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Help Us Report Problems with Closed Sidewalks or Bike Lanes

There’s been a huge boom in construction in Philadelphia over the past decade, and, with it, plenty of street closures. And while such changes are part of city life, not all of it has been legal.

That’s why the Bicycle Coalition has begun working on a new project — now officially a Pilot with the City of Philadelphia — to better report illegal closures of sidewalks, bike lanes, and streets, in an effort to make Philadelphia safer for all road users, especially the most vulnerable among us.

The Streets Department published a webmap of all open permits that close some part of the “street and footway,” which includes work by utility companies, developers, or the City itself that result in closing part of a street or sidewalk to accommodate the construction project.

This tool is helpful for revealing the actual permit for each construction project. It allows you to view the permit and see if the construction project is legal and in conformance with its permit.

A screenshot of the city’s closures map

Bike Lane and Sidewalk Closures

The confluence of a construction boom and an influx of bicycle ridership in recent years is challenging. Unexpected street closures can be especially dangerous to vulnerable users, who may have to merge into shared traffic, putting the fragile bicyclist-motorist relationship at risk. During street and bike lane construction closures, a safe alternate route will be provided for all users. Site specific plans for each closure detailing temporary traffic control, and the maintenance and protection of traffic must be applied.

As another type of vulnerable user, a pedestrian being displaced from the sidewalk can also put their safety into jeopardy. Similarly, the Streets Department will not authorize the closure of any portion of a sidewalk, without determining a covered walkway is not a realistic option, and if not, whether a protected walkway can be established that will adequately protect public safety and not unduly impact traffic safety.

These are some typical problems you might run into at a construction project that is in the right of way:

  • Bike lane or sidewalk closed without safe passage or signs
  • Debris, hazards or construction activity in the bike lane or sidewalk
  • Unsafe lane shift or merge
  • Uneven steel plates
  • More than one ramp is blocked at an intersection
  • Two sidewalks on both sides of street closed without safe passage

Why Report Problems

Oftentimes, we’ve found out after several meetings with the Streets Department, the City isn’t aware of some of the issues involving the quality of our streets due to massive understaffing and a lack of resources. Raising comments and concerns from the people who use the street, especially when it’s become dangerous, can accelerate inspections and orders to fix the problems. Our streets should be safe for all users.

How to Report Problems

In collaboration with the Streets Department Right of Way Unit, the Bicycle Coalition developed this webform to enable citizens to report problems with construction “disruptions” on sidewalks or bike lanes.

We are asking interested residents to report projects limited to the area of Philadelphia between Allegheny and Tasker, river to river.  We will conduct this project for the next two months as a pilot.

If you see a project that you think is not permitted or in violation of its permit, please follow these steps

Step 1: Take a picture and note the location’s address – the more specific you can be, the better!
Step 2: Look at the City’s webmap of street and footway closure permits to see if the project has a valid permit  (or cut and paste https://stsweb.phila.gov/closephl/ into a new browser tab)
Step 3: If there is NOT a permit, fill out this form and attach the image of the project
Step 4: If there IS a permit, but you see a violation, fill out the same form and attach an image of the problem.

Topics: Biking in Philly, Vision Zero

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