City Council unanimously passed two ordinances today allowing the Department of Streets to designate two bike lanes and an ordinance removing parking along the 8200 block of Torresdale Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia where the Pennypack Trail crosses.

This is a small step toward achieving the Mayor’s campaign promise and Vision Zero plan for 30 miles of bike lanes.  So far there are two miles. The bike lane along Race Street will be protected between 8th and 6th Street, and continue as an unprotected lane between 6th and 5th.

The second bike lanes will be installed along Island and Enterprise Avenues in Southwest Philadelphia. Councilman Johnson issued this statement to Clean Air Council on the importance of this bike lane and his thoughts on future trail connections in his district:

“This bill is part of the ongoing collaboration between my office and OTIS to advance Vision Zero goals. My priority is making city streets safe and inclusive. This particular proposed ordinance is the result of collaboration between my office, the Philadelphia International Airport, and community and advocacy groups to improve street safety in Southwest Philadelphia.

I believe bike lanes are beneficial to the city as a whole and this will help cyclists commuting in Southwest. We have received support for the bill from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and community groups, who were consulted during the bill’s drafting. In cases like this one, where there are not the same space constraints and traffic or construction levels you have in Center City, there’s more opportunity for solutions that work for everyone.

In terms of the East Coast Greenway, my mind goes immediately to the Schuylkill River Trail and our work to connect South Philadelphia and Southwest Philadelphia portions of the trail between Grays Ferry and Bartram’s Garden, as well as fill in the missing links of South Philadelphia to expand access to the trail. I occasionally bike the Trail myself and I understand firsthand the importance of safety while cycling in the streets as well as expanding our greenways.”

 

 

On Thursday, Councilman Mark Squilla, Chair of the Streets and Services Committee, introduced three bills on the Council floor proposing two new bike lanes, and eliminating parking along Torresdale Avenue where the Pennypack Trail crosses in Holmesburg.

This came a day after the Streets and Services Committee moved forward on the bills. According to Plan Philly, City Spokesman Mike Dunn told them in an email that he hopes the lanes will be open by the end of the year.

Race Street in Chinatown

One of the proposed bike lanes would be installed along Race Street between 8th and 5th streets in Chinatown. This particular corridor is heavily trafficked, especially during rush hour, with vehicles headed toward the Ben Franklin Bridge. Race Street turns from three to four lanes that are not clearly marked, adding to potential driver confusion.

The new lane would be parking protected from 8th to 6th, and would also create a much safer connection between Chinatown and Franklin Square, which is one of the only green spaces in the neighborhood.

Race Street at 8th Street looking East

The second bill is to install non-protected bike lanes in both directions along Island Avenue and Enterprise Ave in Southwest Philadelphia near the airport. These lanes will allow cyclists who work in this business and industrial area a safe path from nearby transit stops like the Eastwick Regional Rail Station.

The third bill, proposed in committee by Councilman Henon, removes parking along the 8100 block of Torresdale Avenue in order to allow Pennypack Trail users a clear place to cross the road. This is a wooded stretch of Torresdale Avenue is a key crossing point of the 14.4 mile trail that runs from Huntingdon Valley in Montgomery County all the way to Holmesburg in Northeast Philadelphia.

We spoke with Councilman Squilla briefly outside City Council chambers. “Councilman Henon introduced a bill, and we’re strongly in favor of the bill to allow the trail to continue,” Councilman Squilla said.” “I think it’s a great way to have more open space.”

All three of these are key to the success of Philadelphia’s Vision Zero plan. Safe connections like the Pennypack Trail at Torresdale Avenue will allow people to pursue alternative modes of transportation, and ease the pollution and congestion cars produce every day.

“This just lends the City’s upward motion to keep people who have different modes of transportation and ways of getting to different locations through this trail connector which is a great thing for not only the City but hopefully throughout the Commonwealth,” Councilman Squilla said. “Any time you can have dedicated trails, and people where they are put in a place where it’s safer to transverse, it definitely will help with our plan for Vision Zero.”

