Philadelphia’s Mayor plays a critical role in ensuring that all citizens can use city streets to bike, walk, take transit or drive. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia prepared a questionnaire for all 2015 mayoral candidates. These responses serve as campaign commitments to Better Mobility in 2015. Jim Kenney’s responses are in italics.
1. Implementing a Vision Zero Policy. According to Penn DOT, over the past five years Philadelphia averages 94 deaths on our streets, with 33 being pedestrians. You have gone on the record as being in support of a Vision Zero policy. What steps will you take to implement a Vision Zero goal and policy?
Shortly after taking office in January 2016, I will bring together stakeholders from the state and City government, advocacy groups, and community members to create a Vision Zero Task Force. This group will develop an action plan similar to what was most recently done by Mayor de Blasio in New York City. Several of the recommendations made by the New York City committee would also make sense in Philadelphia, specifically: automated speed cameras, reduced speed limits, specific “slow zones” across the City in designated danger areas and better street engineering to reduce travel speeds. Some of this will require authorization from Harrisburg, but there are things we can do in Philadelphia now to improve conditions.
Additional dedicated pedestrian crossings with no vehicle traffic, dedicated traffic turn signals, improved street marking and turn lanes, and better timed traffic signals to start. I will also work to add more bike lanes, and to have protected bikes lanes wherever possible. Finally, I will partner with SEPTA to expand their traffic signal preemption program. Currently being installed on on several traffic signals across the City, these sensors allow buses to hold a green light longer and reduce idling. When installed on fire apparatus and police cars, these sensors can cycle a light quicker, giving the public safety vehicle priority and reducing the possibility of them speeding through a red light and endangering pedestrians or other vehicles.
This common sense investment has been made in a number of other cities, and as Mayor I will make it a priority for Philadelphia.
2. Streets State of Repair . The budget for improving our streets has fallen behind. This year the Streets Department has plans to replace 60 miles of roadway. To maintain a state of good repair the Streets Department needs to rebuild or resurface approximately 130 miles of roadway each year, and this does not account for the 900-mile backlog, which is approximately 35% of the city’s roadways. Will you commit to doubling the paving budget in the capital budget to reduce the 900-mile paving backlog?
As the Bicycle Coalition has rightly noted in reports earlier this year, the Streets Department Capital Budget has been hampered by judicially required mandates over the past five years, along with the overall economic downturn that negatively affected City resources across the board. A drive or bicycle ride through Philadelphia neighborhoods this spring will remind everyone that paving and maintaining our roads is vital if we want to avoid the potholes that permeate our City this time every year. After being sworn in next January, I will review all aspects of the operating and capital budgets as my administration undergoes a new format of Zero Based Budgeting. While I cannot commit to exactly doubling the paving budget at this point, I am committed to providing more money and to repaving more miles of streets during my term.
3. The Circuit: The Circuit is Greater Philadelphia’s multi-use trail network connecting communities throughout the Delaware valley and beyond. 300 miles are open, 50 will be on line soon and 400 miles remain to be built. Will you complete 25 miles of Circuit trails in Philadelphia (8 miles along Schuylkill River, 10 miles along Delaware River & 7 miles along Cresheim, Tacony-Frankford and Pennypack Trails)?
My administration will work together with advocates to identify and leverage additional private, foundation and public resources to help complete the circuit.Connecting more neighborhoods and providing equal access to these trails is very important, and this network should not just be usable for a select few individuals. Adding additional pedestrian and bike access to our waterways and park spaces is important to me, and I will ensure that neighborhoods across the City have access.
4. Protected Bike Lanes: The city has over 230 miles of bike lanes but does not have a single mile of a physically protected bike lane, which is now the best practice among bicycle-friendly cities. Protected bike lanes provide physical separation, which can be accomplished by simply moving parking lanes over to provide a physical barrier. Would you support the installation of 30 miles of physically-protected bike lanes over the next five years and 15 miles of standards bike lanes annually?
Yes. It is embarrassing for Philadelphia to have zero protected bike lanes while over 50 other cities all have them. My administration will study best practices in these other cities to develop an action plan to implement these protected bike lanes. My administration will also identify and develop more standard bike lanes every year while working collaboratively with District Councilmembers.
