PETITION: Reimagining The Future Of MLK Drive

by | February 22, 2021 | Biking in Philly | 36 comments

This blog is part of a series about the future of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, which has been open to people as a bike/ped trail since March 20, 2020. Sign our petition here.

For nearly a year, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive has prospered as a place for people. On March 20, 2020, after a petition and campaign initiated by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and heralded by, of all people, Dan Rather, the City of Philadelphia shut Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to motor vehicles, opening it up to pedestrians and people on bicycles for travel, commuting, and recreation.

The opening of MLK Drive was in response to much of the city’s economy shutting down over COVID-19 concerns. Motor vehicle traffic had fallen dramatically, citizens were wary about riding public transportation due to the airborne coronavirus, and bicycles quickly became a popular form of transportation. Now, it’s time to rethink how MLK Drive is used in the future.

Check out my op/ed about this in Monday’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

Since March 2020, MLK Drive has seen a resurgence in popularity and become one of the most-used outdoor spaces in the entire city.

Given this popularity and the simple nature of closing MLK to motor vehicles, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia believes it is time for the city to rethink how MLK Drive is used going forward.

Over the last two months, the Coalition has been meeting with councilmembers, registered community organizations, businesses, and government officials to propose a new future for the Drive — one that is dedicated to active transportation, recreation, and equity. At those meetings, we’ve offered up two proposals for the future, which we will outline below.

If you’re interested in more of a “deep dive” on these ideas, check out this link to view our full presentation.

Our first idea is simple: Do nothing. Don’t ruin a good thing. MLK Drive has thrived as a place for people over the past year and there’s no reason to believe it won’t remain that way.

Our second idea will involve much more work by City agencies, and SEPTA, but we believe could pay off in the long- and short-term, as people.

According to electronic counts of MLK Drive users by engineering firm WSP, 5,000 people use MLK Drive per day on weekdays (and 9,661 on weekends) — a more than 1,300 percent increase from before the pandemic.

Given that increase alongside steady usage on the Kelly Drive Trail and Schuylkill Banks, it stands to reason 90 percent of MLK Drive users are new trail users.

And this has all happened alongside a 50 percent increase in Fairmount Park usage.

Actively devolving MLK Drive back into an urban highway is simply not an option.

If you agree, sign our petition!

More Content Like This

Veronica Vanterpool to Give Keynote Address

Veronica Vanterpool to Give Keynote Address

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is excited to announce that Veronica Vanterpool, Deputy Administrator at the Federal Transit Administration, will give the Keynote Address at the 2023 Vision Zero PHL Conference catered luncheon. Leslie Richards, CEO and...

  1. Brandon McNeely

    Keep it closed (with lighting and other enhancements for those enjoying it) and continue to expand outdoor recreation options!

  2. Iris Gold

    I agree keep mlk closed to cars

  3. Jeanette Lloyd

    Pandemic or not, MLK should be a safe haven for families and citizens of Philadelphia to enjoy accessible outdoor spaces for health and wellness. Please keep it closed and rethink its possibilities!

  4. Andy Webber

    The link to the detailed presentation doesn’t seem to work. It sends you to an link that requires login.

    • Randy LoBasso

      Thanks Andy! Should be fixed now.

      • Matt J

        Still no joy here

    • Stephanie

      Keep it closed. I love the freedom it gives to families to enjoy the outdoors.

  5. Sean Duffy

    Please keep it car free. It is the best thing to come out of these dark Covid days. Connects two halves of Philadelphia!

  6. Charles A Nuyianes

    A safe place to ride is needed in this area. Keep it closed to cars and open to bikes and foot traffic.

  7. Michael Nordeman

    Maintain bike road access to MLK for the health and well being of the city.

  8. Suzanne Hagner

    Over the past year, MLK has become a much needed, highly used, safe corridor for bicyclists, walkers, families with young children. During this winter I have seen groups who have ridden out and then found a picnic table to sit around, picnic and visit with each other. This has been on very cold days….and the space is always being used. It is also a relatively quiet space compared to Kelly Drive…safe, quiet and beautiful. I highly support keeping closed.