 

Clean Air Council and partners Moms Clean Air Force, Clean Water Action, and Earthworks joined residents affected by natural gas operations and a Harrisburg-area physician to speak at a press conference and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) air quality committee meeting. 

Clean Air Council Attorney Robert Routh reads his public comments during the press conference

Members from Clean Air Council and their partners spoke on the steps of the Rachel Carson State Office Building, just a few blocks from Governor Wolf’s office. You can watch excerpts from the press conference below.

The comments were a continuation of advocacy that has spanned three years urging Governor Wolf to fulfill his campaign promises on methane controls for the natural gas industry.  At the meeting, the DEP presented the final draft of permits to control methane pollution from new and modified natural gas operations.

The Department also presented concepts to control volatile organic compounds from existing natural gas operations, which are the bare minimum they are required to do under federal guidelines. You can read the full press release here.

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

December 14, 2017

Contact:

Justin Wasser, Clean Air Council: 814-242-3156

Impacted Residents, Health Experts and Environmental Advocates Urge Gov. Wolf to Advance Methane Pollution Standards for the Natural Gas Sector

Harrisburg, PA (December 14, 2017)- The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) presented today the final draft of permits to control methane pollution from new and modified natural gas operations to the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee (AQTAC). Residents affected by natural gas operations, as well as environmental and public health advocacy groups from across the Commonwealth, spoke at a press conference and at the AQTAC meeting during the public comment period.  The comments were a continuation of advocacy that has spanned three years urging Governor Wolf to fulfill his campaign promises on methane controls. Wolf first promised to cut methane pollution from all new and existing gas operations on the campaign trail in 2014. He announced his methane reduction strategy in January 2016.  

Environmental and public health advocacy groups and impacted residents were pleased to finally see progress made on the methane reduction plan at the meeting, but say that the Wolf administration must quickly finalize general permits and require companies to comply with them. Groups raised concerns about the administration’s proposed concepts for weaker rules covering existing source of methane pollution — a major departure from what the governor promised to do.

“While the progress being made on methane standards covering new natural gas sources is encouraging, the Wolf administration must move quickly to regulate existing sources in a similar way,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “What DEP is proposing to implement on existing sources is the bare minimum required by law. Governor Wolf must go well beyond the bare minimum in protecting the health of Pennsylvania citizens. We elected this governor based on his promises to be a leader in addressing methane pollution and climate change. Pennsylvanians deserve that leadership.”

Methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, is accompanied by air pollutants harmful to human health when it leaks from natural gas operations. Emissions in Pennsylvania continue to rise year after year.  

The standards for new and modified sources will be implemented through two general permits, which allow for a streamlined approval process if industry operators agree to adhere to the permit conditions. One permit, GP-5A, covers unconventional gas wells and pigging operations and the other, GP-5, covers processing plants and compressor stations, including those on large transmission pipelines.

“Comprehensive methane rules for existing sources of pollution must be broader in scope and more stringent than the requirements found in EPA guidelines,”  said Robert Routh, staff attorney for Clean Air Council. “These guidelines represent the national floor.  Governor Wolf and DEP need to lead here and aim much higher for the sake of all Pennsylvanians.”

“The citizens of the commonwealth are suffering needlessly when we have the tools and technology available to greatly limit methane pollution and help clean our air,” said Dr. Robert Little, a family physician and president of the Harrisburg/Hershey chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “It bears emphasizing that we need to clear our air of both toxic hydrocarbons and emissions of methane – reducing one kind of pollution without the other gets us nowhere.”

“Until these new source rules are applied to existing sources, people in my community and others dealing with methane pollution right now are still looking at an unfulfilled promise by Governor Wolf,” said Lois Bower-Bjornson, an impacted resident of Washington County, PA. “I am urging Governor Wolf to be that leader who campaigned on a promise of holding the natural gas industry accountable to the people of Pennsylvania and move forward on rules for existing sources of methane pollution and VOCs immediately.”

