Life in the Fast Lane: Biking on Kelly ‘Drive’

by | February 16, 2017 | Featured, Uncategorized | 8 comments

Bicycle Coalition

A recent article published by Philly Voice answered one disgruntled motorist’s complaints about cyclists on Kelly Drive using the roadway instead of the bike path.

The concerned driver commented on the “arrogant and dangerous” manner in which cyclists refuse to use the designated bike path, bringing up a legitimate safety concern that involves everyone, drivers and cyclists, as well as pedestrians.

Kelly Drive boasts itself as a four-mile stretch of road for anyone, with a four-lane roadway for cars and a wide path for bikes and pedestrians running adjacent. The path is designed to comfortably fit cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers, and leisurely strollers at once, but is often times crowded with traffic that makes navigating on a bike nearly impossible. Traffic aside, the path includes sharp turns, the occasional pothole, and a 5 mph speed limit that greatly limits cyclists’ ability to ride smoothly down the path.

Randy LoBasso, our communications manager, further explains why cyclists prefer the road over the path, via the PhillyVoice article:

Bicycles are allowed on the Drive and the person asking the question is probably talking about high-speed training rides.

Since the path along Kelly Drive is a multi-use path, it’s safer and more logical for high-speed cyclists to be in the road than dodging families, joggers, slow cyclists, and dogs.

Additionally, Pennsylvania State Law does not require that cyclists have to use side paths.

The Drive itself would be much less dangerous for everyone if the 35 mile-per-hour speed limit was followed by everyone.

To a professional cyclist looking to train at high speeds, the idea of riding on the bike path is not only laughable, but also illegal and highly dangerous.

Taking the path would mean constantly weaving in and out of walkers, dogs, and baby strollers, and not to mention completely ignoring the 5 mph speed limit.

Riding on the four lane road rather than the crowded path is actually the safer route for cyclists, and also entirely legal, contrary to many people’s belief that cyclists must used bike paths when given.

While this discussion focuses mainly on the actions of cyclists, it’s important to note that drivers are held equally, if not more responsible for roadway safety, and it appears they could be doing more than just complaining about bikes.

Brian Hickey, author the original Philly Voice piece under discussion, had his attention turned to the drivers of Kelly Drive in 2012, when he took a radar gun to the roadway to test the power of its 35mph speed limit. What he discovered shocked even the police.

Of the estimated 700 vehicles clocked by the NewsWork radar-checkpoint locations, 174 vehicles were driving within 9 miles an hour of the speed limit while 297 vehicles were driving more than 50 miles an hour. A total of 70%of the cars recorded were driving at least 9mph over the speed limit.

The Philadelphia Police Department, although surprised with the frequency of speeding cars, is well aware of the speeding problem on Kelly Drive, stressing the danger of cars traveling 70mph in 25mph zones located right next to the walking path filled with pedestrians.

It’s obvious that reckless cycling is not the sole cause for concern on Kelly Drive, which creates an even bigger need for cooperative dialogue among the city about how to keep everyone safe and moving on their way, whether that way be car, bike, or foot.

Whatever the solution, the answer appears to be a bit more complicated than ‘get cyclists off the road,’ an attitude seen many times in some without a complete grasp of transportation laws and best safety practices.

Check out the Philadelphia Streets Department Rules of the Road page for more detail on PA’s bike laws.

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  1. James C. Walker

    Mr. Lobasso knows that posted speed limits have almost no effect on the actual travel speeds, a fact that every engineer has been aware of since at least their time in the engineering classes – if not well before their college training. If the data in the article matches what an experienced traffic survey person would find, the posted limit should probably be 55 to match the fact that 42% are above 50 mph. Only 24% were at or below 44 mph (35+9 mph), so the posted 35 is likely about 5th percentile speed with about 95% above the limit. THAT is a ludicrous limit that almost certainly reduces safety and bring a total and WELL-DESERVED disrespect for the posted limit. You cannot arbitrarily define 95% of the drivers as criminals and get any respect whatsoever.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  2. josh

    Mr. Walker, do you know what Kelly Drive looks like? Or are you speaking from the lofty place of an engineer? Just in case you don’t, it’s full of curves and there is zero room for error on each side. It also goes through some really interesting rock outcroppings. If you actually knew what the road conditions looked like, I doubt you’d be advocating a 55 mph speed limit.

  3. Alan Fody


    The speed limit should be based on the characteristics of the roadway, not the speed which drivers choose to travel. I commute on the bike path daily and the number of preventable motor vehicle collisions on Kelly Drive is incredible. Every time it rains there are a minimum of 7 tow trucks lined up and waiting for collisions. The posted speed limit is not arbitrary, physics and the free market both show that motorists drive too fast on Kelly Drive.

    Second, the bike ride in question often averages over 30mph. If a motorist was traveling at the speed limit of 35mph they would likely never catch up to the group ride and they would never be “inconvenienced”.

  4. Michael McGettigan

    OK, got it … 55 on the Kelly Drive is safe because, um, you said so. That must be why there are so many scrapes in the median and curb barriers, car fragments and regular crashes caused by speeding motorists! Mr. Walker, yours is a circular argument–at best. –Michael McGettigan / Trophy Bikes PHL

  5. James C. Walker

    For josh, Alan Fody, and Michael McGettigan:
    I am not advocating for a particular speed limit. What I am saying is the posted speed limits do NOT have any real effect on actual travel speeds. If 85% of the drivers feel safe and comfortable at or under a speed of XX as shown by their behavior and officials believe the actual travel speeds should be reduced, then the ONLY effective way to do that is to re-engineer the road so 85% of the drivers now feel safe and comfortable at or below the lower speed of YY. It is likely the high crash rate is due in part to an unrealistic posted limit that most drivers ignore, so the speed variance is higher and some bad behaviors like tailgating and excessive passing are far too common.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  6. Michael McGettigan

    “It is likely the high crash rates due in part to an unrealistic posted limit….” Why is it likely? You offer no evidence for this vague declaration. I could reply that it’s likely the high cash rates are due to too many motorists reading your opinion pieces–but I have no evidence for that. The ONLY effective way to prove you point is to submit links to evidence, preferably research from this century, and of course, not from any group you are part of! – Michael McGettigan / trophy bikes PHL

  7. James C. Walker

    For Michael McGettigan:
    If people do not recognize the very well known principle of traffic safety that high levels of speed variance tend to raise levels of risky driving behaviors and thus raise crash risks for all road users, it is hard to solve the resulting problems. Posted limits set lower than most drivers find to be safe and comfortable have almost no effect on the actual travel speeds of most drivers – something that engineers, researchers and police officers have known for at least seven decades. Low limits DO affect a small percentage of drivers that will comply with posted limits set well below the normal travel speeds of most other drivers. Mixing this small percentage of drivers at YY speeds with the vast majority of drivers at YY plus 10 to 20 mph above that level is a certain way to increase bad driving behaviors and likely produce higher crash risks. Setting limits that 70% or 80% or 90+% of the drivers find to be unacceptable is terrible traffic safety engineering that no one should support. It is not a safety program, it is a program to risk disasters.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association


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