Authored by: James Bergman, Bike Delaware County Co-Chair
The Bike Delco Action Team has been spending a lot of time in Lansdowne Borough recently. On Friday, May 19, bicyclists and commuters from all over Delaware County converged on Lansdowne Borough to celebrate “Bike to Work Day.” This is a day that, traditionally, has been celebrated in the county seat of Media, but the celebration was moved to Lansdowne, this year, to showcase the borough’s impressive new bicycle facilities. Then, on June 3, Lansdowne kicked off its own Community Day with a tour of those bike lanes on the main three-mile loop around the borough. They enjoyed a low-stress ride along the Greenwood Avenue bike lane—made possible through the removal of parking on that side of the street—and then followed Eldon Avenue—due to be striped with bike lanes after utility maintenance—down to Burmont road, where the riders crossed Baltimore Pike onto Scottdale Road. A little ways up Scottdale, the riders encountered the most impressive part of Lansdowne’s bike infrastructure: a dedicated, buffered eastbound bike lane between Gladstone Towers and “The Knoll” (a private lane). To achieve this, the borough limited car traffic to the westbound direction of the road between those two points. This was, as Richard Kerr noted at the Philadelphia Western Suburbs Trails Summit in February, the first time one direction of car traffic was taken away to accommodate biking infrastructure.
The borough has good reason to showcase its new infrastructure, as it adds considerable value to the borough and to Delaware County as a whole. Located just south of Upper Darby and just east of Cobbs Creek, Lansdowne occupies a crucial location for commuters of all kinds. Its town center is home to a highly accessible SEPTA regional rail stop, the bike lane up Lansdowne Avenue almost reaches the 101-102 trolley stop on Garrett Road, and the new infrastructure has made its other regional rail stop accessible on bike and foot. For bicycle commuters looking to stitch together a complete bike ride using the Circuit Trails, Lansdowne sits right between the Darby Creek Trail and the Newtown Square Branch Trail. The bike lanes will add low-stress routes between these trails, and the lanes on Scottdale Road will effectively continue the Darby Creek Trail, once the leg between Kent Park and Baltimore Pike is finished.
These improvements were planned with the help of a Transportation and Community Development Initiative grant that the borough, in partnership with Yeadon Borough and Upper Darby Township, received from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission in 2020. Lansdowne then incorporated the DVRPC’s recommendations into their resurfacing plan. While the borough council has noted that the plan “supports the Delaware County Bicycle Plan” and features prominently in the Eastern Delco Bikeway Prioritization Study, these improvements were made not just for bicyclists; they were made for the safety of all borough residents and visitors. In a presentation to the Philadelphia Western Suburbs Trail Summit, Lansdowne Borough Council President Benjamin Hover said that the area around Scottdale Road was very dangerous, as drivers would take the scenic, 25 mile-per-hour road at 35, 40, and sometimes 50 miles per hour to bypass Baltimore Pike and Lansdowne Avenue. Indeed, the stretch of Lansdowne Avenue between Baltimore Avenue and Dudley Avenue—the area near the train station and Scottdale Road—had seen 42 crashes between from 2012 to 2017, and five of those crashes involved pedestrians. Scottdale Road’s bike lane and one-way direction is expected to calm traffic, discourage cut-through traffic, and offer a way to get to nearby Hoffman Park without driving.
Although the bike lanes have seen their fair share of opposition, and the one-square-mile borough needs more help from its neighboring municipalities to connect cyclists to the rest of the county, the borough is already seeing benefits to its quality of life. According to Mr. Hover, the borough has seen a bump in pedestrian activity, as the bike lanes have created a buffer between the car lanes and the sidewalk. The bike lane on Wycombe Avenue, for instance, has offered residents stress-free walking and biking routes to the new McKinley Tot Lot, which was formerly a parking lot. As Mr. Hover noted at the summit, in quoting one of his fellow council members, “You can’t necessarily change people’s minds, but you can change behavior through good engineering.” We hope to see more changes in Delco, in the months and years ahead, and Lansdowne will be a place to learn from.
Interested in joining the movement in Delaware County? Join the Bike Delco Action Team today by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org!