“Today, my children and 3,200 of their classmates are attending school next to a gas well pad roughly half a mile away exposing them to a known health and safety risk from oil and gas air pollution including emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds,” said Patrice Tomcik, a mother of two sons from Butler County and a Field Consultant with Moms Clean Air Force, a 1 million member strong organization. “Let’s be clear: This problem will not be resolved unless and until DEP addresses these toxic pollutants like benzene, as well as methane emissions.”  

Cyclists formed a human barrier as riders passed through along Spruce St

 

Philadelphia has the highest rate of traffic deaths per capita in the US. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report using data from 2015, six people for every 100,000 residents died in a traffic related incident.  That’s over three times higher than Boston, and more than twice as high as New York City. Cyclists and pedestrians make up 45% of those killed in these traffic incidents.

It’s important to acknowledge  these are not accidents, but instead preventable crashes that need to be addressed immediately. Sadly, action will come too late for Emily Fredricks who was killed by a private garbage truck as she rode in the bike lane along Spruce Street last week.

Cyclists who spend any amount of time commuting through Center City know this heavily trafficked area can be extremely dangerous. According to the Bicycle Coalition, a 2015 study counted 212 cyclists per hour passing through 13th and Spruce, just two blocks away from the crash. Emily’s death shows that painted bike lanes no longer meet the demands of increased bicycle traffic in this section, and protected bike lanes must be installed along Spruce and Pine Streets to prevent future fatalities.

How to protect cyclists along Spruce and Pine was the first topic discussed at a recent public meeting hosted by 5th Square, Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia, and Urban Consulate. A panel of guests including Michael Carroll, Deputy Managing Director of the Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation and Information Systems (OTIS), discussed a recent trip to Copenhagen where participants learned how that super bike friendly city operates.

However, after the panelists introduced themselves, Carroll felt the need to discuss the death of Emily Fredricks, and set the record straight on the city’s plan to add protected lanes along Spruce and Pine.

“There’s a couple things I’d like to see cleared up about that,” Carroll said. “Just to be clear there was never any point in design or plan to put any real kind of protection on Spruce and Pine.”

Carroll told the crowd of about 100 people that OTIS had been examining the possibility of protected lanes along those streets, but were in the extremely early stages of planning and securing grant money last year when news leaked to the public that they were looking into this.

“That information wasn’t really intended for broad public consumption but as things turned out it came out to the public that those were the two streets we were looking at, and that came back to the neighborhood,” Carroll said. “A lot of the folks in the neighborhood were upset.”

That outcry ultimately led to the plan being put on the backburner, and OTIS looked elsewhere for other areas that may have less resistance. According to Carroll, the administrative work to get a bike lane installed takes extremely long, and even if there was no resistance against Spruce and Pine, installation of protected lanes would not have begun until next year.

“From our perspective, we’ve got 2,500 miles of streets to look at, and there’s a lot of other candidates that were on that map that we felt like were better uses of our resources at that time to try and put protection in,” Carroll said. “Even if we had programmed those for installation, if we did find a clear path forward, this project would not have started until the Spring.”

Carroll did admit that more funding may have have helped avoid this tragedy.

“This is an instance where under more ideal circumstances, if money was available sooner, maybe we could have avoided a tragedy, but I don’t know that for a fact.” Prior to this incident, Philadelphia was securing funding and developed a plan to make sure money and ideas are available.

The city’s Vision Zero efforts include a plan to install 30 miles of protected bike lanes during Mayor Kenney’s administration. So far there are two miles. That leaves a lot of work to do, so the time is now for the Mayor’s office and City Council to move quickly on advancing these projects. The Vision Zero Task Force was created, and charged with forming a three year action plan. This plan was released earlier this fall, and you can read more about it here.  The plan garnered plenty of local media attention and public support but so far little action from city government, specifically city council who since 2012 has had control over the implementation of protected bike lanes on city streets.

The last thing cyclists in Philly need is their safety in the hands of politicians, and that is exactly what is happening. The Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems (OTIS) needs to be in charge of these decisions, and make pedestrian and bicycle network development one of their key initiatives.

