Philadelphia Bike Lane Toolkit
The City of Philadelphia has hundreds of miles of new bike lanes planned for installation. But sometimes, But sometimes, visible public support is needed to nudge along the implementation of city plans. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has put together a bike lane tool kit to help you understand the who, what, where, when, and why of Philadelphia bike lanes — and to help empower you to use your voice to support the installation of more bike lanes on roads that are important to you.
Prior to 2010, bike lanes were installed by the Streets Department when streets were repaved based solely on road geometry. This effort resulted in nearly 200 miles of bike lanes within Philadelphia’s jurisdiction, though not necessarily a network. In 2012, the 2012 Philadelphia Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan adopted by the City of Philadelphia Planning Commission laid out recommendations for where and what type of new bicycle facilities should be installed to complete and fill out Philadelphia’s bicycle network.
The Streets Department owns and is responsible for maintaining local roads, while Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is responsible for State Roads. Approximately 2,235 miles, or 85–90% of Philadelphia’s streets are City-owned. There are additional agencies involved in some portion of these miles of roads. (For more information on who is responsible for what, read this detailed article on the topic of who owns Philadelphia’s streets.)
In general, bike lanes are still installed when roads are resurfaced. This allows street quality improvement and redesign to happen at the same time. Pavement markings (the white and yellow lines) also work best and last longer when they are put down on freshly paved streets.
Bike lane installation, along with other transportation projects, is done on a priority-basis. The Streets Department identifies roads eligible for resurfacing projects each winter, to be completed that following spring, summer and fall. Because of this cyclical structure, bike lanes are usually added to streets shortly after they are repaved.
The biggest limiting factor for resurfacing projects is funding. The projects are paid for out of the “paving” line item in the City of Philadelphia’s Capital Budget and by state or federal grants. The Streets Department should be repaving approximately 130 miles a year, but has not been provided sufficient resources to accomplish that many miles on an annual basis. Starting in 2010, a portion of the paving budget had to be dedicated toward replacing curb ramps.
2009 – $20 million for paving streets
2010 – $2 million for paving streets & $ 6 million for replacing curb ramps
2011 – $9 million for paving streets & $9 million for replacing curb ramps
2012 – $9 million for paving streets & $11 million for replacing curb ramps
2013 – $11 million for paving streets & $7 million for replacing curb ramps
2014 – $4 million for paving streets & $ 8 million for replacing curb ramps
2015 – $16 million (have to get the split)
2016 – $20.4 million (have to get the split)
Even when a road is already being resurfaced, bike lanes do incur an expense. These cost figures reflect the estimated cost of the “painting” process per mile for bicycle infrastructure:
- White sharrows: $11,000
- Green-backed sharrows: $17,000
- Standard bike lane: $43,000
- Buffered bike lane: $52,000
- Standard bike lane painted green: $136,000
The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities and Streets Department has also been successful at raising grant funds from state and federal sources to install bike lanes.
In 2014, the City applied for and received a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant for $250,000 to install a pavement treatment plan on 13th and 15th Streets between South Street and Oregon Avenues.
In 2014, MOTU also applied for a PennDOT “Multi-modal fund” grant to install bike lanes. They were awarded $xxx,000 for bike lane installation. That funding is going toward refreshing existing bike lanes and the installation of xxxxxx.
In July 2015, MOTU applied for a Commonwealth Financing Authority Multi-modal fund” grant to pay for the installation of xxx miles lanes. That grant is expected to be awarded in December 2015.
Most bike lanes are installed when streets are re-paved.
Each fall, the Streets Department’s Highway Division prepares a “paving plan” of street segments (with their start and endpoints) that are scheduled to be repaved in the forthcoming paving season, which typically is April to October.
A list of State Roads that are scheduled to be repaved by PennDOT is shared with the Streets Department so that they can review the pavement marking plans for those roads. PennDOT generally lays down the pavement markings that the Streets Department recommends.
