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People on bicycles on the Ben Franklin Parkway

Center City Residents Association and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association wrote letters to the Kenney Administration on Friday, calling for the closing of the outer lanes of the Ben Franklin Parkway to motor vehicle traffic.

“In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are writing about the need for a great deal more outdoor space for pedestrian and bicyclist activity than we currently have,” wrote Maggie Mund of CCRA, and Dennis Boylan of LSNA, wrote in their organizations’ letter. “[T]he city needs streets to be closed to motor vehicles in considerable numbers, and it needs them urgently and immediately.”

Mund’s and Boylan’s comments echo, in part, what a group of activists throughout the city have been advocating for. Earlier last week, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Clean Air Council, Feet First Philly, 5th Square, and Nate Hommel of University City District released a statement and a map calling on the City to close 18 miles of streets to motor vehicles, opening up more space to people to practice safe social distancing.

Philadelphia was one of the first cities to actually close a street to relieve trails and sidewalks of pedestrian congestion, locking the gates of MLK Jr. Drive in mid-March. But since then, the weather has continued to improve and more and more people are getting outside to get to work, run their errands, and get exercise. In light of that, it is imperative the city closes the proposed streets, then looks into a more substantial plan that best benefits all Philadelphians.

The streets our advocacy groups called for would involve the least amount of city resources to close, would give residents around Philadelphia better access to their parks, and could be used as “overflow” for when parks get too crowded.

With no end in sight for COVID-19 closings, and the weather continuing to get warmer, cities around the country have followed suit and surpassed Philadelphia in closing their streets to motor vehicles.

Last week, Oakland, California, opened, or partially-opened, sections of 74 miles of proposed streets to people to practice better social distancing while outside. Other cities, like Washington, D.C. and Boston, have been following suit. New York City closed some streets to motor vehicles, but then went back on the plan.

CCRA’s and LSNA’s letters mark the first two neighborhood associations officially calling upon the city to open streets to people, and we both hope more civic associations follow suit, and the city comes up with a plan rivaling Oakland’s to keep people safe during this pandemic.

Read both letters here.

Randy LoBasso

Author

Randy LoBasso is the policy director at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

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