Perhaps a lack of funding for protected bike lanes is the problem? It’s not. In fact, funding has been secured on a state and federal level for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. In March 2016, the city announced they had secured $2.67 million in federal funding with another $500,000 in local contributions to fund five projects under the “Transportation Alternatives Program” (TAP).  The plan for cyclists is outlined in one of the projects. The press release states:

The final project, “Safe Spaces for Cyclists: Build a Protected Bike Network”, will include a mix of converting existing bicycle lanes into protected facilities and adding new protected bicycle lanes by adding flexible delineator posts to clearly separate vehicle and bicycle space in the right of way. The project also will include striping and signage in high priority bicycle corridors throughout the City.

The money is there, the laws are written and plans have been drawn, so why are there still only two miles of protected bike lanes in Philadelphia? The problem is the overly politicized process of road safety. City council is not only guilty of inaction, but in some cases, council members work against the implementation of protected bike lanes under the guise of community outcry.

In 2011, Councilman Greenlee proposed a bill that would require city council to approve all new bike lanes. It was adopted in 2012, and since then council has actively worked against creating protected bike lanes throughout the city. Greenlee is still blocking a bike lane along 22nd street that was proposed in 2014. Councilwoman Blackwell, seems less supportive of the protected bike lane on Chestnut St in West Philadelphia, and recently told the Inquirer, “All I do is get complaints about the lack of access to Chestnut Street.”

Over the summer, Councilman Johnson wrote a letter to OTIS rejecting the planned protected bike lanes on South and Lombard Streets in West Center City. According to the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia, residents were concerned that they would not be able to pull into the bike lane to unload their vehicles.

Even the very stretch of Spruce St where Emily was killed has had a protected bike lane proposed and discussed publicly since last December at a Washington Square West Civic Association meeting. Public outcry over convenience has seemingly put the project on the shelf, and the city isn’t guaranteeing protected bike lanes will ever be installed along Spruce or Pine streets. Shortly after Emily’s death, the bike lane along Spruce Street was re-striped. This is simply too little too late, and still allows motorists to cross into the bike lane. City council must take the politics out of protected bike lanes, and start protecting the lives of people who choose to commute by bike.

Please take a moment to write or call your councilperson today. Tell them how important it is to you that they move forward on protected bike lanes, even at the expense of convenience for motorists. Explain that this is literally a matter of life and death in some cases, and you expect quick action from them. Do this especially if you are in Councilman Johnson or Councilman Squilla’s districts. Contact information to city council can be found here.

 

 

The King of Prussia Mall is the largest suburban mall in the Philadelphia region with 400 stores, and a total of 31,500 people employed at the mall and nearby office parks. The mall is visited by about 68,000 people daily with 5,600 bus riders using six routes to and from the KOP area. Unfortunately, there is currently no rapid transit to get commuters and shoppers to the mall. That is why SEPTA and the King of Prussia business community are planning to extend the  Norristown High Speed Line, which skirts the edge of the KOP currently, the rest of the way to King of Prussia.  

Currently, it can take commuters from Philadelphia as much as two hours to get to work in King of Prussia on the bus, and drivers take an average of 70 minutes – both while navigating the unpredictable beast known as the Schuylkill Expressway. A light rail connection would ease the burden on our transit system and reduce traffic on the already congested expressways near the mall.According to the proposal, the new rail line would take around 40 minutes for the same trip, and offer an appealing option for people who have the choice between driving or public transit.

Clean Air Council was there to express its support for the project. Not only does the Council believe it will ease the commutes of transit riders and mall employees, this project will have a ripple effect on the region’s traffic problem. The more reliable transit lines the Delaware Valley has, the more likely commuters will choose to leave the car behind. This will ultimately reduce emissions, and let us all breathe a little easier.

The Council wrote a letter voicing its support, and sent Kamali Alloway, Sustainable Transportation and Special Events Outreach Coordinator, to read the letter aloud at the public hearing. You can read the letter here, and watch a video of Alloway reading the letter below. This project is still in the first stage, and its projected completion date is a few years away. Clean Air Council will keep you updated on developments as they occur. 

