When the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia began meeting with the Philadelphia Parking Authority to discuss blocked bike lanes in 2013 and 2014, our goal was simple: Identify the worst spots in the city for illegally-parked vehicles in bike lanes, and increase ticketing there.
Using social media and crowd sourcing with the PPA, we identified those spots—Spruce and Pine Streets in Center City, Fairmount Avenue, 13th Street, 22nd Street, and others—and asked for targeted enforcement.
Targeted enforcement happened. While the PPA handed out just 1,991 tickets for bike lane infractions in 2014, they wrote 5,440 in 2018—an increase of 173 percent.
And while that’s a good thing, actually riding a bicycle on the problem streets we first identified five years ago has told us more is needed to curb the problem.
For the contractors, ride hailing drivers and private vehicle owners who pull into bike lanes, sit there, and get tickets, it seems like the $75 fee just isn’t enough of a punishment. Otherwise, it’d probably be happening less.
That’s why we support City Council legislation which would amend the Philadelphia City Code to increase penalties for illegal parking and stopping violations.
Introduced by Councilpeople Cherelle Parker and Mark Squilla, the legislation would basically increase ticket costs across the board, more than tripling the cost of illegally parking at a trolley and bus stops (currently $30; would be $100); increasing the fee for double parking to $100 (from $75); increase the price of parking “too close to a corner”, from $50 to $75; and increasing the ticket for blocking a bike lane, from $75 to $100.
It’s a good start.
Still, $100 may still not be enough to keep everyone out of the bike lanes (companies like FedEx and UPS have basically built the cost of ticketing into their business) but it could help keep ride hailing cars, taxis, and private vehicles, out. (Only actual infrastructure has been proven to keep bike lanes clear.)
The legislation passed quickly toward the end of Council’s spring session, and was ordered placed on final passage, but stalled and was not passed before the spring session ended.
The worst lanes for this issue are Spruce and Pine Streets in Center City — and that’s probably because most of the blocks between 2nd and 22nd Streets are “No Parking” zones, meaning motorists can pull over in the bike lane, legally, and park for 20 minutes, a deal made between the city and residents when the bike lanes were first installed in 2009.
That Spruce and Pine Streets have this “deal” and are still the worst streets for these issues tells us something: Motorists are, by and large, not just “pulling over for a minute” as was the point of the deal made between the city and the neighborhood associations 10 years ago. Rather, they are pulling over and leaving their vehicles in the bike lane for more than 20 minutes — long enough to get ticketed.
This is the sort of practice that led to Spruce and Pine’s bike lanes being left in terrible shape over the last few years and has not just negatively affected people on bicycles. Indeed, people in motorized wheelchairs and other mobility devices use Philadelphia’s bike lanes on the regular.
Philadelphia’s sidewalks are notoriously small, in bad shape, and, like bike lanes, often blocked by motor vehicles, and a lawsuit was recently filed on behalf of four Philadelphia residents with mobility disabilities and nonprofit organizations, who claim sidewalks are “riddled with barriers” that make travel difficult and dangerous.