The Philadelphia Parking Authority announced on Tuesday a new pilot program of bicycle-riding officers to target motorists illegally parked in bike and bus lanes — a program for which the Bicycle Coalition has long been advocating.

The program is a commitment to staffing up the Quality of Life Enforcement unit by adding new bike patrol officers who will specifically ticket blocked bike and bus lanes — problems that Philadelphians are well aware of.

As announced at Tuesday’s meeting, the pilot program will take place between Delaware Avenue and 40th Street, Spring Garden and Bainbridge, and be limited to five officers for the time being, with the understanding that it would likely take 35 officers to cover the entire city.

Getting officers on bikes to patrol bike and bus lanes not only would make the enforcement of these dangerous blockages more efficient, but it would cut down on enforcement by armed officers.

Slide from PPA presentation on bike patrol officers

This is an idea the Bicycle Coalition has been working on for several years. It is partially based on a program that already exists in Toronto. Beginning in 2017, Toronto “bike lane guardian” Kyle Ashley began ticketing motorists parked illegally in bike lanes from the reality of getting around a city on two wheels.

After a successful campaign by Ashley, the Toronto Police Department expanded the bike parking team. The team engaged audiences on social media and, in addition to saving lives on the streets, became a positive force on the Interwebs.

Today’s announcement by the PPA makes Philadelphia one of just a handful of cities where bike lane enforcement is being conducted specifically by officers on bicycles — a problem that has persisted in Philadelphia, where it’s hard for anyone commuting by bike, or just on a ride, to get anywhere without having to swerve around at least one parked car in the bike lane.

Better ticketing of these motorists who disrespect the law around parking and idling in rights of way, we hope, will help cut down on this sort of behavior by motorists.

To be clear, there are still a number of steps the PPA has to go through to begin the pilot, according to their presentation:

(For my live-tweets during the presentation, click here.)

How did we get here? I recently began meeting and working with PPA board member and Republican City Commissioner Al Schmidt and Deputy Commissioner Michelle Montalvo on this issue, in an attempt to figure out how the PPA could better serve Philadelphians who ride bicycles and other mobility devices.

Together, we figured out how to advocate for a workable program in Philadelphia, using the Toronto officers as inspiration.

As is well known, Schmidt has become nationally recognized as one of Philadelphia’s Commissioners who successfully defended democracy in the city last year, despite efforts to circumvent that process. He’s less known as an advocate for a better, safer Philadelphia for all road users, but, as a PPA board member, has been instrumental in bringing this pilot to the forefront of the Parking Authority’s agenda.

We’re hoping this pilot is successful and intend to work with the PPA to ensure that it is. And with more and more Philadelphians choosing to ride bicycles, scooters, and other micromobility devices, there’s no time like the present to get this started. Thank you to the PPA and, especially, City Commissioner Schmidt and Deputy Commissioner Montalvo, for making this happen.

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