In a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia filed on behalf of Philadelphia citizen Greg Lang, lawyer Stuart Leon specifically takes on the city’s 2012 ordinance which gives City Council—not engineers—final say over street safety.
In 2012, City Council passed a law requiring an ordinance introduced by the District Councilperson encasing a bike lane that replaces a travel lane be passed before a safe bicycle infrastructure can be built.
The Bicycle Coalition believes traffic engineers should have final say over street safety-related decisions, not City Council members. Public outreach and input is important, but should not sacrifice safety.
When the bill was passed in 2012—and brought up years earlier—we were against it, and fought against it.
The current law is substantially better than the original legislation brought up in Council, which would have forced a Council ordinance on any and all bicycle infrastructure, whether it eliminated a lane of traffic/parking, or not.
Seeking Council approval for 21st-Century infrastructure promoting bicycling and walking has slowed down Philadelphia’s growth as a cycling city and created a worsening traffic situation, especially in Center City.
This lawsuit notes that Lang was riding a bicycle in late November 2017 on Washington Avenue, encountered construction barriers, forced into vehicular traffic, and then hit from behind by a passing vehicle. The suit also alleges a safe place for the cyclist would have been available had Council not passed their 2012 legislation:
14. On May 3, 2012, Defendant––through Philadelphia City Council––introduced an ordinance amending Title 12 of the Philadelphia Code to require the designation of bicycle lanes that replace travel lanes to be authorized by ordinances introduced by City Council.
15. In the spring of 2014, a study authorized by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission that proposed a realignment of Washington Avenue’s lanes was produced and presented to City Council.
16. The proposal included the corridor of Washington Lane that was the site of Plaintiff’s crash on November 17, 2017.
17. The proposal included traffic, parking, commercial loading, and safety statistics, as well as feedback from the residents and business owners of the Washington Avenue corridor.
Whether or not this particular suit succeeds, if it spurs Council to revisit this law, it is positive.