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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