We Scanned Greater Center City for Unsafe Inlet Grates. Here’s What We Found.

by | October 30, 2019 | Biking in Philly, Featured, Vision Zero | 5 comments

On May 11, 2018, Pablo Avendano was delivering food for Caviar food delivery during a heavy thunderstorm. He was turning left at 10th and Spring Garden Streets when his wheel got caught in a grate that was under water. His bicycle was brought down and he was fatally struck by a vehicle.

10th and Spring Garden Before

The inlet on Spring Garden in May 2018

After Mr. Avendano’s tragic crash, the dangerous grate was swapped out for a bicycle-safe grate. This is good — but the city needs to do better. The installation of this grate at 10th and Spring Garden was too late for Mr. Avendano.

Spring Garden After

The bicycle safe grate that replaced it

Wanting to keep all cyclists safe from these inlet grates, we did a visual scan of unsafe inlet grates on select streets with bike lanes between July and October 2019. Our list included: Chestnut St, MLK Drive, 22nd St, Spruce St, Pine St, Center Square, 13th St, Spring Garden St, Washington Ave, Snyder Ave and S. Christopher Columbus Blvd.

We found 60 unsafe bicycle inlets.

Of those, we identified 24 of them as “Priority 1.” These are grates with long tilt bar or parallel bar slots. Many of which were oriented to the directional travel of the bicycle traffic.

“Priority 2” grates are not bicycle safe but are not oriented at a dangerous angle.

We then sent our findings over to the Office of Transportation Infrastructure and Sustainability.

Bicycle Safe Grates have been around for decades but there are no regulations requiring them. PennDOT recognizes the importance of bicycle safe grates. Chapter 13 of the PennDOT design manual (Storm Drainage Systems) states that: “All grate inlets shall be bicycle safe in those areas where bicycle traffic (or wheelchairs) are anticipated.” Bicycle compatible drainage grates area also recommended in the 2012 AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities.

Our survey only covered a fraction of the 270-plus miles of bike lanes and the high injury network. We also realize that replacing these grates will involve coordination between the Streets Department and Water Department. We would like to see a long term Vision Zero policy directive that replaces all the bicycle unsafe inlets in the City.

A big thanks go out to long time BCGP volunteer Chuck Aronson for going out and geotagging photos for the map.

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  1. Karen Winey

    25th and Spruce — northern corner.
    When the street was repaved, a very deep hole developed next to the storm drain. There is currently a traffic cone marking the problem.

  2. Nikolaus P Schuetz

    there is a grate at the south end of the art museum on spring garden that could kill somebody. south side of spring garden, between Anne d’Harnoncourt Dr and where spring garden splits in two. visible in google maps. would affect cyclists from west, inbound to center city

  3. Emory Krall

    Corner of Carpenter and 15th street has one I have to avoid every morning

  4. Andrew Thompson

    2726 Grays Ferry Avenue
    It’s not a grate but someone decided to build a driveway into the bike lane instead of depressing the curb. My guess is the property owner didn’t want to go through the City ROW unit. As a result it often floods and is next to invisible when it rains. https://goo.gl/maps/awqjvxZSRRJ86jkq9

    There are also grate just like the one above along Grays Ferry Ave at least between Washington Ave and 34th St.


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