Citing the concerns of some Lombard Street residents, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson sent a letter to the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems last Friday rejecting the the City’s proposal to create a protected bike lane along that street for six months in order to test out the facility, a setback for the City’s efforts to install a network of 30 miles of protected bike lanes, a feature of Philly’s Vision Zero program.
Johnson’s letter comes on the heels of a July 17th community meeting over the installation of delineator posts on several blocks of Lombard, 27th, and South Streets in West Center City. Some residents along Lombard Street were upset that the City’s proposed pilot project would eliminate their access to pull over in the bike lane and load/unload their cars in front of their houses.
The City’s proposal was to move loading and unloading activity to newly created loading zones in the parking lane across the street, on the south side. This concept was not acceptable for some residents, whose negative reactions to the proposal were cited in Councilman Johnson’s letter.
Given Johnson’s siding with neighbors, the Lombard Street portion of the proposed project is essentially dead. But the entire project is not.
Why does the Councilman’s opinion matter on this? Because parts of the street on Lombard that would have been part of the pilot program are “No Parking” zones, which means that motor vehicles are allowed per Philadelphia Parking Authority policy to stop for 20 minutes to unload before they’re ticketed.
And in order to complete the pilot safety project, the City would have needed to turn the “No Parking” zone into a “No Stopping” zone—meaning no motor vehicles would be allowed to park or stand in the lane, at any time.
Johnson’s unwillingness to support the proposal signaled that he would not introduce an ordinance changing the parking regulations on Lombard Street, thus preventing a protected bike lane from being installed there.
It’s not clear how many negative responses the Councilman received that led to his opinion. However, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia asked supporters to write him letters after the public meeting last week with their opinions on the matter.
Using our platform, the Councilman and OTIS (we got copies) received 217 comments, 212 of which were in favor of the pilot safety plan. Ninety-one of the 217 letter writers were from Councilman Johnson’s District, and 87 of those comments in support use the bike lanes for transportation. We made this map of the responses generated by our action alert:
Despite this setback, we support the City moving ahead with a modified version of the proposal to advance on 27th Street and South Street. We believe that at the very least, these two roadways should be made protected and safety should be enhanced for bicyclists approaching and departing the South Street Bridge.
Additionally, we’re proposing a protected, wide intersection at the entrance of the South Street Bridge, like so:
We will not stop working toward a safer entrance and exit to the South Street Bridge, Pennsylvania’s most-biked bridge. So while we’re extremely disappointed with Councilman Johnson’s decision to reject safety improvements, this issue is not done.
Read Councilman Johnson’s letter here: