A new petition on Change.org is calling for better parking enforcement of Spruce and Pine Streets on Sundays.
“Center City drivers park in the bike lanes on 13th Street, Spruce Street, and Pine Street every Sunday,” reads the petition, created by Travis Arterburn. “There are signs up and down all three of these lanes that read ‘No Parking at Any Time”. For some reason it has become the norm for drivers to ignore these signs on Sundays. The PPA and Police are also failing to enforce them.”
We understand the frustration and support more consistent and better enforcement. But it’s important to understand what the rules are.
As many Philadelphians know, while the Spruce and Pine buffered bike lanes are great paths through Center City and used by thousands of bicyclists daily, there are many asterisks associated with them.
For one, many blocks on both streets are dedicated “No Parking” zones. This means cars are allowed to stop in those lanes and load/unload for up to 20 minutes at a time. (These parking regulations were decided years before the bike lanes were installed and these did not change when the bike lanes were installed in 2009.)
A few blocks are dedicated “No Stopping” zones, which means no vehicles are allowed to stop, at any time, on those blocks.
But on weekends, a long-standing agreement with the city remains in place, in which people going to a religious service are allowed to park their cars in the bike lanes on those streets, and many others, during the length of their religious service, as long as they have a placard from their church or synagogue.
For someone unfamiliar with these long-standing agreements between the city and religious folks, this agreement may seem bizarre. Simply acknowledging these rules and the long-standing agreement can make a cyclist’s head explode.
The Bicycle Coalition created a Twitter campaign with the Philadelphia Parking Authority in 2013, called #unblockbikelanes, which attempted to better identify problem areas for cyclists and allow the PPA to easier do their job of ticketing scofflaw parkers.
Over the course of a year-and-a-half, lots of good data came out of the campaign, and PPA ticketing in bike lanes technically went up. We had several other demands on behalf of cyclists, but they did not come to fruition. In particular, better signage to explain the weekend parking rules would help with enforcement and clarify why cars are in the bike lane.
But there’s another issue here. People who park their cars when they go to religious services on weekends are supposed to have a placard on their dashboard to show they’re actually attending one of the churches or synagogues.
As we documented in surveys and a series of blogs last year, this is often not the case. The lack of enforcement on those streets has allowed people looking for a parking space on the weekend to park for free whether or not they’re attending services.
If nothing else, this practice of free, illegal parking needs to end.
Anecdotally, someone I know parked in the bike lane a few weekends ago (unbeknownst to me, I swear) for two hours. After this person told me about their “fantastic parking spot,” and described where it was, I told them they were actually in a “No Stopping” zone, and given the length of time they’d left their car in that illegal space, had likely been towed. We rushed over to where they’d left the car and – surprise! – it was still there.
Oh, and it did not even have a ticket. It was a pretty shameful moment. Such moments really need to end if the city is serious about making out streets safer for all road users, enacting a Vision Zero policy, and not making special exceptions for people who break the law in Philadelphia just because they own a motorized vehicle. We would like to work with the new administration to get better parking regulation signs and increased weekend enforcement to curb illegal parking.