Update on New Pavement Marking Plan for Washington Ave

by | June 12, 2014 | Biking in Philly, Featured | 14 comments

Anyone who bicycles on Washington Avenue knows that it can be a dicey experience reminiscent of a B action movie. Worn-away striping and unenforced parking regulations make it unpleasant and unpredictable. It’s not just bicyclists for whom the street isn’t working: the City of Philadelphia reports 915 crashes have occurred on the street over a 3 year period. On average, Washington Ave experiences:

  • 6 crashes per week
  • 1 crash every 10 days that involves an injury or a car requiring towing
  • 1 crash every 3 weeks injuring a pedestrian or bicyclist

These are unacceptable statistics, and for over six months now, the Philadelphia Planning Commission has been working on a plan to better “organize” Washington Ave. This planning process takes into consideration the many users of the street (including commercial and light-industrial parking), determining how they can be accommodated in a way that makes the street more orderly and safe.

The Plan

The Planning Commission is nearly finished with a conceptual plan that contains the following goals:

  • Define spaces for activities & users
  • Improve business operations
  • Reinforce Washington Ave’s network role
  • Keep Washington Ave a distinctive and  unique place

The Planning Commission’s most recent presentation, at a March 11th public meeting, contains a lot of interesting information and interested residents should read it. The presentation included renderings for the recommended new street striping layouts:

Washington Ave 3-lane concept

3-lane concept for certain sections of Washington Ave, featuring clear bike lanes and angled parking that will increase parking capacity

Washington Ave 5-lane concept

A 5-lane concept for sections near Broad and Delaware Ave to accommodate heavier traffic loads.

Other recommendations of the preferred design:

  • Angle parking to maximize parking spaces between loading zones
  • Bicycle Infrastructure
    • Contiguous bike lanes provided for the entire length of the corridor
    • Bike racks provided at 9th Street, 10th Street and 11th Street
    • Bike boxes at 22nd St, 11th St, and Columbus Ave to help with difficult turns
  • Two-way left turn lane: Preserves access to driveways
  • Motor Vehicle Traffic
    • 3 lanes through most of corridor
    • 5 lanes provided where capacity is needed

Reasons why we support this plan

1. The status quo is unacceptable; too many crashes and too many injuries are occurring on this street.

2. Washington Avenue needs a contiguous bike lane from river to river.

  • There is high demand for better bicycling facilities from residents around Washington Avenue. U.S. Census statistics report bicycle commuting rates around Washington Ave that are much higher than the city-wide average (2.1%).
    • Broad to 6th Census Tract: 15.4%
    • Broad to 21st Census Tract: 12.5%
    • 21st to Grays Ferry Census Tract: 7.9%
    • Broad to Columbus Census Tract: 7%
  • Census Tract 2012 PHL_WashAve
  • There are a lot of bikes on Washington Avenue. Our fall bike counts recorded as high as 700 bikes per day at 11th & Washington. DVRPC’s electronic counts in winter weather found 130 bikes/day at 6th Street (February) and 200+ bikes/day at 15th Street (March).
  • The current gap in the bike lane is where bike crashes happen. Reported bike crashes on Washington Ave are concentrated in the gap between 7th and 11th Streets.

3. It’s a win-win for all street users[1. So technically a win-win-win-win-win-win-win]

  • The plan will help motor vehicle traffic move more efficiently while having little impact on travel times.
  • It will help resolve the illegal double parking and loading/unloading that currently occurs unchecked.
  • It will make Washington Avenue safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

What Comes Next

The plan now has to move towards implementation. The Streets Department is reviewing it and will prepare a final marking plan. Funding is in place.  The next step is for Councilmen Squilla and Johnson to introduce ordinances. In order for the new markings to be done within the 2014 paving season, City Council must vote on the bills as soon as possible in September. Stay tuned to our blog for updates on possible Council hearings, public meetings, or other opportunities to voice support for this project.

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  1. BrianJay

    How about a configuration where the bike lane is placed alongside the sidewalk and there is a door-zone buffer between the bike lane and the parked cars?

  2. BMV

    Sounds good. The 11th to 7th street corridor is where commercial activity intensifies (Italian Market area). But the whole corridor needs new infrastructure, Near Columbus Blvd. it disappears, and towards Gray’s Ferry it atrophies. With UPENN developing land there around 34th Street there will be even more bikers.

