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Councilwoman Blackwell Walks Back Bike Lane Ordinance Legislation

From left to right: Councilman Squilla, Councilwoman Blackwell, Laura Fredricks, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown, Richard Fredricks

Opening the Vision Zero Conference on Saturday, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell announced that she would be not be advancing her anti-Vision Zero legislation, which would have made it harder and costlier for the city to upgrade existing bicycle infrastructure.

Blackwell’s decision came, she said, after extended talks with Councilman Mark Squilla and the Bicycle Coalition’s Bob Previdi, and we appreciate her willingness to listen on this issue.

The announcement, though unclear at first, was welcomed by advocates of safer streets at the Vision Zero Conference. The announcement was somewhat overshadowed by the mayor’s announcement of a protected bike lane project coming to JFK and Market Streets this spring.

What the Councilwoman did not mention, but was of course on everyone’s mind: The 600+ people who sent Blackwell and the entire Streets and Services Committee emails urging them to not bring up this bill, and the hundreds who signed 5th Square’s petition, calling upon Council to kill the bill.

As we noted on Twitter at the time of the announcement, this does not necessarily mean the legislation is dead. It still exists in committee. There is just no plan to bring it up for a vote in committee or, later, in full Council. If the Councilwoman changes her mind, we will continue advocating against the legislation, and will oppose it by any means necessary. We will continue working on the much larger ordinance issue, as well.

There is also a larger issue here: The fact that Council can bring up legislation like this, and often does, as a first resort. Such legislation makes streets more dangerous and slows Philadelphia’s commitment to zero traffic deaths by 2030.

But for the time being, we can relax a bit. Thank you to everyone who sent emails, signed petitions, and called Council staffers, letting them know how you feel about safer streets. Your efforts make all the difference.

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Topics: Biking in Philly, Featured, Vision Zero

3 comments on “Councilwoman Blackwell Walks Back Bike Lane Ordinance Legislation

  1. John Baxter

    I am not against bike lanes, but I am very skeptical that the best way to provide them is via elimination of auto traffic lanes on busier streets. While bicycling advocates feel Ms. Blackwell’s bill was intended to block bike lanes, I spoke with her, and honestly believe her only intent was to democratize the process more effectively, both in terms of public information, and in terms of making balanced decisions. On some less busy streets, removing a traffic lane for a bike lane might be quite appropriate. Subtle restraint of traffic may well be quite acceptable in some areas. But, to eliminate one of two or three needed traffic lanes on a busy commuter route when there may be another way to fit in a bike lane, or another street where it could be fitted in, may be a poor compromise or, in fact, not a compromise at all. Bicycling advocates should advocate for bike lanes, but back off from the idea of happily eliminating traffic lanes where they may truly serve auto drivers, especially at rush hour. Vision Zero’s narrow focus on speed is quite powerfully contradicted by the statistics. If bicycle riders would stick to having safe, separate bike lanes, and be less focused on slowing traffic when statistics of many types show not only that most motorists don’t speed, but that speed is not the largest issue when it comes to pedestrian safety in cities, the public overall would be better served, and there would be far less resistance to Vision Zero changes.

    • Mandy Smith

      Hi John. I was reading this article and happened to come across your comment on the matter. The city of Philadelphia is specifically plagued with aggressive driving and speeding for a variety of reasons. While I understand your concern, one of the ways in which the city can effectively calm speeding is by removing a traffic lane. Time and time again studies have shown removing a traffic lane does not effect the flow of traffic (Which, as I’m sure you’re aware of, is always examined by engineers before even going through with protected lane implementation). Copenhagen is a great example, showing how a city can effectively take narrow roads squished between old buildings and include a bike lane. Now they’re the leading city for bicyclists. Ultimately, Vision Zero is a meticulously thought out plan using evidence-based research meant to benefit all citizens of Philadelphia, and removing a lane will assist in that process.

      Of course, this statement does not mean ALL streets in Philly will have a lane removed or that ALL streets in Philly will see a reduction in speed at first. It’s a process for a reason! I should probably also mention I don’t work for or share opinions on behalf of BCGP, just wanted to share some knowledge I’ve gathered over the past few years.

  2. Bran

    There is nothing balanced about the auto-bike-pedestrian relationship or share of streets in this city. Everything is laid out for these texting drivers who endanger cyclists and walkers by not paying attention and rushing when they’re running late. I know and have been hit from behind while in my lane multiple times. My boss was critically injured walking on a JFK crosswalk with a green light last year. There’s no driver accountability, only phony anecdotes about cyclists being crazy.

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