The lists of city’s local roads and PennDOT state roads on the various paving schedules are cross-checked against the list of bike lanes that has been developed by the Philadelphia’s Bicycle-Pedestrian Coordinator. The list of bike lanes comes from the 2012 Pedestrian/Bicycle Master Plan.
The 2012 Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan recommended approximately 130 miles of new 5 foot bike lanes and 200 miles of new “marked shared” lanes and 62 miles of “bicycle friendly” streets
Those streets that are scheduled to be repaved and have been identified as recommended for a bike lane are reviewed by a team of staff from the Streets Department and the Mayor’s Office of Transportation. The final decision of which streets get new bike lanes or different bike lanes is transmitted to both PennDOT (in the case of State Roads) and to the Highway Division of the Streets Department.
New legislation, passed in 2012, gave City Council control over the addition of bike lanes that affect automobile travel or parking lanes. The legislative process began in May 2011, when At-Large Councilman Greenlee introduced legislation that would require City Council’s approval of any new bike lane. The bill did not initially pass. A year later, in May 2012, Greenlee reintroduced new legislation. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia opposed it and argued for a regulatory review process. In the end, the bill did pass, but with a more limited scope.
The code now gives City Council authority to:
- Approve certain bike lanes: A City Council ordinance is required for all bike lanes that replace a travel or parking lane. Bike lanes that can be installed without removal of travel or parking lanes do not require a Council ordinance.
- Pilot bike lanes: A pilot phase is permitted before a bike lane is permanently installed in a place that requires removal of a travel or parking lane. Within eight months of the pilot installation, Council must pass an ordinance approving of the bike lane. If that approval does not happen, the bike lane will be removed.
In April 2012, the City of Philadelphia published its Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan. The Plan is the first from the city to address long-term pedestrian and bicycle planning. The Plan complements several other city planning initiatives including Complete Streets Executive Order, Greenworks Philadelphia, and Philadelphia 2035. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan is a result of many meetings among a steering committee of stakeholders from around the city representing City agencies, DVRPC, SEPTA, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, and others. The steering committee recognized five major themes for the Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan:
- Improve safety for all pedestrians and bicyclists
- Encourage walking and bicycling to promote healthy, active living and to enjoy the associated economic and environmental benefits
- Increase the connectivity of the bikeway and walking networks
- Promote and enhance the role of sidewalks and streets as the public realm
- Garner recognition for Philadelphia as a leader in pedestrian and bicycle achievement
The result is a collaborative plan, created by diverse stakeholders and agencies, that rethinks Philadelphia’s streets with the goal of encouraging active transportation. The Plan includes policy recommendations and infrastructure improvements to connect Philadelphia’s pedestrian and bicycle networks. It also includes target outcomes, including:
- Reduce crashes: reduce bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and injuries by 20% by 2020
- Increase the commuting mode share: for bicycling, from 1.6% to 6.5% by 2020 and for walking, from 8.6% to 12% by 2020
- Regular pedestrian and bicycle counts: triple bicyclist volume at key locations and increase pedestrian volume at key locations by 50%
- Increase total of Walk, Bike and Transit trips by 10% (as measured by the DVRPC Household Travel Survey)
Contained within the Plan are many recommendations for improving bicycle infrastructure in the city, including:
- “road diets” that calm and reduce car traffic on selected streets
- cycle tracks, or physically separated bike lanes allowing for one- or two-way bicycle traffic
- additional sharrows
- contraflow bike lanes
- improving and extending trails through the city and its suburbs, including the Schuylkill River Trail. For more on regional trails, see Connect the Circuit
- encouraging safe, legal cycling
Philadelphia City Council Districts
Let’s say you want a bike lane in your Councilmanic District. The best way to go about getting one is to contact your local representative. (If you don’t know what district you live in, find out here.) Below, find a map of your Councilmanic District, information on your representative, and how you can contact them about better bike lanes.
