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.
The Kelly Drive should be closed like the MLK. Currently there are bottlenecks around the boathouse row area that make it problematic given the need to distance and the increase is usage. Also the Mayor should close the parking lots. Last weekend many cars had NJ tags!!!!!
Given the City’s (Parks and Rec) practiced hand at staging that late summer fest from 20th Street to Eakins Oval (the name is escaping me now) that closes the outer lane, it’s surprising this wasn’t executed on earlier, and surprising it hasn’t happened already. At least in the instance of heading north, out of the city, the plans should certainly be at the ready. The issue appears to be managing those right turns off of the center lanes (both directions), on to the cross streets. As a larger point, the phrasing being thrown around during this shutdown, across all parts of the political spectrum, is that ’such and such a group is using the Pandemic to make political gains they couldn’t otherwise.’ No reason biking advocates shouldn’t be in the middle of that scrum. After all, some of these seemingly temporary modifications might become permanent, which in some cases could be a very good thing, this perhaps being one of them.
I’m not that active a biker but, living in Spring Garden, I’m constantly frustrated with the whole mess of the Ben Franklin Parkway. The space between the museum and City Hall is one of the prettiest urban spaces in the country yet it’s been defiled by a 12 lane speedway & 2 traffic ovals. The best use would be to turn it into Philly’s version of Central Park. Having lived in Manhattan for many years, I know what an immense improvement that would be to city life!