 

 

[Nov. 06, 2017-PHILADELPHIA] — On behalf of Clean Air Council and two Pennsylvania children, Hausfeld filed suit today in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the federal government to prevent it from rolling back policies, programs, laws, rules, and regulations previously in place to address and ameliorate climate change and its consequences. This pro bono litigation focuses on the federal government’s knowledge (dating back over fifty years) that climate change presents a clear and present danger to life, and represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet. You can read the full complaint here.

The United States has experienced a steady increase in extreme weather events caused by climate change, as exemplified most recently by the devastating impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the October California wildfires. If not adequately addressed, climate change will cause human deaths, shorten human life spans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, drastically affect human air quality, and dramatically alter the planet’s ecosystem to the detriment of the plaintiffs in this case, their children and grandchildren, and all future generations.

The federal government has relied on junk science to implement reckless climate change policies in the face of indisputable U.S. and international scientific consensus. It is the government’s responsibility to protect the lives and welfare of citizens and the life-sustaining resources they depend on. These acts of deliberate indifference are increasing U.S. contributions to climate change, thereby increasing the frequency and intensity of its life-threatening effects, and violating the constitutional rights of all U.S. citizens.

Plaintiffs are leading Philadelphia environmental nonprofit Clean Air Council and two child plaintiffs who have been personally impacted by climate change. The Federal Government Defendants include President Donald Trump, the Department of Energy, Secretary Rick Perry, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Clean Air Council Executive Director and Chief Counsel Joseph Minott said: “We will not stand idly by while President Trump and his agencies raze crucial environmental protections, ignore climate science, dispute well-documented facts and force future generations of Americans to suffer the consequences of this administration’s reckless choices and ignorant policies. We must hold the federal government accountable for the long-term environmental harm that is propagating under its direction. It’s time to fight back.”

Scientists refer to climate change as the most important issue of our time. Human contribution to climate change, which exacerbates its effects, has reached a critical moment, the consequences of which are potentially irreversible. Hausfeld Chairman Michael D. Hausfeld stated: “By deliberately engaging in this rollback of climate policies and programs, the government is affirmatively endangering the lives and welfare of its citizens.”

This lawsuit comes on the heels of the federal government’s release of the National Climate Assessment, which, in stark contrast to the administration’s environmental policies, affirms that climate change is almost entirely caused by human action and is a growing threat to the United States.

Hausfeld attorneys working on this case include Michael D. Hausfeld, Seth R. Gassman, Katie R. Beran, Braden Beard, and Michaela Spero.

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:

Deborah Schwartz
Media Relations
(240) 355-8838
deborah@mediarelationsinc.com

Jamie Kloss
Braithwaite Communications
(215) 564-3200 ext. 162
jamie@gobraithwaite.com

NOTES TO EDITORS

About Hausfeld

Hausfeld is a leading global law firm with offices in Berlin, Boston, Brussels, Düsseldorf, London, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. The firm has a broad range of complex litigation expertise, particularly in antitrust/competition, financial services, sports and entertainment, environmental, mass torts, consumer protection, and human rights matters, often with an international dimension. Hausfeld aims to achieve the best possible results for clients through its practical and commercial approach, avoiding litigation where feasible, yet litigating robustly when necessary. Hausfeld’s extensive experience with alternative and innovative fee models offers clients a diverse menu of engagement options and maximum flexibility in terms of managing their cost exposure.

Hausfeld is the only claimants’ firm to be ranked by the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners as a top tier firm in private enforcement of antitrust/competition law in both the United States and the United Kingdom. For more information about the firm, including recent trial victories and landmark settlements, please visit: www.hausfeld.com.

About Clean Air Council

Clean Air Council is a member-supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone’s right to breathe clean air. The Council is headquartered in Philadelphia and works through public education, community organizing, advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visit www.cleanair.org.