Glossary of Bicycle Facilities
To best understand Philadelphia’s bicycle facilities, and what sort of facility would work best where, we’ve created a glossary of all types of bike facilities available in Philadelphia. Click below for a description and visual representation of each facility.
This is a space designated for bicyclists waiting at the light. Bicyclists can use this space to get ahead of traffic in order to make a turn that would otherwise be across multiple lanes of traffic. It also makes bicyclists more visible to vehicles waiting to make a turn.
A buffered bike lane, which provides more space between vehicles and bicycles. The laws and principles that apply to standard bike lanes also apply here.
For more information on these lanes on Spruce and Pine through Center City, see this page. It contains explanations of weekend parking practices and more generally, bike lanes as legal loading zones.
Only found on Chestnut and Walnut Streets in Center City Philadelphia. This lane is reserved for buses and bicycles only. In practice this is not regularly enforced by the police.
On streets with steep grades and insufficient widths to provide bike lanes in both directions, a bike lane (the climbing lane) is provided in the uphill direction to accommodate slow-moving bicyclists, and a sharrow is provided in the downhill direction, requiring bicyclists to travel with motor vehicles. In Philadelphia, a “climbing lane” encompasses roads with a bike lane in one direction and a sharrows in the other, even if there is not a significant elevation change.
A bike lane explicitly designated in the opposite direction of adjacent travel. Unless marked like this, all bike lanes are one-way, the same direction as adjacent vehicular travel lanes.
Same as a normal bike lane, but green for better visibility. Contrary to perception, green lanes are not more slippery in the rain.
The dashed section visible in this photo is one type of mixing zone. Bicycles and vehicles must yield to whomever is farther ahead when changing lanes here.
This indicates the area in which vehicles may merge into the bike lane to prepare to make a turn. Vehicles must yield to bicycles already occupying that space. Not all bike lanes are dashed at all intersections. If a car enters the turn lane ahead of you, do not squeeze between the car and the curb. Wait your turn, or pass the car on the left.
A protected bike lane (sometimes called a cycle track) is a bicycle facility that is physically separated from both the roadway and the sidewalk. A protected bike lane may be constructed at the same grade as the street by using a combination of physical barriers such as on-street parking and/or flex posts or planters to define the bicycle space. or it may be constructed at the elevation of the sidewalk typically adjacent to the curb. In Philadelphia two way curb-separated protected bike lanes (such as the example above) are classified as sidepaths.
Protected bike lanes can be on one- or two-way streets, and allow for either one- or two-way bicycle traffic. These protected bike lanes can come in a number of styles, all designed to serve the purpose of creating a safe, separated bicycle facility. There are many, many types of protected bike lanes. Some possibilities are shown here.
Sidepaths are shared use paths that are adjacent to the roadway. A widened sidewalk on the side of the street can be designated as a sidepath. Unless designated as being appropriate for bicycle use, bicycling on sidewalks is prohibited in Philadelphia for all over the age of 12. Sidepaths are generally operated as shared-use facilities, but in some locations with high volumes of activity, it may be appropriate to separate bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
Sidepaths are generally at 10’ wide, but may be as narrow as 8’ where there are significant constraints. They are suitable for locations with few cross streets or driveways, where it is desirable to provide the highest level of comfort and separation from traffic, and to provide a connection to similar facilities.
Modeled after Dutch intersection design, the protected intersection brings some of the physical separation of a protected bike lane or a sidepath along with you as your ride through the crossing.
Most protected intersections feature corner islands, which are curb extensions with cut-through channels for bicycles. The protected intersection slows turning motorists and improves their ability see and yield to bicyclists and pedestrians. It also minimizes traffic exposure to a bicyclist executing a two stage left turn.
In the United States the protected intersection design is brand new with recently completed installations in Davis CA and Salt Lake City. This 5 minute video provides a quick tutorial on protected intersections.