Bicycle Coalition

Philadelphia City Council’s Streets and Services Committee, chaired by Councilman Mark Squilla, held a hearing on Monday regarding four bills to change the Spruce and Pine Street bike lanes through Center City.

The four bills in question would switch the bike lanes from the right side of the one-way street to the left, which would create a smaller blind spot for people in motor vehicles turning off the streets. We support the bills, as well as several other aspects of this repaving project, including:

  • Reasonable protection measures at all intersections for turning, including physical protection which forces people in motor vehicles to make slower, wider turns.
  • Changing “no parking” into “No Stopping” signs for the entirety of the Spruce and Pine streets in Center city, and
  • Re-purposing meter polls into bike racks, where possible.

Members of Philadelphia’s bicycling community came out in force to support the bills and make their opinions on the matter known. They testified, too, often speaking about their experiences on Spruce and Pine Streets, and why they felt the streets needed to be upgraded.

Several cyclists met up at 20th and Market Streets, and rode down the new Market Street parking-protected bike lane to City Hall, where the Streets hearing, scheduled for 1pm, began around 2pm.

The bills we supported passed committee, but not before some powerful and emotional testimony.

“How many more people need to give their lives before we have a safe network of protected bicycle lanes in Philadelphia?” asked bicycle commuter John Poole in testimony. “How long until we consider the safety of all commuters whose socioeconomic status did not allow them to be here today? How long until the younger generations of Center City are truly safe to ride down the street to the corner store?”

Cyclist Oren Eisenberg noted that while the plan presented at City Council include proven safety measures – they don’t go far enough.

“The methods in the plan before you have been proven safe, effective, and cost efficient in both study and execution in cities across the country,” he said. “The Spruce and Pine Streets Repaving and Safety Project even offers other benefits beyond safety, such as a net gain in street parking. For all of these reasons and more, I urge you to vote in favor of these measures. However, these plans do not far enough to make our streets safe. I also ask you to approach this project with a firm commitment to longer term continuous safety improvement along Spruce and Pine streets—a “first step” towards implementing more necessary safety measures in the future.”

People who have been directly effected by Spruce and Pine’s lack of safe infrastructure were in attendance, and also chose to speak. They included Regan Kladstrup and Becca Refford.

During her testimony, Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart recognized Laura and Richard Fredricks, whose daughter, Emily, was killed by a private trash truck over the winter.

“Since the crash, members of the Philadelphia’s bicycling community have reacted overwhelmingly, organizing human-protected bike lanes, a vigil, memorial rides and other advocacy in Emily’s honor,” she said, before noting why the Bicycle Coalition supports left-side bike lanes, with protected intersections, on these streets.

Added Stuart: “Left side bike lanes reduces these kinds of angle crashes by reducing the likelihood of interactions between bicyclists and motorists taking right-hand turns. Bicyclists will be more visible riding to the left of motorists. Drivers have larger blind spots on the right side of their vehicle than the left. In particular, truck right turn mirror related crashes are four times more common than left because research has found that the driver’s direct field of view in a truck is significantly more restricted than that in other vehicles, especially in passenger vehicles.”

Becca Refford, who was severely injured by a truck shortly after Fredricks, on Pine Street, also spoke at the hearing, noting she thinks about other traffic victims every day, and people like Emily Fredricks and Pablo Avendano, who was killed while riding his bike on Spring Garden Street, are part of her motivation for speaking out now. “A bike lane is there to create real safety for real cyclists,” she noted.

This hearing on Spruce and Pine was important. And not just because of the details of the bills that were passed yesterday. It’s important because City Council heard directly from the people affected by the lack of action on bike lane projects.

Spruce and Pine Streets were once considered premier bike lane projects and helped put Philadelphia on the map as a city catering to cyclists. Since they were installed, though, the City has allowed these streets to deteriorate to the point where the lanes are barely visible. This was unacceptable, and we are glad to see the city fixing some of its mistakes.

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