Updated 12:05 p.m.
During his 2015 election bid, Mayor Jim Kenney touted a promise to build 30 miles of protected bike lanes. Four years later, Philadelphia is still nowhere near that goal. There has been some progress, however, and several protected segments exist in various locations around the city.
Next to get a protected bike lane: the busy 22nd Street corridor — albeit just along seven blocks in Center City.
The proposed upgrade is part of a larger lane-replenishment project for the north-south throughway that dovetails with a scheduled repaving and restriping. Since the street will be ripped up anyway, the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability wants to revamp the existing bike lane at the same time.
As it exists currently, the 22nd Street lane is a mess, with gravel strewn across many blocks in South Philly and much of the striping faded or gone.
“22nd Street has needed an upgrade for a long time,” said Randy LoBasso, policy manager of the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia. “It’s very well used by bicyclists in the city, and has deteriorated horribly.”
More than 1,500 bikes a day travel along the roadway, according to city data — and that number is from back in 2012, when cycling was a much less common form of transportation. More cyclists means more chance for a crash: 74 people were injured in crashes on that stretch of road between 2013 and 2017, per OTIS.
Under the proposal released last week, the existing bike lane from Snyder to Race streets would be switched from the right-hand to left-hand side. Left-hand side lanes have been found to be much less dangerous, thanks to increased visibility and reduced conflicts with turning trucks and buses.
DA Larry Krasner recently levied criminal charges against the trash truck driver who hit and killed a cyclist traveling in the Spruce Street bike lane; advocates say that if the lane had been protected, the crash easily might never have happened.
On 22nd Street, the protected part of the bike lane would comprise seven blocks’ worth of bollards separating cyclists from two lanes of car traffic between South and Market streets.
There’s an open house on the evening of Monday, Mar. 18, to get community feedback on the project. LoBasso urges all who care about cycling in Philly to attend — and ask questions.
“People will want to know why it’s not protected the entire length,” he said, “including me.”
A rep from the city told Billy Penn that insufficient road width is why protection isn’t being implemented along other parts of the street.
If you want to weigh in, attend the open house. A similar meeting was held earlier this year regarding changes in Northern Liberties. Currently, protected bike lanes can be found in West Philly along Chestnut Street, in Center City between along Market and JFK, leading up to the South Street Bridge, on North 13th Street near Temple, and on Ryan Avenue in Mayfair.
Additional protected lanes, enough to get Philly to that 30-mile mark, are already in planning. American Street in Kensington is slated for a central protected lane, and a new side path along Columbus Boulevard and Delaware Avenue is also in the works.
“I think OTIS is doing a good job,” LoBasso said. “They’re putting a lot of effort into this, they’re holding these meetings. They are moving the needle.”