On Tuesday, a slew of cars were parked in a Philly bike lane. Not exactly news. But in this case, the vehicles in question were cop cars.
The handful of Philadelphia Police vehicles parked on 13th Street between Filbert and Arch earlier this week forced cyclists to weave out into car traffic as they were heading north through Center City. Apparently this isn’t the first time cop cars have used that stretch of bike lane as a temporary parking lot — it’s a years-long saga.
Randy LoBasso, communications manager at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, tweeted a photo of the action on Tuesday morning, claiming he’s seen cop cars blocking that same strip for about six months.
“It’s kind of a problem, because they’re supposed to be the ones setting the example and potentially handing out tickets to the people blocking it,” LoBasso told Billy Penn. “I assume they’re not ticketing themselves.”
This instance comes amid citywide calls to make Philly streets safer for cyclists. In the last 11 months, 11 cyclists in the Delaware Valley have been struck and killed by cars — the most recent being Pablo Avendano, 34, who was hit by an SUV while riding in an unprotected bike lane on Spring Garden Street near 10th.
Shortly after LoBasso posted his callout tweet, fellow cyclists jumped on the bandwagon.
Among them was Ashley Lippolis, who used to commute home using 13th Street every day from her work in Rittenhouse Square to Philly’s Callowhill neighborhood. And every day, there were cars parked along the entire half-block between the Chili’s and the Convention Center.
“I knew I was going to see it every time I biked,” Lippolis said. “It wouldn’t just be a cop car or two. It was a line of cop cars.”
“It’s just a real danger,” she added. “You have to get around those vehicles and it forces you to merge into oncoming traffic.”
Lippolis made her dismay known on Twitter.
That was back in 2014. At the time, it seemed her social media shoutout actually worked. BCGP launched a social campaign dubbed #UnblockBikeLanes, and LoBasso — alongside other cycling activists — got in touch with then-Philly Managing Director Rich Negrín.
The activists said Negrín handled the issue personally, and miraculously.
“Something was brought down from the top that police should not park there anymore,” LoBasso said. “A makeshift sign was put up at the corner. For the most part, it actually worked.”
“For a while it did get better, and I was so proud,” Lippolis added. “We complained and we got the city to do something.”
Her pride may have been short-lived, because the problem returned in 2015.
And then again in 2017.
Contacted by Billy Penn Wednesday, a police spokesperson admitted members of the department have parked in the bike lane “multiple” times over the last few years.
“There have been instances of officers parking their police vehicles in the bike lane while they were attending court,” wrote PPD Sgt. Eric Gripp in an email. “Clearly, this is unacceptable and should not happen.”
After seeing the recent complaints on social media, Gripp said he forwarded the information to commanding officers at the Sixth and Center City police districts. The COs will direct their personnel to enforce parking regulations in those areas, he said.
Wait, are Philly cops about to start ticketing themselves? Maybe.
Per Gripp: “All vehicles — whether government or civilian — are to be ticketed if illegally parked.”