The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and other organizations ask Mayor Kenney to move forward with the Mixed Lane Configuration of Washington Ave.
(PHILADELPHIA) – Members of the community and local organizations gathered on Thursday afternoon calling on Mayor Kenney to fulfill his Vision Zero promise of eliminating traffic deaths by moving forward with the Mixed Lane configuration of Washington Avenue.
After years of community engagement and despite a controversial compromise already made by the Kenney Administration, the proposal to make Washington Avenue safer is on the verge of collapse. District Council Member Kenyatta Johnson is poised to disregard the opinions of thousands of his constituents by not submitting new parking and loading regulations. He has indicated that he supports allowing two-thirds of Washington Avenue to be repaved without lane reductions, which will eliminate the possibility of traffic calming and protected bike lanes for two thirds of the roadway.
In a statement to Mayor Kenney, State Senator Nikil Saval said, “OTIS has proposed a plan that improves safety on Washington Avenue for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. While it does not go as far as I hoped it would, the mixed-lane design represents a significant upgrade that will improve the lives of my constituents who travel on or live adjacent to the Avenue. I urge the Mayor and his administration to go forward with the mixed-lane design for the entire length of the Avenue”
Once the roadway is repaved, oTIS proposes to lay down a combination of 3, 4 and 5 lanes and a protected bike lane on each side of the corridor across 17 of the 22 blocks. This mixed lane plan was selected over the safer 3 lane configuration (originally announced in fall of 2021) primarily because of community reaction against the 3 lane proposal.
“The mixed lane option is a compromise that offers a much improved level of safety for everyone over the current 5 lane existing condition,” says Sarah Clark Stuart, Executive Director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “After all of the time invested in accommodating community input, Council Member Johnson is poised to reject safety, something that thousands of his constituents have spent a decade asking for.”
“This is another act of undermining data driven decisions, and refusing to prioritize the safety of pedestrians and other vulnerable road users,” said Feet First Philly Volunteer, Peter Kim. “If the City wants to take its commitment to Vision Zero seriously, roads like Washington Avenue need to be redesigned to protect road users including pedestrians, who are most likely to be killed in traffic crashes. Backtracking on a previous commitment to make the road safer is a direct blow to this policy.”
However, the legislation is not needed for the protected bike lane or the lane configuration itself; the City could move forward with the reconfiguring without the approval from Council.
On May 26th, Council Member Squilla introduced the curb parking and loading legislation that would make the mixed lane configuration work in his district. This legislation includes 5th St through 11 St on Washington avenue.
If the five lane configuration is replaced when Washington Avenue is repaved, it will not have any traffic calming measures such as fewer lanes, corner wedges, bus islands or a protected bike lane on both sides of the street because it is not possible to put in those traffic calming measures on a five lane roadway. Under that scenario, Washington Avenue will remain on the High Injury Network that is dangerous for motorists, cyclists, transit users, and pedestrians.
“My kids cross the five lane highway daily to get to school, sports, friends houses and the playground. The use of the median as parking across from Chew Playground makes it incredibly unsafe to cross,” said Stanton Elementary parent, Lindsay Birckhead. “In a time when I feel paralyzed by gun violence, I expect my elected representatives to invest in the best way possible to keep the kids in the community as safe as they possibly can be.”
There is still time to remedy the situation. There are three acceptable options. Councilman Johnson can amend Councilman Squilla’s legislation on June 7th. The Mayor can move forward with repaving the avenue and reconfigure it to the mixed lane plan. Lastly, the Mayor can delay repaving Washington Avenue in the 2nd District until a safe configuration can be agreed to.
“Council Member Johnson’s option would be to repave Washington Avenue and put back the five lane configuration, which would undermine Mayor Kenney’s own Vision Zero goal and would knowingly make permanent an unsafe roadway for everyone,” said Families for Safe Streets of Greater Philadelphia member Sidney Ozer, father of Samuel Ozer who was killed on Henry Avenue by a driver while on his bike in 2020. “We believe that such an option is completely unacceptable for a Mayor who pledged to eliminate traffic deaths.”
Please write to Mayor Kenney and Council Member Johnson asking them to prioritize safety by repaving Washington avenue with the Mixed Lane Configuration.