On Thursday, a confusing blog came out on Philly.com, noting the city’s plans for bike lane upgrades.
In the blog, written by Stu Bykofsky, it was specifically noted that the city has plans to put in delineator posts to separate cyclists from cars on Spruce between 10th and 13th, and along 10th and 13th Streets north of Lombard, among other streets. The article itself was critical of these plans, and Bykofsky quoted Washington West Civic Association President Jonathan Broh, who noted 13th Street is “really busy. To effectively make it one lane of traffic is a problem.”
The thing is, that “problem” already exists. Thirteenth Street has one lane of travel for motor vehicles and one lane for bicycles. And it isn’t actually a problem. The vast majority of 13th Street’s bike lane runs along the curb that is a regulated “No Stopping” zone. This means that any car parked in the 13th Street bike lane north of Locust Street, at any time, for any reason, is doing so illegally. And cars parked illegally should be ticketed.
Where the problem lies is the inability of the Philadelphia Parking Authority to be in all places at all times, and, therefore, the inability to ticket those scofflaw parkers, all of whom make the streets more dangerous for cyclists when they obstruct the right-of-way.
Therefore, to be clear, creating a physical barrier between the bike and car travel lanes on those streets will not create any difference for drivers who are currently acting legally. They already aren’t allowed in the buffered lane on 13th. If the businesses need more loading zones, more legal loading zones can be created on the other side of the street. Illegal loading is not a solution.
Any problem perceived for those people driving those cars that are using the 13th Street bike lane as a parking spot is imaginary, because it already is illegal to park there for a single minute.
This is not the case for all of Spruce and Pine Streets in Center City, many blocks of which are dedicated “No Parking” zones. “No Parking” regulations allow cars and trucks to “stop” for 20 minutes; “No Stopping” implies cars may not stop at all.
The Bicycle Coalition has an easy, friendly, page set up that notes the differences between all these signs.
Additionally, the blog’s argument that someone should not ride a bike at all if they’re afraid of riding in traffic is a bit weird. Protected bike lanes have been shown to get more people on bikes and create a safer space for all road users — and Philadelphians’ safety is the most important issue here.
By the standard presented in the article, the city may as well just eliminate sidewalks for pedestrians, too: If people are scared of walking in the street alongside people driving cars (many of whom are driving while texting, Facebooking, and Instagramming, and at illegal speeds), they may as well not leave their houses at all.
Stu is an elderly old coot that Philly dot com, and the affiliated papers under it, keep around because he writes angry vitriolic (at times) columns that can appeal to whomever is angry that day. When the suburbanites start to think that the Inquierer is too liberal, they get pulled back in with a stu rant on “liberal hippies.”
Don’t worry. One day he will quit or retire or die, and Philly can move forward a little more.
In the mean time, he and folks like him (e.g. The local community board guy you quoted) make a ruckus and get in the way of progress.
People drive at illegal speeds, because speed limits are posted at absurdly low levels. Higher speed limits have been shown to be safer, as traffic flow is much smoother and spaced out.
The bike group should advocate for proper speed limit posting at the 85th percentile free-flowing traffic speed.