Since its installation this summer, the West Chestnut Street parking-protected bike lane has been a huge success. People who ride bikes in, out, and through, West Philadelphia have been using the lane with relative ease, and the lane has successfully calmed traffic on what has historically been one of Philadelphia’s most crash-prone stretches of street.
But there are still issues. Lots of people in Philadelphia—cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists—have asked the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia questions about the bike lane. For this Reader Response, I’m going to go over a comment laid out by West Philadelphia resident Nancy Stewart on October 27, which covers most of the questions we’ve received. She posted a four-part comment all about the new bike lane, the points of which I will address individually.
1. [The Chestnut Street bike lane] should extend all the way to the western end of Chestnut St. as the one on Walnut St does. Bicyclists come from further west than 45th St.
Yes, it should. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia spent six years working to create a safer Chestnut Street by implementing the parking-protected lane. Our original intention was to get the lane extended all the way from 22nd Street in Center City, to 63rd Street in Cobbs Creek.
Many residents in Cobbs Creek were in favor of the lanes being extended into their neighborhood, and business and neighborhood associations signed letters of support for the bike lane’s extension well past 45th Street.
Unfortunately, politics helped block the construction of the lane for several years. It wasn’t until a public meeting in April 2017, which emphasized the high-crash injury network on Chestnut, especially between 34th and 45th Streets, that Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell agreed to move forward with the protected bike lane.
The Councilwoman then wrote an ordinance to create a permanent parking-protected bike lane between those streets, which was installed over summer 2017.
The Bicycle Coalition is continuing its advocacy to extend the bike lane into Cobbs Creek so neighbors west of 45th Street can enjoy the safety and convenience that comes with parking-protected bike lanes. This is still a very popular idea. In fact, at a Vision Zero meeting at the YMCA at 51st and Chestnut Streets just last week, many local residents asked why the bike lane could not be extended further west into their own neighborhoods. We will continue working to make sure it happens.
2. The bike lane should be consistent in placement on the right or the left for the entire length. It is very dangerous for bicyclists and drivers for the lane to switch sides of the road at 33rd, 34th ?, Sts.
Agreed—and it will. As we reported last week, PennDOT will begin construction on the Chestnut Street Bridge in early 2019. In addition to updating and fixing many of the bridge’s defects, PennDOT will be switching the lane from the right side of the street to the left. The detour for the project here, and the Bicycle Coalition is advocating for the lane over the bridge to continue as a protected bike lane.
Until then, it’s recommended that cyclists stop at 33rd street, walk their bike to the right side, then continue on the right side of the street.
Of course, that’s a big ask. At the very least, assuming there’s traffic on Chestnut Street, stop on the east side of 33rd, and cross over while riding when traffic stops at a red.
3. The signage for the beginning of the bike lane needs to be improved so that there is a warning of its starting at 45th St sooner than where it is located. Also, as a driver, I haven’t noticed signage warning that the bike lane will switch sides of the road at the eastern end.
Part of the lane being installed as a compromise means it’s sort of confusing for drivers. If the lane had gone the entire length of West Chestnut Street to begin with, this wouldn’t be an issue.
Nevertheless, we agree—and so do the neighbors who attended the Vision Zero meeting at the YMCA last week. There is some confusion over the upcoming bike lane beginning on 45th Street. Temporarily, there should be more signage beginning on streets further west to warn drivers early on about the bike lane. Long term, the bike lane should extend to 63rd Street. That will ultimately solve this problem.
4. Every afternoon around 4pm there is a mail/package delivery truck double parked outside the apartment building at the NE side on Chestnut St. just east of 38th St. This is a real traffic hazard for drivers. Either there should be no parking at this location with a delivery only sign or the delivery service needs to be done at a less busy time of the day.
One of the complaints surrounding the bike lane is the issue of double-parking. Delivery drivers, especially, have become used to being able to double-park on Chestnut Street, with impunity.
And with the installation of the bike lane, many people have continued to put others’ lives in danger by continuing to double-park. Only problem now: Instead of double-parking and turning a 3-lane street into a 2-lane street, they’re turning a 2-lane street into a 1-lane street. This backs traffic up.
How to solve this? Simple: Enforce double-parking violations. The Philadelphia Parking Authority should go on a towing blitz, hit those offenders blocking traffic, and continue doing so until behavior changes. Behavior modification is the only thing that can fix the problem.
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