When the Recovery Streets Coalition — including the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Feet First Philly, 5th Square, and the Clean Air Council — released our eponymous proposal in Spring 2020, we called on the City of Philadelphia to use one of our most valuable assets, our streets, to help the city’s people, neighborhoods, businesses, and economy get through COVID-19.
This was in the wake of the City opening up Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive to people and closing it to vehicles — making MLK Drive one of the most popular destinations in the city since.
But, we argued, not everyone has access to MLK Drive. All neighborhoods should have access to Open and Slow Streets for safe social distancing and safe commutes.
To do that, we wrote, the city should embrace closing more streets to motor vehicle traffic, create a temporary network of protected bike lanes, open up more parking spaces to outdoor dining (“streeteries”) and embrace slow streets, with limited access to vehicles where folks could use both the sidewalk and street to travel.
Some of those changes are starting to take place — and it’s pretty nice to see.
Already, several neighborhoods have begun closing streets to motor vehicles on weekends; this weekend saw 9th Street in the Italian Market and 13th Street in Center City closed, and other corridors, including those in Old City, have begun temporary closures, as well.
Additionally, streetery permits have been eased by the City, and businesses in every corner of the city have begun applying for, and utilizing the space in front of their business, giving numerous customers the space that used to be taken up by one empty motor vehicle.
5th Square’s Aaron Bauman has put together a map of where the businesses are that have applied for permits, which you can view below.
This map shows the distribution of where those new temporary permits (in red) have been granted to restaurants, along with the places (in blue) that had received permits under the old system.
So far, over 460 permits have been issued under the new temporary rules, and the applications have come from a much broader geographic area, suggesting a possible relationship between laxer permitting rules and greater use in more neighborhoods beyond greater Center City.
There were more than 200 applications in June, and over 200 more in July. No single month in the last 15 years has seen more than 12 applications, and prior to June there were only 250 total active seating permits citywide.