5. Expand Bike Share: Philadelphia is inaugurating bike share in 2015. The Bicycle Coalition has partnered with Bike Share to provide community outreach outside Center City. We believe making bike share as accessible to all neighborhoods in Philadelphia where there is demand and opportunity is important. Would you expand Bike Share to all Philadelphia neighborhoods after 2016?
Yes. Right now the focus is rightly about launching this program successfully, and then building momentum from there. Once launched, Bike Share should be expanded to new neighborhoods further and further from Center City. I was happy to see Ride Indego partner with several stores to develop a cash membership program so those without access to a credit card can use the service. I would like to see this expanded to make cash payments easier.
6. Securing Sidewalk Safety: Philadelphia is going through a construction boom and while this is a good thing for the city, too often contractors close sidewalks making passage dangerous for pedestrians. Will you implement strengthen policy and regulations to ensure that contractors maintain a safe passage around construction projects?
This specific topic has been an area of serious interest for me for several years. In 2008, I passed the first regulation of this activity to require the use of sidewalk sheds in most construction projects. Due to lax enforcement, just last year I passed more stringent legislation requiring L&I to issue a Stop Work Order if a sidewalk is fully or partially blocked without a permit, and requiring signage that is directional and clearly visible. As Mayor, my focus will be ensuring that these Code regulations are enforced, and strengthening the requirements around the use of sidewalk sheds and walkway corrals.
7. Complete 3 showcase Projects for the DNC: With the eyes of the entire nation on Philadelphia in 2016, the Bicycle Coalition and other organizations would like to see 3 projects completed to encourage delegates to bike safely to and from the Wells Fargo Center. Will you complete three bicycle projects along JFK/Market Streets, 13 th & 15 th Streets, and Broad Street in time for the DNC Convention?
All three projects should be considered as priorities for the next Mayor, but implementing and completing them all within the first 6-7 months of a term may be difficult, especially depending on other convention-related costs that might be incurred. The 13th and 15th Streets projects would be the easiest considering the $250,000 grant funding has already been secured. This is an excellent project because it potentially removes the dangerous situation for bikers on Broad Street, and slows down traffic on 13th and 15th Streets which tends to be moving much too fast for the street size. The JFK Blvd./Market Street protected bike lane project would also be a priority along with the construction of protected bike lanes in other areas of the City. The Broad Street Sidepath project is the most in-depth, and the one that will be hardest to complete in the first seven months. I really like the concept of using this underutilized sidewalk space as a two-way bike/pedestrian path, and would like to work with the Coalition and others to make this project happen.
8. Create an Active Transportation Office. Philadelphia cannot be a leading city for bicycling, walking and traffic safety without a dedicated office. Will you create an office that is tasked with implementing the 2012 Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan and other measures to make Philadelphia’s streets and sidewalks safer?
Yes. I believe that implementation of this plan, along with the overall Complete Streets policy, will be vital for the next Mayor. My administration will return to strong managing director form of government, and this office will work directly under the managing director. The office will break down silos and coordinate services amongst departments, such as Streets, Water, and Police. Additionally, the office will coordinate with other governmental and quasi-governmental organizations such as PennDOT and SEPTA. This will make government work more efficiently and effectively, and make our streets and sidewalks safe.
9. Safe Routes to School. Philadelphia has 162 elementary schools with roughly 100,000 students. The City of Philadelphia has a very small Safe Routes to School program that provides biking and walking curriculum to students and conducts walkability audits to identify how routes can be made safer to encourage more biking and walking to school. Will you support the Health Department having a robust Safe Routes to School program to reach as many students and schools as possible?
Yes. With the closure of more schools and the increase in distance traveled by many students, providing safe transportation options and routes to school is important. I will work to make schools the centerpiece of communities throughout the City. This process will include the development of Community Schools that provide social services to students to supplement their education. In addition, city departments will be required to develop plans and regularly report how they are helping to improve services to schools. Through this effort I will bring Health, Streets and the School District together to create a robust Safe Routes program.