Our Recommendations for a Safer Schuylkill River Trail

by | November 6, 2015 | Biking in Philly, The Circuit | 2 comments

unnamedOn Thursday, advocates, nonprofit organizations and city officials met, at the behest of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, to discuss safety on the Schuylkill River Trail. As the Bicycle Coalition has written over the past couple months, there have been reports on social media of harassment, groping, and attacks on the trail, and that is unacceptable. Wednesday’s meeting was well-attended by both advocates and media.

As noted by CBS this morning:

A Philadelphia city council hearing Thursday took a look at ways to make the Schuylkill River Trail safer, in light of reports that runners and others using the trail have been harassed and, in at least one case, attacked.

USA Today named it the best urban trail in the country, but problems have been growing since the spring, when women — like this runner — started getting groped by teenage boys on bikes as they rode by.

Below, we’ve listed 5 implementations the city of Philadelphia needs to install to make for a safer trail.

Call the Police

One of the biggest concerns mentioned by the Philadelphia Police representative at the meeting, Captain Raymond Convery of the 9th District, presence of police, both in uniform and plainclothes, has increased on the trail since the complaints began.

But it’s very important that, if you are harassed or attacked on the trail, you report it to the police.

Convery noted his district watches social media, which is where many incidents have been reported, but it’s much easier for them to follow-up on a case if it’s reported directly to them.

Here is the 9th District’s contact information:



Label Streets Underneath Each Bridge

As was discussed at Thursday’s meeting, because of the complexity of the trail—it goes under bridges and through tunnels at points—it can be hard to explain to someone on the other line where you are at a given moment.

Bicycle Coalition policy coordinator Bob Previdi suggested the city install new signs under each bridge and through every tunnel that clearly state what street you’re on in comparison to the rest of the city.

Perform Short and Long-Term Lighting Enhancements

The lighting on the Schuylkill River Trail is notoriously bad. And as it gets dark earlier, it becomes harder and harder to see what’s in front of you earlier and earlier.

Lighting is expensive, but we believe short and longer-term solutions for some lighting now, and better lighting over the long term, need to be a top priority of the city.

Look for Obvious Opportunities to Install Cameras

We understand cameras are expensive and difficult to maintain, but we need to look at all capabilities and speak with other stakeholders along the trail to make sure that if an incident happens, we can see who did it, and where.

For instance, the city could work with the Philadelphia Museum of Art to install and maintain cameras along the trail, which would be beneficial to everyone involved—including the Museum.

Standardize the Mile-Making System and Follow Best Practices of Other Cities

It’s unreasonable that we can have mile-markers every tenth of a mile on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but not on the Schuylkill River Trail.

Here is a current map showing where mile-markers are, compiled by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

If someone is attacked and needs to report the crime, but if somebody falls and gets hurt, just like having a sign knowing what street they’re at, users should be able to see a mile-market. Similar to what Washington, D.C. has done, we need to install better markers that show users where they are, more often.

The Schuyulkill River Trail is the best urban trail in America. It’s time we begin treating it that way.

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  1. Johnpaul

    Forbidden Drive is well marked with “mile markers”, and says to use those if you need to convey your location in an emergency. There seems to be a system in place for emergency responders to locate you based on them.

  2. Paul Boni

    Penn has a ton of public safety officers and they do a good job. Since Penn will be having a significant presence on the east bank of the Schuylkill with its new project, perhaps Penn can offer to deploy their public safety officers on the trail on a permanent basis. PSILOT (public safety in lieu of taxes).


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