    I am also a regular transit user and would like to see the plan/possibility for making it a combination recreational area and a corridor for buses, esp. buses going to the Wissahickon Transit Center. Thank you Bicycle Coalition and Transit Forward…

  9. Lisa B

    Please keep MLK open!

  10. Bridget Mead

    Keep MLK closed to traffic

  11. Peter Stevens

    During these dark days of the pandemic, being able to ride my bike without a worry of motorized traffic is a GOD sent blessing. . Keep it closed to cars and open to bikes and foot traffic.

  12. Bryan Adams

    Great idea!

  13. Shaun Cerborino

    Yes please

  14. Sarah Thorne-Locke

    I Support a permanent ban on cars on MLK drive in favor of bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

  15. Daiva Kazlauskas

    We, as a family use MLK drive for cycling and enjoy it! The trail on the opposite site of the river alongside Kelly drive through s too narrow for pedestrians and bicycles, as well as the trail alongside MLK drive is full of tree roots, therefore, the wide MLK drive open for cyclists is a must!

  16. Gail Lipstein

    I like option #2 to give transit users a bonus from this proposal, as well as, ped/bikers.

  17. Jane

    Keep it closed. It is a
    No brained. It works, people love it, good for your health, good for the city. It is a win win for everyone.

  18. Nina Smoker

    We love using MLK drive daily for outdoor activities – we find it a positive improvement in public health for our community and hope it stays strictly for use of pedestrians.

  19. Lawrence Kaplan

    the ability to have the drive closed to motorized vehicles has provided an obvious benefit for wellness during the pandemic. I use it regularly to get to work as a bicycle commuter and it is wonderful to see the cross section of the city on a daily basis taking advantage of it.

  20. Lindy

    Keeping MLK Drive as a trail is a treasure for Philadelphia. It will attract tourism and recreational activity, and add to Philly’s attractiveness as a place to visit and live.

  21. Will Shapiro

    Keep MLK closed

  22. B Horn

    Keep it going as is!

  23. Bruce Taubman, MD

    keep it open!

  24. tamra dann

    I am in favor of continuing the use of MLK to East Falls Bridge as non-vehicular only for all of the reasons the Coalition states. I also would like to add that some safety data could likely be extrapolated in terms of reduction in vehicular collisions per thousand miles traveled. Many cyclists, like me, knowing that we can traverse through center city north-south any day/time, off-street, we use MLK and thus eliminate those potential conflicts throughout that corridor. These safety reductions of course translate to money savings as well as contribute to the Vision Zero initiative.

  25. Lou Niggel

    Please keep MLK Drive closed to vehicular traffic as it is a much needed recreational venue for the people of Phila. And the surrounding area.

  26. Megan Dunn-Paul

    We love having safer places to walk, run, and bike (the tree routes are an obstacle on the rec path). Please keep MLK open to recreation and closed to cars

  27. Steven Tsai

    Keep MLK closed to vehicles!

  28. Greg Stevens

    I am a new user taking advantage of MLK Drive. An afternoon cycle was the only thing that kept me sane during the covid related lockdowns.

  29. Anthony Cesa

    Yes! Keep MLK closed to traffic please! Cars occupy more than 90% of available space in our cities across the country. People and animals need space, peace and quiet. Less cars, less pollution, less asshole drivers. The world will be a far better place with less cars.

  30. Matthew Quirk

    Keep closed

  31. Howard Berinson

    Safer and exercise for health

  32. Kathryn

    If they just paint magic white paint and call it a bike lane that cars aren’t “supposed” to cross over, I’m gonna lose it. I vote completely car free except the ones that need to go to the stables!

  33. Amanda Cullen

    Keep MLK Closed to Vehicles. Only foot Traffic & Bicyclist. Less Cyclist and runner wont be killed by Vehicles


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This