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Podcast Series: Protected Bike Lanes

Protected bike lanes are an important part of any bicycle network — and, unfortunately, Philadelphia has very few. While the city does have more than 400 miles of bike lanes, only recently have we seen any sort of physical or visible barrier between cyclists and cars. On this episode of the Bicycle Coalition podcast, we talk about protected bike lanes in Philadelphia, and what it would take to create a real network of such high-quality lanes.

A protected bike lane has a physical barrier that prevents or deters cars from entering the bike lane. This can range from plastics posts, to bollards, curbs, raised bumps, or even  parked cars.

A protected bike lane outside a hotel in Crystal City, VA.

It is important to understand a protected bike lane is not one that is only painted, it must physically define or allocate space exclusively for bikes. Additionally, protected bike lanes have to run parallel to a road, bike trails that are in parks or follow waterways are not protected bike lanes.

Many major cities have begun to install protected bike lanes. Chicago is one them. In recent years Philadelphia has been ahead of Chicago in terms of ridership. However with the installation of protected bike lanes, Chicago is predicted to pass Philadelphia in ridership over the next five years. This is because protected bike lanes help cyclists feel more comfortable and safe, and thus more people are biking instead or walking or driving.

Data supports this claim. A recent study from Portland State University showed that ridership increased between 21 percent and 171 percent. To read the study click here

Additionally, the presence of cyclists on the street also increases the overall safety of the streets for cars and pedestrians, therefore, if more cyclists are biking in cities, the overall safety of the cities streets will rise.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is working with the city to begin installing them. Executive director Sarah Clark Stuart worked with City Council, the Streets Department, and the Mayor’s Office to approve a protected bike lane to be installed on Ryan Ave in North Philadelphia. Bobby Henon, who represents the 6th district, reached out to the Bicycle Coalition to start a partnership that would result in Philadelphia’s first protected bike lane in his district.

One of the biggest planning hurdles for protected bike lanes is finding streets that can be converted to having a protected bike lane, which needs more space than a regular bike lane. To help with this BCGP created a map with 30 miles of potential streets that could easily install a protected bike lane.

There are three categories for changes to the streets:

Recongifuring striping

Changing a regular bike lane to a protected one

Road Diet

Removing a lane of travel and replacing by a protected bike lane.

Construction

Moving a median strip, curb, or removing a track from the street.

If you want to advocate for protected bike lanes in Philadelphia, reach out to your district’s councilperson and tell them that you support the installation of protected bike lanes.

These lanes will not just benefit cyclists but can also help reduce the overall amount of traffic crashes. On Spruce and Pine street, where there are buffered bike lanes, crashes reduced by 25 percent.

Since the podcast was recorded two protected bike lanes have been installed in Philadelphia. One is on South Street Bridge and the other is in the 5th street tunnel. You can read more about them here and here .

-Marina Stuart

Topics: Biking in Philly, Connecting Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Network, Featured, Safe Routes Philly

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