The Bicycle Coalition’s weekend of Vision Zero events began on Friday, March 15, with a tour of upcoming safe infrastructure through sections of North Philadelphia and North Center City.
About ten conference attendees took advantage of a tour of new bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, with guidance provided by leaders of the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability; the Streets Department; and the Philadelphia Water Department.
Darin Gatti and Katie Drake are telling the American Street #greenstormwater infrastructure and #completestreets #TIGERfunded story to our #VisionZeroPHL #mobileworkshop which will result in new raised bike lanes! @PhilaStreets @PhillyH2O pic.twitter.com/zm7nXuPNsf
— Bike Coalition Phila (@bcgp) March 15, 2019
It was the beginning of a fun, informative, and successful weekend.
The next morning, our annual Vision Zero Conference got started at 10am. We first heard from Council President Darrell Clarke, who touted his latest ordinance making the JFK and Market Street bike lanes permanent, and another which would create a civilian arm to the Philadelphia Police Department, enforcing quality of life and traffic issues.
Throughout the day, we’d hear from Councilperson Cherelle Parker (who introduced speed camera legislation that week), city officials, advocates, commuters, private industry, community leaders, and Mayor Jim Kenney.
The conference was well-attended—more than 200 people were there—and probably our most informative conference ever.[su_pullquote align=”right”]“We have heard your calls for more bike lanes. Our city has the highest percentage of people who commute by bicycle of any large city in the United States, and we are committed to keeping it that way.” Mayor Jim Kenney[/su_pullquote]
After the opening speakers, which also included Laura Fredricks, of Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia; Coralette Marshall Hannon, AARP; and Brian Abernathy, Managing Director; attendees heard from four people who gave presentations about their commute by bicycle, train, bus, and walking.
Those in attendance were then invited to view a trash truck that South Philadelphia-based Athena recently upgraded with Vision Zero tools, including side guards between the front and rear wheels, which will help keep injuries on the street from potentially becoming a death.
Throughout the rest of the day, attendees would hear from Veronica O. Davis, founder of Black Women Bike DC, members of Families for Safe Streets, DVRPC, OTIS, City Council, and community leaders the Bicycle Coalition worked with on our recent listening sessions throughout North and West Philadelphia.
City leaders from OTIS, Streets, City Council and other organizations spoke about project delivery — how it happens, why it often takes so long, and what the city’s priorities are when it comes to completing safe streets projects.
As noted by Stasia Monteiro of HACE, an organization based in Fairhill, after the listening session held there, neighbors organized and applied for a neighborhood slow zone through the City of Philadelphia’s recent contest—and they won a $500,000 grant to install traffic calming devices.
As noted by a City press release, the Fairhill slow zone, which HACE helped win, will involved “traffic calming on residential streets between N. 2nd & N. 5th Streets and Allegheny & Glenwood Avenues, and with the neighbors around Willard Elementary to plan traffic calming on residential streets between Somerset & Clearfield Streets and Kensington & Frankford Avenues.”
At the end of the day, Mayor Jim Kenney took the stage to talk about the city’s Vision Zero goals and the work that has been done, so far.
The mayor noted that the criticism he receives online is justified—and invited more of it. He also spoke of his transition from a car person to someone who understands the need for bicycling infrastructure. He noted that he used to be a “gas ass car guy” who “got annoyed” by bicyclists.
“We have heard your calls for more bike lanes. Our city has the highest percentage of people who commute by bicycle of any large city in the United States, and we are committed to keeping it that way,” Kenney said.
Kenney also dropped this bit of wisdom on stage: “It’s no surprise that I hear many complaints about the conditions of our streets, because they suck. I’m sorry.”
When running for office, Kenney pledged his administration would build 30 miles of protected bike lanes. That hasn’t happened yet. But the needle has been moving and the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability has been on the front lines, holding meetings to talk about their protected bike lane plans and pedestrian improvements for the City of Philadelphia.
Those meetings have been going well, even if some of them were dogged by some people who feel their ability to park their car is more important than the safety of those around them. The fact that these meetings (like Monday’s meeting about a new protected bike lane along 22nd Street) are happening, and OTIS is prepared to do the work to make streets safer, is positive. As it the mayor’s commitment in his recent budget address to up the budget for street paving.
In his latest budget address, the mayor announced a huge cash infusion to the Philadelphia Streets Department for paving, which will, over the course of five years, bring the city up to 130 miles of repaved streets, per year—something that the Bicycle Coalition has been arguing for since our 2014 Better Mobility report.
Thanks to all of our members and supporters who came to this conference, and all the sponsors who made it possible. We could not do it without your help!