Streets Department Study Confirms Need to Calm Chestnut Street Traffic

unnamedLast week, the Streets Department released a study that evaluated Chestnut Street by focusing on the segment between 45th and 34th Street, a stretch the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has been study and advocating for improvements since 2010.  The study largely confirmed our assertions, with some alarming statistics:

  • Chestnut Street has the highest crash rate per mile among all city streets
  • Chestnut Street is among the top 10 streets for pedestrian fatalities and severe injuries, and
  • Chestnut Street is among the top 5 streets for bicycle crashes.

Between 2011 and 2013, there were 92 crashes involving vehicles, 19 crashes involving pedestrians and 12 involving bicycles in the studied section. Seventy-five percent of the crashes recorded along the entire Chestnut Street corridor occurred along the eleven blocks of the study area.

So what is the answer?

In 2012, the City’s Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan recommended a bike lane along Chestnut Street to match the westbound bike lane on Walnut in West Philadelphia and, in 2013, the City’s University City Southwest District Plan recommended a buffered bike lane along the corridor. We incorporated Chestnut Street into one of the six corridors that became the focus of our Safe Streets Healthy Neighborhoods initiative.

We recognized that the Streets Department needed to know if there was neighborhood public support for making safety improvements.

Also in 2012, we set out to ascertain the depth of public support for making Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia safer for all users. BCGP Planning Fellow, Susan Dannenberg, met with community and civic organizations along the corridor from 63rd to 34th Streets, in addition to University of Pennsylvania and the office of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. One of the outcomes of that outreach was a consensus that motor vehicle speeding needed to be addressed and effectively reduced, which had the result of adding more voices in favor of a traffic study to help understand how the corridor could be made safer.

The Street’s Department traffic study evaluated the impact of putting Chestnut Street on a road diet (going from 3 travel lanes to 2 lanes) and found these benefits:

  • speed reduction
  • reduced weaving behavior, especially during off peak periods
  • reduced motor vehicle crashes

The study found that a road diet would have minimal impacts on motor vehicle travel between 45th and 34th during peak hours:

  • speeds would be reduced by 4 miles per hour
  • the travel time would only be increased by 1 minute

The study proposed replacing one travel lane with a left hand parking protected bicycle lane.  Such a measure would have these additional benefits:

  • crossing distances for pedestrians will be reduced by 10 feet
  • bus-bicycle conflicts will be greatly reduced because of placement of the bike lane on the left side of the street
  • improved level of comfort for bicyclists

The study recommended installing a parked car protected bike lane on the north side of Chestnut Street between 45th and 34th St. The bike lane would connect the existing north-south bike lanes on 43rd and 44th St of University City to the existing conventional bike lane on Chestnut Street extending from 34th Street to east of the Schuylkill River. Such a lane type could incur the loss of 6-12 parking spaces along the eleven blocks to create pocket left turn lanes.

We think the Streets Department report defines the safety issues well and comes up with reasonable solutions to make the street safer for all users. In order to move this concept forward, City Council must pass an ordinance to permit the lane and parking space reduction. We will be working with the Streets Department and Council to help move this project forward.

On a related note, PennDOT will be rehabilitating the Chestnut Street Bridge, which may include a reconfiguration of the bike lane from the south side to the north of Chestnut Street and link up with the proposed parked car bike lane.  We have asked the Streets Department to include that design as it works on it with PennDOT. This would significantly improve the connection to Schuylkill Banks and eliminate the conflict that bicyclists currently have at 30th Street in front of the Post Office.

View the full report on Scribd

Topics: Biking in Philly, Featured

10 comments on “Streets Department Study Confirms Need to Calm Chestnut Street Traffic

  1. Julian Goresko

    I am on the board of the Walnut Hill Community Association and would like to support this project however possible. Both Walnut Hill and Spruce Hill’s community associations support the need for traffic calming and added bike lanes on Chestnut St. This has been discussed at length in recent community and board meetings.

    I do, however, hope that whatever decision is made to 45th can extend further west. As a resident on the 50th block of Chestnut St., I can attest to the extreme speeding, swerving, and dangerous pedestrian and cyclist conditions. People are often afraid to open their car doors because cars are driven so fast, and we’ve had numerous crashes each year.

    There is great support for traffic calming on Chestnut St. in the Walnut Hill neighborhood, and I would be more than happy to advocate to the councilwoman’s office or to whomever else as needed. Our board has a strong relationship with local government officials.

    Please reach out to me if possible, so we can discuss how to support this project.



    Hi im also a board member of WHCA and a proud homeowner on 50th and Chestnut st. I must admit this intersection is dangerous for I fear for the children trying to cross the streets, as cars race at speeds of 50miles or more. I witness car crashes on daily its scary . Please Help!!!



    Help Save a Life!!! there is no place on Chestnut st for speed of 50 miles or more.

  4. Ryan Schwabe

    I would like to agree with Julian’s sentiments. I live on the 5000 block of chestnut and have been witness to multiple car accidents, parked car clippings, pedestrian accidents, bike accidents, drag races and more. Chestnut street between 52nd and 34th is very dangerous and I strongly support traffic calming measures. Families are afraid to let their children play in front of their houses because of the dangerous conditions on Chestnut st. Please consider extending this program to 52nd street so that there is traffic continuity throughout West Philadelphia.

  5. Dave Brindley

    Yes, please extend to at least 52nd St. My car has been sideswiped 3 times in 6 years. Let me know if I can be of any help.

  6. Andries M. Cregar

    I think they need a couple more police cruisers in the area!

    I definetly like the idea of the road diet!

    It sounds like a great way to calm down the drivers!

  7. Mark Knight

    A road diet is a great idea with the left hand parking protected bicycle lane. Safer for pedestrians – especially children – cyclists (I’ve been a city cyclist for decades), & less stressful for everybody – including car & bus drivers; it can’t be easy for them on such a busy street. Here’s looking forward to a safer Chestnut. We must also consider extending this program to 52nd street so that there is traffic continuity throughout West Philadelphia.

  8. David Loeb

    Reducing Chestnut Street to two car lanes and a bike lane is a great idea! First Avenue in Manhattan, New York City has a bike lane protected by traffic islands and parked cars on the left hand lane and a bus lane on the right. Cyclists are effectively protected from motor vehicles in this arrangement. It is a good model for us to follow.

  9. Linda Blythe

    I live near 45th and I like the proposed improvements. I agree with the others that even more blocks would be even better. Right now, I avoid Chestnut St. when I am on a bicycle. It’s just too dangerous. I use Spruce, Powelton or even Market St. rather than Chestnut St. The current 3 lanes of traffic on Chestnut make for very narrow lanes, that greatly increase the chance of accidents. Two lanes would be much safer for cars.

  10. Joe

    Speed limits should be posted at the 85th percentile free-flowing traffic speed. trying to reduce that in any way will cause more crashes of ALL types.

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