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How Can Spring Garden Street Be Protected?

Spring Garden Street

In light of the horrific tragedy that took place on Spring Garden Street this weekend, it’s worth giving an update on the street, and where the protected lanes for it stand.

As many know, a plan was birthed in 2010 to create a middle-lane “Greenway” on Spring Garden Street, which would be part of the East Coast Greenway, a series of paths along the eastern United States which, when complete, will connect from Maine to the southern tip of Florida, and will be completely rideable by bicycle.

But that plan is not complete. And in the meantime, Spring Garden Street has some of the most-used east-west bike lanes in the city.

Depending on the block, Spring Garden Street’s bike lanes east of the Schuylkill River are either standard 5-foot lanes, or buffered lanes, the latter of which are striped with a small painted buffer between the bicycle lane and the motor vehicle lane. Before last summer, Spring Garden Street featured only standard bike lanes, so when it was restriped, putting in a buffer on some streets was considered an upgrade.

But long-term, this bike lane, like bike lanes all over Philadelphia, needs physical protection.

And there is still a plan for that. But it’s changed. Instead of a median Greenway-style trail through the Center of Spring Garden Street, as of a couple weeks ago, the project has turned into a parking-protected bike lane project with curb bumpouts, funds for which are still being raised. In our view, this is a better solution. A 2-way median path would have been confusing for riders and created a potential conflict at intersections.

Currently, full design (both preliminary and final) is estimated to be between $3-6 million with the construction costs estimated around $23-25 million in current construction dollars.  At present, only a portion of the preliminary design costs have been raised. The project will cost will include in addition to the protected bike lanes, stormwater abatement, and removal of old trolley tracks. Numerous City Council ordinances are needed to begin the project, too.

Throughout the design process, the project will be presented to communities in Philadelphia around Spring Garden Street, which stretches from the Art Museum area, to Northern Liberties. There will be a meeting and happy hour at Roy Pitz Brew Pub on Spring Garden Street on June 5 for a quick update on where the plan stands.

Register here for the “update” meeting.

Another ripple: Because Spring Garden Street is a PennDOT road, state legislation that the Bicycle Coalition has been advocating for still needs to be brought up for a vote, especially since PennDOT will likely be involved with the construction. That bill is still sitting in the state Legislature, and we encourage you to send a message to Legislature leadership, demanding they vote and pass the bill, by clicking the button below.

If this sounds frustrating to you, you’re not alone. There are many, many steps that need to occur before a true protected bike lane can be realized on Spring Garden Street.

So, how do we speed up the process?

First, we need Harrisburg to pass the curb bill, which was sponsored by State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Phila). The state and city’s hands are basically tied until that happens. If you haven’t yet, please click here to send a message directly to state leadership.

As the funds are being raised for the complete re-construction of the Spring Garden Street project, here’s our proposal:

  • Flip the motor vehicle parking lane and the bike lane. We understand that this would be dependent upon passage of the Curb Bill. We also understand that the buffer between parked cars and the bike lane would be narrower than the buffer on West Chestnut Street, and there would still be a risk of getting “doored” in the bike lane by passengers exiting their car without looking. However, there already exists a risk of dooring.
  • On blocks where there is not enough room for a buffer, consider eliminating on-street parking in non-residential areas and protect the bike lane with some sort of barrier.

Although this proposal is not a standard design, we believe that it would be a good option for both the city, and the very local residents of the areas that will be protected. There is no “If” Spring Garden Street will be protected—there is only a “When.”

Right now, the “when” is far in the future because of the funding and the legislation. If the City flips the parking and bicycling lane with less room than desirable as a pilot, it will give residents a better idea of what the street will look like, and how it will function, after the capital project is complete. Residents will also be better informed when it comes time to choose a final design for the corridor.

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Topics: Biking in Philly, Crash, Featured, Vision Zero

One comment on “How Can Spring Garden Street Be Protected?

  1. Rob Reply

    Great proposal! Given that most vehicles are single-occupancy, the risk of “dooring” on the passenger side is far lower.
    My only question is about the long-term project. Do the trolley tracks really need to be removed? Philly should be figuring out ways to preserve infrastructure, and re-constituting its trolley system.

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