In November 2013, after beginning a dialogue with the Philadelphia Parking Authority about illegal vehicle parking in city bike lanes, we suggested the PPA embark on a social media campaign to hear citizen complaints directly.
In December, that campaign—on Twitter, with the hashtag #unblockbikelanes—began. The goal was for PPA to gather information about problem locations to help the authorities discern their targeted potential ticket areas. There were hundreds of tweets dedicated to calling out parked cars and trucks obstructing bike lanes.
@bcgp @PhilaParking @PPAwatch Apparently safety is NOT CVS goal for cyclist. #unblockbikelanes pic.twitter.com/6Fzzqp9eTF
— Jennifer Morrow (@atibamanii123) June 20, 2014
C’mon @PhillyPolice you can do better. It’s rush hour. @PhilaParking. #unblockbikelanes pic.twitter.com/FBcyoRN4yQ
— Bike Coalition Phila (@bcgp) June 6, 2014
Now, several months later, the Bicycle Coalition has received enough raw data from PPA that we can come to certain conclusions about the enforcement of cars illegally parked in bike lanes. BCGP policy fellow Susan Dannenberg put together this awesome report on it.
Important background information to bear in mind:
According to Philadelphia Code, if a bike lane is adjacent to the curb (like Spruce and Pine), vehicles may not park—but they are allowed to unload/load people and goods. Commercial vehicles are permitted 20 minutes of loading on those streets. On streets like Baltimore Ave. and Fairmount Ave., where the bike lane is adjacent to cars, blocking the lane is considered double parking, and is illegal all the time.
There’s a special understanding between Spruce and Pine religious congregations, 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. Lanes open for parked cars on Sundays are shown on the map below (in purple.)
Our conversation with the PPA was ongoing throughout 2014. And the final analysis found that there was a slight uptick in tickets written in bike lanes (even though they fell off in the third quarter), as shown in the figure below.
What’s unclear is if behavior actually improved between the second and third quarter (and, therefore, there were less tickets to hand out) or if violations weren’t being enforced. Maybe the second quarter enforcement of vehicles in bike lane was just that good, but maybe the lack of momentum after the initial social media push led to a little slacking out of 8th and Filbert.
That said, the social media campaign worked. It clarified which blocks are problem spots and which blocks received the most violations. And, there is a direct correlation between your tweets to the PPA and stepped up enforcement—so, if you were someone who took pictures of cars in bike lanes and tweeted them at the PPA, thanks, and keep it up. But it didn’t necessarily have a lasting effect.
So, where do we go from here? Here are our recommendations to the PPA:
- Continue increasing enforcement on the four Center City bike lanes that are most frequently parked in with a full-time parking enforcement officer whose sole purpose is bike lanes.
- Establish a PPA phone complaint line—because while social media is cool, not everyone has access to it, all the time.
- Place curbside signs explaining the weekend parking rules and step up enforcement—because while we respect the ongoing relationship between the city and those places of worship, more needs to be done to make sure that cars parked in bike lanes are actually being used by church- and temple-goers and that cars parked outside of the permitted blocks don’t get away with it.
- Eliminate parking in bike lanes by PPA and PPD officers—because come on.