In January, we published the initial findings of our #UnblockBikeLanes campaign with the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The campaign, begun in late 2013, was created using social media—specifically Twitter—to show the PPA where cars and trucks are blocking bike lanes, directly from those cyclists and pedestrians affected by the obstructionist motor vehicles.
What we found was that after the social media campaign began, ticketed violations initially went up, with the 1000 through 2300 blocks of Spruce Street hosting the highest number of violations—more than 250 in the second quarter of 2014. Then, they went down.
The buffered bike lanes on Spruce and Pine Streets are some of the best in the city, and are partially responsible for a dramatic drop (24 percent) in crashes on those streets. The lights are timed for all vehicles, traffic is calm, and they’re amongst the most utilized bicycle lanes in all of Philadelphia.
But there are problems. Starting with Sunday parking in the bike lanes. Church and Temple congregants are allowed to park in the bike lanes on weekends. As we noted in the initial report on Unblock Bike Lanes, there’s a policy understood by the City, the Police Department, and the PPA that permits cars to park in the bike lanes on certain blocks during religious services on weekends.
We respect those congregations’ members’ authority to park on those streets on Sundays. What we don’t respect is people abusing those privileges, making the street less safe for everyone.
That’s why we recently completed a new report—one which took a look at who was and who wasn’t legally parking in Center City on Sundays. Generally, churches and synagogues throughout Center City hand out placards to their congregants to use when parking in designated locations on Saturdays and Sundays. But it’s always been assumed that some people were taking unfair advantage of the lax coverage. So, we put out a call and found volunteers to tally the cars parked in bike lanes, identifying those parked legally (with placards in designated areas) and those parked illegally (without placards and/or outside designated areas.)
Those volunteers—Chris Colvin, Nicholas Manta, Stan Barndy, Jim Hartnett, Andrew Martin—worked from 8:30am to 1:30pm on February 8, then again on March 6, 2015 to determine the extent of parking policy violations on the street segments where the city has a policy allowing parking.
After sending us their findings, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia policy fellow Susan Dannenberg analyzed the data for this report.
By the looks of things, there appear to be three main types of non-compliance with the parking policy. The first: congregants who do not display a placard. At least one religious institution provides information on their website about where parking may occur but does not mention placards. The second: congregants who stay past the time limits of the policy. The third: drivers not attending religious institutions who see other cars parked and assume that they can park on these street segments, too.
The results: A large percentage of parked cars on Sundays are not displaying a religion institution-issued placard. Which is especially strange since the placards are free and, in some cases, can be printed out online.
The top problem areas are the 300-400 blocks, and the 1600-2000 blocks of Pine Street; the 400-600 blocks, and 1600-1900 blocks of Spruce Street; and the 300-400 blocks of 13th Street.
Here’s a graph depicting Pine Street’s problem areas and problem times. Blue indicates cars with placards, orange represents those without:
Here’s Spruce Street:
At 13th Street, our volunteers found 72 percent of cars on the 200 and 400 block at noon were without placards. Surveyors also noted several congregants leaving services and, almost immediately after moving the car, a non-congregant would pull into what they thought was considered a universal parking spot.
Non-compliant parking is occurring—perhaps innocently—due to the assumption that these are legal parking spaces, open to the motorized masses.
In absence of the proper signage and enforcement, these sorts of maneuvers are inevitable.
Changing the behavior of Sunday motorists is going to require a coordinated effort involving the Streets Department, Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, the Philadelphia Parking Authority, and the religious institutions that enjoy this weekly privilege.
In the report located via link at the bottom of this page, we have numerous suggested actions that can only be undertaken if the above city departments and religious congregations work together. They include creating uniform placards which include parking times and locations; street signs that make the regulations clear to non-congregants; a coordinated education campaign by the religious institutions (including an emphasis on, you know, being a good neighbor); and increased enforcement by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Sundays on Pine, Spruce, 13th, and other streets in the area seem to be some of the only in the entire city where people in cars are not scared of being ticketed by the PPA. That needs to change, and we look forward from hearing back from the above-mentioned city agencies on this issue. Our entire report is available here. A special thanks to our volunteers who were able to help out on this campaign and hopefully make changes along Spruce, Pine and 13th Streets.