Perhaps the most breaking of news to come out of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s Vision Zero Conference 2017 was Philadelphia’s Bike/Ped Coordinator Jeannette Brugger announcing a protected bike lane coming to West Chestnut Street.
This is a project the Bicycle Coalition has been working on for since 2011. And while it hasn’t actually been installed yet, it’s worth understanding how the city got the place where it would make a public announcement for such a parking-protected lane. It involved all sorts of moving parts.
The push for a Chestnut Street protected bike lane actually began in 2011, with our “Safe Streets, Healthy Neighborhoods” campaign. This campaign identified five corridors within the proposed bikeway network that the Bicycle Coalition recommended for bike lanes to connect together various parts of Philadelphia. Chestnut Street, from 34th to 63rd Streets were identified in West Philadelphia as the logical pair to Walnut Street (as was 15th and 13th Streets in South Philadelphia).
Through a Community Design Collaborative grant won by the Bicycle Coalition, the Streets Department and Water Department collaborated with the Coalition and Toole Design Group to look at a Neighborhood Bikeway pavement making treatment in South Philadelphia. Then, we helped the city write a proposal for a Transportation Alternatives Program grant for to implement the treatment for South Philadelphia.
That proposal for a “Neighborhood Bikeway” on 15th and 13th Streets will lay down so-called “Super Sharrows” and signage on those streets to better identify them as places where people on bicycles are granted access to the full street.
(Of course, bicyclists are granted access to the full street on all streets in Philadelphia, save highways, but that isn’t always understood by motorists, to which many cyclists can attest.)
After that grant was secured for the South Philadelphia corridor, we focused on West Philadelphia. Given the difference in types of projects between South and West, the focus on the campaign had to be different.
Led by former Bicycle Coalition staffer Susan Dannenberg, Coalition staff met with neighborhood leaders, elected officials, business associations, community organizations, and constituents to talk about how to make Chestnut Street safe for the residents and road users.
Susan and others gave presentations, held meetings, conducted walkability audits and answered questions in the West Philly neighborhoods throughout the West Chestnut Street corridor.
Throughout that process, we earned the endorsement of the University of Pennsylvania, the Spruce Hill Community Association, the 60th Street Business Association, and others. One of the outcomes residents wanted from the project was reducing the speeds of motor vehicles.
Meanwhile, the Streets Department conducted a traffic study of the street, evaluating the impact of putting Chestnut Street on a road diet—from three lanes to two lanes. Such a change would reduce speed, reduce weaving behavior, and reduce crashes, according to the study’s conclusion.
The study also found reducing the lane of traffic would have minimal impacts on motor vehicle travel between 34th and 45th Streets. Travel time, it was found, may increase by a single minute.
The study recommended installing a parking 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. Additionally, the study recommended moving the existing conventional bike lane on the south of Chestnut Street extending from 34th Street to east of the Schuylkill River over to the north. This part of the street is part of a separate PennDOT project.
After the Traffic Study was completed, the Managing Director’s office submitted an application (Knitting the Network) in July 2015 and received a grant in July 2016 from the Commonwealth’ Financing Authority’s Multi-Modal Fund.
Then, at the Third Vision Zero Conference on March 1, 2017, Philadelphia’s Bike/Ped Coordinator Jeannette Brugger announced the plans for West Chestnut Street’s bike lane, from 34th to 45th. It will be a parking protected bike lane. It will look like this:
OTIS is going to hold a community outreach meeting this spring and anticipates that Councilwoman Blackwell will introduce an ordinance soon.
And after the lane goes in, of course, the Bicycle Coalition will push for an extension to the original end point (63rd Street).