It’s a question we hear a lot. Countless reports have shown that physical separation increases bike ridership and reduces serious and fatal crashes, so it seems like these lanes should be a priority, but there are only 12 state roads and 3 scheduled with parking protected bike lanes. It would be easy to lay blame at the feet of our local elected officials, but the issue is larger than just our city; it goes all the way to the state legislature. 

To better understand  Philadelphia’s history with parking protected bike lanes, the Bicycle Coalition’s work to expand the high quality bike network, and the current challenges the coalition and Philadelphians are facing in Harrisburg and in City Hall, we’re going back in time to the first term of the Kenney administration (and the City’s first run-in with PennDOT).

First Vision Zero Conference in 2015

In 2015, Mayor Kenney made a campaign promise to install 40 miles of high quality bike lanes by the end of his term. The next year, in 2016, he signed an executive order creating Vision Zero PHL and establishing the goal of reaching zero traffic fatalities by 2030.

Protected Bike Lane Press Conference on Spruce St. 2016

In September of that same year, Mayor Kenney cut the ribbon on the Ryan Avenue Parking Protected Bike Lane, the first of its kind in Philadelphia, installed on a city-owned road. 

Ryan Ave Parking Protected Bike Lane Opening

Soon after, OTIS announced plans for a parking protected bike lane on Chestnut St at the 2017 Vision Zero Conference.

Jeannette Brugger, Bike Ped Coordinator for the office of Multimodal Planning

PennDOT responded by citing Title 75, section 3354 of the vehicle code, which requires that parking within 12 inches of the curb, to reject proposals for parking protected bike lanes. This response put the onus on the State and required a legislative change to the vehicle code in order to allow parking protected bike lanes on any state-owned roadways. 

(We think it’s worth noting that there are other states, like Minnesota, that have a similar vehicle code definition but allow for parking protected bike lanes through a different interpretation of the code.) 

In October 2017, the House passed HB1657 (which would have solved the issue), but it languished in the Senate. 

On November 28, 2017, Emily Fredricks rode her bicycle to work at Le Chéri, as she did every morning. Spruce Street, she had told her parents, had a painted bike lane and was a safe way to get to work. But that morning, while riding through the intersection, the driver of a privately owned trash truck crashed into her while turning right, ending her life. She was 24.

In 2018, the Bicycle Coalition submitted a letter to Leslie Richards, then PennDOT Secretary, requesting that their General Counsel revise its 2017 decision that PennDOT will not permit the installation of parking protected bike lanes on state roads. As a result of that letter, PennDOT and oTIS came to an agreement on a pilot program for parking protected bike lanes on 10 state roads.

In February 2019, Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia hosted a ghost bike memorial and press conference. The parents of Emily Fredricks and other members of FSSGP have been advocating for Parking Protected Bike Lane legislation since 2018- named after Emily Fredricks and Susan Hicks.

Emily was killed while riding a bike in 2017 by the driver of a Gold Medal trash truck making a right turn on to 11th St.

After an eight year long process Market St and JFK Blvd protected bike lanes go in from 20th to 15th St in 2019. 

In June 2019, the House passed HB 792 but once again it languished in the Senate.

Since then, we have seen some progress, albeit in fits and starts.

In 2021, Kittleson and Associates released a report on Parking Protected Bike Lanes in Philadelphia (part of that pilot program agreed upon back in 2018). The American Street raised bike lanes opened, as did the Parkside Avenue parking protected bike lane.

In March 2021, the House passed HB 140 and referred it to Senate Transportation. 

In October 2022, the Senate passed HB 140 with a poison pill amendment. It was concurred by the House and sent to the Governor’s desk. 

We had to oppose the bill and urged the Governor to veto it, which he did.

Despite these setbacks at the State level, in 2022 the Chestnut Street parking protected bike lane was completed along with the Chestnut Street Bridge. After a long and controversial process, Washington Ave east was finished with parking protected bike lanes, daylighting, speed slots, and more. The office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems (OTIS) requested an expansion of the pilot from 10 roads to 15. 

In June 2023, the House passed HB 1283 and sent it to the Senate for consideration. 

Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia lobby day June 2023

Also last year, the Walnut St parking protected bike lane from 33rd to 63rd St was completed. Which brings us to the present….

As of this blog post, HB 1283 continues to sit in Senate Transportation. We urge Senator Langerholc to bring it up for consideration in Senate Transportation.

What about the City’s goal of completing 40 miles of separated bike lanes by 2025? By the end of 2023, there were 29.8 centerline miles completed with an additional 4.3 centerline miles under construction. The City is on pace to have 40 miles of separated bike lanes by 2025. 

There are currently 15 projects on the pilot list for parking separated bike lanes in Philadelphia on PennDOT roads. Twelve are complete and 3 are still under construction or pending construction. The City is not able to begin or complete any additional projects until legislation is passed.

What about the new administration? Mayor Parker signed an executive order in March recommitting Philadelphia to Vision Zero and to reaching zero traffic fatalities by 2050. The order calls for improvements on every mile of the High Injury Network by 2030 and creating a Vision Zero educational program in Philadelphia public schools. We believe that a high quality, connected bike network is crucial to achieving the Mayor’s “Safer, Greener, Cleaner” goals for our city, and we will continue to push for parking protected bike lanes.

If you’re interested in reading more of our history check out our coalition history blogs.

1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and the 2010s.

Correction: In 2020, the City and PennDOT formalized a Parking Separated Bicycle Lane Pilot on 10 corridors and in 2022 the pilot was extended to include another 5 corridors. All 15 are included in the pilot without state legislation since they are on the pilot list, including the remaining 3 not yet completed.

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