For Immediate Release

[September 12, 2017 – Harrisburg, PA] – As the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives returns to session to consider revenue packages for the state budget, environmental leaders gathered with local citizens in the Capitol on Tuesday to deliver a message: the proposed budget is a raw deal for all Pennsylvanians. The current plan presents unprecedented changes to environmental protections amid riders that would compromise air quality, water quality and public health.

The groups slammed the use of revenue-related budget bills to pass industry-friendly policies that could never stand on their own merit, a form of legislative overreach that is becoming an annual tradition in Harrisburg. Further, the groups highlighted the 1700 comments generated from Pennsylvania residents, directed to the legislature and Governor Wolf, opposing passage of a budget that continues to include ill-advised riders.

The Tax Code Bill (HB 542), passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and supported by Governor Tom Wolf, includes provisions that would create a new Air Quality Permit Advisory Committee to approve any air quality permits meant to regulate emissions from oil and gas operations, marking the first time in history a legislatively-dominated body would have veto authority over any environmental regulation or permit.

The bill also includes a rider that would allow the oil and gas industry to hand pick their own third-party, fee-for-hire agents to review and approve their permit applications if the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) doesn’t do so within a set time frame.

“The Pennsylvania Senate’s ill-advised provisions in the budget bills would be devastating to our air and water across the state,” said Matt Walker, Community Outreach Director with Clean Air Council. “Pennsylvania families who live near shale gas facilities are already forced to breathe harmful methane pollution and deal with other negative impacts of the industry – these provisions would only add insult to injury. Our group of environmental organizations, collectively representing nearly a million Pennsylvanians, are calling on the Pennsylvania legislature and Governor Wolf to protect Pennsylvania families by passing a clean budget and rejecting any budget deal that contains environmental riders that put our air and water at risk.”

“As a mother of two young boys living in heavily fracked Butler County, I know there is no justification to trade away the only public health protections Pennsylvania’s children have from natural gas pollution in a bad budget deal,” said Patrice Tomcik, Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. “This bad budget deal has a plan to replace air experts at the Department of Environmental Protection with a committee of political appointees, stacked in favor of the oil and gas industry that would reduce the Department’s ability to oversee the natural gas industry. In other words, this plan would give industry a free pass to pollute and sicken our children.”

“The Pennsylvania Senate’s willingness to put the future of our air and water in the oil and gas industry’s hands, with the support of Gov. Wolf, is unnecessary and unacceptable,” said Sarah Martik of the Center for Coalfield Justice.  “We absolutely cannot afford to give oil and gas companies the ability to hire their own third parties to issue permits. The permitting process is one of the few ways a community has a voice to speak out and be heard on projects that threaten their health and homes.  If the industry wants permits to be issued more quickly, they should support a budget that fully funds the Department of Environmental Protection.”

Riders jammed into in the Administrative Code Bill (HB 118) also drew the ire of the environmental groups. These riders included allowing wastewater treatment facilities to continue accepting and discharging conventional oil and gas drilling wastewater under long-expired permits, and restricting DEP’s ability to implement a water quality standard for manganese, a toxic metal.

“Every year over 100 million gallons of conventional gas wastewater, which contains heavy metals such as arsenic, a variety of hazardous chemicals, radionuclides, and high levels of salts, is still discharged to rivers and streams, particularly impacting the Allegheny River,” said Myron Arnowitt of Clean Water Action. “It’s disgraceful to allow these facilities to continue to pollute our waterways by letting them operate under weaker standards in violation of an EPA order and the Clean Water Act.”

“Pennsylvania legislators are once again attempting to brazenly throw our families, farms,  health and environment under the bus, this time by using the budget process to limit water quality protections for our streams and rivers from manganese, a toxic metal,” said Faith Zerbe, Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “It is time our elected officials get the message that it’s not okay to infringe on our Constitutional Rights under Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution just to give more gifts to the drillers and coal industry that repeatedly wound our community, forests, streams and drinking water.”

