After more than a month of negotiations and re-scheduled court hearings, flex-posts were installed at 13th and Spruce Street Streets today, to better the bike lane in front of the new Fairfield Marriott Hotel.
The issue began this past spring after the hotel re-opened, ending years of construction and a closed bike lane along 13th.
Unfortunately, motorists quickly mistook the bike lane in front of the hotel for a valet parking zone—which sort of made sense, since the valet parking crew had set up shop under the hotel’s awning out front.
Members of Philadelphia’s bicycling community attempted to work with the hotel to end the practice. The hotel worked with us, too. They responded to our complaints by putting “No parking” zone poles at the edge of the bike lane, and adding signage across the street (where the legal valet parking was), but drivers—whether parking for the valet, or being paid to drop off people staying in the hotel—kept parking in the bike lane.
Parking in the bike lane is a big problem, as any cyclist will tell you—and it’s gotten to unprecedented levels along 13th, Spruce, and Pine Streets in Center City. When a person parks a vehicle in the bike lane, they’re forcing cyclists into motor vehicle traffic. And while cyclists are allowed to be in motor vehicle traffic, a bike lane assumes the person on the bike is in their space, and the person in the car is in their space. Forcing the person on the bicycle into the motor vehicle space throws this off and has led to injury, even death.
And that’s something Bicycle Crash Lawyer Stuart Leon knows all too well. He’s successfully litigated on behalf of cyclists—and only cyclists—for more than a decade.
Leon sued the hotel on behalf of a client and the hotel and the company that runs its valet parking, Park Ops, quickly agreed to work with Leon, the Bicycle Coalition, and the City of Philadelphia’s Streets Department to get the flex posts installed and keep motor vehicles out of the bike lane in front of their hotel.
To put an end to the situation, and make the street safer, Parking Operations agreed to pay for the installation of the flex posts. Over the last two months, we have all been working together to accomplish the goal of installing flex posts. The Bicycle Coalition helped organize the relationship between the vendor, Garden State Highway Products, and the hotel. The Streets Department worked with the vendor and hotel to approve plans to place the flex posts into the street.
Dan Bell, of Parking Ops, was in charge of the buying of flex posts and managing the installation from the hotel/operator side, and was very accommodating.
“If there were 100 people in the city like Dan Bell, this would be a different city,” says Stuart Leon, who worked closely with Bell throughout the process.
Then, this afternoon, roadway workers from Garden State Highway Products came to 13th Street to install the half block of protection. The installation itself was a relatively short job — it was done in about two hours.
We believe, as Leon does, that businesses could work with the city to install flex post protection at no-brainer locations like this one, which would help make Philadelphia’s streets safer, especially when the no-brainer locations are amongst Philadelphia’s most-biked routes.
So, while this is the first (small) section of protected bike lane that’s been installed by a private business, we hope it’s the first of many.
Next up, Wawa is working with the City and Councilman Johnson to install flex posts in front of their 22nd Street and 3744 Spruce Street locations. On the 22nd Street project, the South of South Neighborhood Association has been proactive, and want the same result we do. We hope to have another update on that as soon as possible.
This was truly a group effort—from the cyclists who investigated and documented the valet parking problem, to the lawyers representing cyclists harmed by parked motor vehicles in bike lanes, to City Council members, Streets Department officials and company managers who worked together to get this done—and, while it’s just a tiny section of one street, we hope to see more businesses be proactive, where applicable, to make the bike lanes in front of their locations easier to navigate, and safer for everyone.