    And to state things succinctly, I rode on Washington Ave. to a store last weekend and asked myself why. Things were that bad.

    My normal route would have been to use Christian Street.

  3. Sky

    Would it make more sense to place the bike lanes be between the sidewalk and the parked cars so the cars don’t have to cross the bike lanes to park?

  4. Jennifer H

    I honestly hope that this restructuring helps improve the situation for all modes of transit along the corridor AND catches the attention of PPA for enforcement of the new patterns.
    As a cyclist I can’t begin to explain how many times vehicles are double parked in bike lanes or how often a fork lift just emerges carelessly from the sidewalk into the bike lane. It’s frightening and unnecessary. Increases in revenue would be boosted dramatically for the city if they just enforced parking rules.

  5. Sarah

    I don’t understand how these layouts will keep trucks from stopping to load/unload in the bike lanes as usual. There is still no other place for them to stop.

    Bike lanes next to the sidewalk, painted green and separated from traffic by the parked cars, would be much much much better.

    • Nicholas

      The proposed layout includes loading zones for trucks along specific sections. The 3 and 5-lane options with angled parking aren’t what every block will look like. Click through to the report the City brought to public meetings for more information.

  6. Jim

    I like the idea of the sidewalk > bike lane> parking spot model, especially if there is a curb protect the bike lane from cars parking into the lane. It would also give people parking their cars a landing area to wait for bikes passing by. A protected bike lane would be most beneficial to all in this scenario.

  7. Dave Winfield

    Wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity to try separated bike lanes? By shifting the roads lines over and placing the bike “road” on one side or the other.

  8. Melissa H

    Sky and Brian are correct,
    In Europe (Copenhagen, Stockholm) the bike lanes are not adjacent to car lanes in many areas. Where they have to be adjacent they are usually raised by about 4″ to make cars straying into their lanes much harder to do. The order should be sidewalk, bike lane, parked cars, road – especially with all the traffic on Washington Ave. There are great examples out there for the planning commission to emulate and the width of Washington Ave. provides a wonderful opportunity to get this bike lane right.

    • Nicholas

      We agree that a separated bike lane would be better. There are a number of bicycle improvements we asked for in our meetings with the city, but we weren’t able to get everything we wanted. One of the barriers to putting the bike lane between the parking and the sidewalk is the need to “daylight” the intersections. If the bikes are hidden by parked cars, you need to remove parking spots at every corner of every intersection in order for turning cars to better see the bikes, and visa versa. This loss of parking is typically very unpopular with local residents, which makes it harder to get such bike lanes put in.

      It isn’t the ideal design from a bicycling perspective, but it is a definite improvement compared to the way the street is now.

  9. Aaron B

    At the community meeting regarding this plan, PCPC said they were not pursuing radical changes beyond re-striping because the Water Department plans to tear up large portions of Washington Ave in the next 5 – 10 years to implement stormwater mitigation.

    Let’s help Streets get it right next time: protected cycle tracks; no riding in door lanes; no dealing with idiots backing up through the bike lane; cycle signaling; ped bump-outs at every corner.

  10. Jordan

    The 3 lane option is going to cause WAY more bike involved accidents. I know the purpose of angle parking is so that driver’s view isn’t obstructed, but it’s going to happen anyways. There is going to be a little car next to a big truck and it’s not going to be able to see the road. So it’s going to just blindly inch out into the bike lane to see the motor vehicle traffic, which is either going to push the bicyclist into traffic or cause it to flip over the hood of their car. Just a REALLY poor design.

  11. Evan

    As a driver and cyclist I have to disagree with this plan.

    All of the comments notes about angled parking are correct. And while a separated lane would be a great idea for stretches of the avenue, the heavy commercial Italian market area will always be an unsafe corridor for bikers. I think the road needs to be left as a motor vehicle arterial, and bikers should just use an alternate route.

    Washington avenue always has congestion and the displacement of car lanes for parking and bike lanes will only add to the problem and encourage unruly motorists to use residential side steers and through-ways.

  12. allison

    I have to disagree on this too. Going from 3 to 5 lanes will cause major confusion. Angled parking on Washington – I’m not a fan.


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