The event was sponsored by Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Center for Coalfield Justice, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environmental Defense Fund, Moms Clean Air Force, Mountain Watershed Association, National Resources Defense Council, PennFuture, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Sierra Club.  

###

Contacts:

Katie Edwards, Clean Air Council, 609-432-0129;  kedwards@cleanair.org

Myron Arnowitt, Clean Water Action; 412-592-1283; marnowitt@cleanwater.org

You may have heard that for the month of October, we, along with GoPhillyGo, Indego, and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, will be celebrating bicycling across Philadelphia with the Love to Ride (LTR) Challenge, a fun, friendly, and free competition to get more people cycling. Increasing bicycling for daily travel is one of the primary goals of our work towards improving air quality in the region. Two of the common cited barriers to cycling include safety and riding, as in knowing where to ride or having other people to ride with. We seek to address these issues by increasing cycling infrastructure, making bicycle trip-planning easy, and advocating for safe streets for all. Read on to learn about our expansive work on bicycle infrastructure, education and advocacy.

Multi-use Trails

We are a proud member of the Circuit Coalition – a group of non-profit organizations, municipalities, and government agencies that are working together to complete the region’s goal of 750 miles of connected multi-use trails. Currently, the Circuit Trails has over 300 miles complete, with about 100 more miles in progress. We are the lead on some of those in progress miles, including the Cobbs Creek Connector Trail and the Heinz Refuge bike/pedestrian connections.

Cobbs Creek Connector Trail

The Cobbs Creek Connector Trail will help complete the Cobbs Creek Trail, a key segment of the East Coast Greenway, and will be an important link between communities to recreational areas and historic sites, like John Heinz Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum (JHNWR), commercial hubs and employment centers. The Connector Trail will run approximately 3 miles from Cobbs Creek Trail’s current southern terminus to the JHNWR, spanning 4 main sections. Click here to learn more about the 4 sections of the Cobbs Creek Connector Trail.

Heinz Refuge Bike/Pedestrian Connections

We are partnering with JHNWR to build 3 additional pedestrian and bicycle friendly links in Philadelphia and Delaware Counties to JHNWR and businesses in the vicinity, including Philadelphia International Airport. Click here to learn more about these 3 connections.

Bike Racks

Secure bike parking is one of the deciding factors on whether a person bikes to work or not. We recognized this several years ago, and since then have been helping businesses with the on-street bike rack  permitting and installation process.

In 2016,  we took on a new (to us) bike rack endeavor – the art rack. We were funded by the Penn Treaty Special Services District and the American Street Empowerment Zone to create and install 15 art racks as well as 10 standard inverted-U bike rack and a bike corral in the Fishtown, Kensington, and Northern Liberties neighborhoods. Art racks not only provide secure bike parking to employees and customers of businesses in these neighborhoods, but they also provide an appealing aesthetic that is as much place making as it is bike parking. These have been created by a local metal worker and have been an exciting asset to add to these neighborhoods.

As an extension of our work with bike racks, the Council was awarded an Azavea Summer of Maps fellow, who helped us analyze where bike racks already exist, how much they are being used, where illegal bike parking is happening, and ultimately design a way to predict how many bike parking spaces per employee or customer are needed in different situations.

Do you know a business that is interested in implementing secure bike parking? Have them contact Will Fraser, Sustainable Transportation Outreach Coordinator, by calling 215-567-4004 ext. 123 or emailing wfraser@cleanair.org.

GoPhillyGo

GoPhillyGo.org is the region’s multimodal trip planner that we created to help make it easier to get around the Greater Philadelphia Area without a car. The website lets users plan biking, walking, public transit directions, or any combination of those modes of travel. GoPhillyGo also gives users the option to make their bike trip flatter, faster, or safer by using the customizable options. A very exciting new addition to the website is the Indego bike share functionality. Not only can you check individual station’s dock availability, but now you can plan a trip from start to end with seamless directions of which station to walk to, how to bike to the end station,you’re your final walking leg, just like taking transit!

