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Wednesday Update: So Far, Papal Prep Creates Minor Problems for Cyclists

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Pope Francis just over 130 miles away in Washington D.C. and he’ll be heading north soon. As such, Philadelphia is well under way with preparations for our papal visit this upcoming Saturday and Sunday.

Along with the multitude of porto-potties springing up on sidewalks around Old City and the neighborhoods surrounding the Ben Franklin Parkway; concrete barriers, waist-high railings, anti-climbing walls, and multiple jumbo TV screens are also being put in place.

With these preparations, both temporary obstructions and complete closing of bike facilities will be put into place the closer Francis gets to town, but as of Wednesday afternoon, cyclists were only experiencing minor annoyances.

We urge cyclists to use caution around areas of heavy preparation activity. These areas are where we witnessed construction vehicles blocking bike lanes for a short period.

Today, cyclists taking in the sites of stage construction on Independence Mall did not have too many barriers to contend with. The rumble strip portion of Chestnut between Fifth and Sixth Streets was cordoned off for Francis’ speech on Saturday and the Fifth Street tunnel is also closed. For those heading north, Third Street is a safer alternate route.

A cyclist rides north on 5th Street next to the closed 5th Street tunnel.

A cyclist rides north on 5th Street next to the closed 5th Street tunnel.

With more crowd-corralling devices going up over the next few days, frustrations are being felt more by motorists than cyclists.

This afternoon, all lanes of the Parkway from 20th Street up to Elkins Oval were closed except to construction crews but traffic was being allowed through on 21st and 22nd.

The Parkway will be the site for the Pope’s Sunday Mass. Cars coming off of Martin Luther King Drive and the Spring Garden Bridge were immediately diverted onto 24th Street. Cars were also being diverted away from the Oval off of Kelly Drive onto Fairmount. Depending on the diligence of security officers, cyclists and pedestrians were being asked to keep to the sidewalks on the outer edge of the Parkway.

A security officer asks a cyclist to use the sidewalk next to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

A security officer asks a cyclist to use the sidewalk next to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

There was not much major obstruction of bike lanes outside of the Parkway except for a portion of the eastbound lane of Pennsylvania Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets. There, a temporary protected bike lane was formed by a security wall and a railing.

A cyclist travels in the bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue between barriers.

A cyclist travels in the bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue between barriers.

The closer the Pope gets to town, more travel restrictions will be put into place around the areas he’ll be visiting this weekend. These areas will be affecting motorists more than cyclists but bikes will be restricted inside ticket-only Pope events.

See our Pope Map for more information on what is and is not open.

A comprehensive schedule of street closings can be found at NBC10.

-Zach Mentzer

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