then have the bike lane. Thus biking will be a bit safer for cyclists in case drivers choose to zoom up the roadway, and the 22nd Street will be easier for drivers to navigate without making risky maneuvers.

  11. Tracy

    I’m a Fairmount resident and I think the bike lane continuing up 22nd st. is a good idea.

  12. steve

    If it’s too narrow for 2 lanes of traffic per code—and that’s what people want, then how about they get rid of the parking lane. And hey, there’ll still be room for the bike lane. Or they keep parking and they can have 1 traffic lane and 1 bike lane.

  13. Craig M Oliner

    My parents live close by so I’m often in the neighborhood. Even if 22nd Street were wide enough for two lanes of cars, it would be better for it to have a dedicated bike lane. Auto traffic should be slow. It’s not clear who Councilman Bill Greenlee is representing, but I doubt it’s the local residents. And I’m a driver, not a biker.

  14. Sarah

    We are home owners on one of the streets adjacent to 22nd in this area and strongly support adding a bike lane to this section of 22nd. It is too narrow for 2 lanes of cars, although it is commonly used this way, and encourages aggressive driving. There have been several car accidents the past year or two at intersections crossing this section of 22nd. I believe many if not most of those who live in our neighborhood would strongly support the addition of the bike lane. The bike lane additions on spruce and pine have been very positive and have not led to increased congestion as feared. A bike lane on this section would link bike lanes on lower 22nd street, spring garden and fairmount and provide safer streets for all – drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.

  15. Sam

    The congestion coming from cars filing into 1 lane and having to take turns going left and right at the Fairmount Ave light, instead of all at once, would be a nightmare (ie ESP Haunted House traffic). If they removed a handful of parking spots at the end of 22nd, and made it into 2 turning lanes at the light, the rest of 22nd could work as 1 car lane w/a bike lane.
    I’m all for the bike lane, but the light at the end has to be adjusted for all drivers turning both ways and for pedestrians as well. It’s a horrible intersection overall that usually creates a bottleneck as it currently stands. The 22nd and Fairmount intersection is the overall main issue and it needs to be reconfigure as part of the plan, whatever direction they choose.

    • Nicholas

      Our understanding of the street’s likely layout is that in the final block approaching Fairmount, the bike lane would drop away and it would become two travel lanes, one for right turns and one for left turns. Bicyclists would share the lane and make a turn same as a vehicle.

  16. Tim Butters

    I live at 23rd and green and bike this street almost everyday. I have always thought of this as a two lane road. A bike lane would be nice, but not necessary. There’s already the bike lane that goes from spring garden to pennsylvania to fairmount for those who need bike lanes. Seriously just pave this thing.

  17. Zack

    When I first moved to the area, traffic gave me the impression that it was a two lane street. 22nd is marked as two lanes + a bike lane between the parkway and Spring Garden, and then no markings whatsoever north of SG. However, no signs direct the two lanes to merge or make one a turn only lane, so both lanes go straight through the light.

    Within a week, some jerk sped by me on the left as we attempted to drive it as two lanes (both in cars) and forced me to stop to avoid a parked car on the side. I also heard what sounded like the other car clipping a parked car’s mirror on the left side of the street. Since then, I’ve driven the road like it’s a single lane, staying in the middle so other cars can’t try to pass and force me over.

    I also bike that way frequently, but since people drive like such idiots, I usually turn on Spring Garden and head north on 20th instead. That is much more clearly a single lane, so I just go in the middle and piss off cars behind me. Putting a bike lane on 22nd would give me a safer option for my commute home, as well as cut down on bikes sharing the single lane on 20th (thus speeding up traffic).

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