As part of GoPhillyGo, we organize bike rides for cyclists of all abilities to environmental centers and nature destinations. Just recently we explored the new Bartram’s Mile, a multi-use trail that goes through Bartram’s Garden, by bike. Subscribe GoPhillyGo’s eNewsletter to stay-up-to-date on our bike rides.

Vision Zero

Finally, one of the most important ways we are working in Philadelphia as an advocate for bicycling is through the Vision Zero Alliance and the city’s subcommittees for Vision Zero. Vision Zero is the approach to traffic safety, first implemented in Sweden, based on the notion that no traffic death is acceptable. Cities that adopt Vision Zero policies have the goal of reducing traffic deaths to zero, and Philadelphia recently established their policy, with a goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2030. The Council works with the City and other advocates to help this goal be met. In addition to Vision Zero’s importance for the dignity of all road users, there is a clear environmental relationship: as the most vulnerable of roadways users, people will not walk or bike for transportation if it isn’t safe.

What’s Next

Until we reach our Vision Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries, there will be crashes. While many major crashes are reported to police, there are many that are not. Soon we will be debuting a a web tool for reporting minor crashes and close calls. This data can help the City identify areas where improvements for road safety are needed. Remember to always report a crash that results in an injury serious enough to involve medical attention. But, for something minor, help us keep track of when and where those events are happening – stay tuned for Close Calls Philly.

 Tell the Pennsylvania General Assembly that clean air and clean water are not for sale. 

On July 27, 2017, the Pennsylvania Senate approved a revenue package that will further decimate the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), threatening public health and damaging our environment in the process. By the slimmest of margins, the Senate voted 26-24 to adopt amendments to the Tax Code bill – House Bill 542 – which does achieve one of Governor Wolf’s long-sought goals, a severance tax on the extraction of natural gas from unconventional wells. On its own, this is a worthy policy goal. However, in exchange for what amounts to a paltry revenue increase, the Senate approved a series of environmental riders wanted by industry groups that gut DEP’s ability to act in the public interest. This is unacceptable; the state budget is not the place to debate critical protections for our air, water, and public health. DEP’s budget has already been slashed by 40 percent over the last 13 years – resulting in the loss of over 22 percent of its staff – and HB 542 would undermine DEP’s authority going forward and pose an immediate threat to Governor Wolf’s proposed commonsense controls on methane pollution.

In February, DEP published proposed general permits (GP-5 and GP-5A) that would establish cost-effective controls on methane pollution from new sources in the unconventional natural gas industry. These permits will protect public health, the environment, and Pennsylvania’s economy. Following extensive input from stakeholders and members of the public, the 120-day public comment period on the permits closed on June 5. While DEP is currently working to finalize the permits, HB 542 would allow the General Assembly to unilaterally weaken or eliminate them. Instead of working with the agency or going through the standard legislative process, this bill would create a new “Air Quality Permit Advisory Committee” – dominated by members handpicked by the legislature – that would have ultimate authority to approve (or disapprove) the permits once finalized. The bill prohibits DEP from submitting the permits to this “Committee” before 2018 and would allow industry-backed lawmakers to effectively veto these much-needed commonsense protections. This unprecedented hurdle to environmental protection is not grounded in science or designed to protect public health, it’s a transparent political game to benefit the gas industry.

Another amendment to the bill directs DEP to establish a program for third-party review of any permits issued by the agency, effectively privatizing the oil and gas permitting process in the Commonwealth. DEP would be required to contract with third-party permit reviewers, and the bill’s language includes no provisions for any supervision of these individuals or for accountability. Disturbingly, there are no conflict-of-interest provisions in the bill and permit applicants are allowed to handpick their own reviewer among those contracted with DEP. That means there is nothing to prevent a consultant from reviewing his own application. Furthermore, there are no provisions dealing with public participation, meaning there is no guarantee that third-parties handling permit applications will hold a public hearing or allow for public comment. This ill-advised approach will cede our public servants’ responsibility to protect public health and the environment to unaccountable private interests. It will undermine the integrity of the permit review process while limiting public participation and allowing for rampant self-dealing.

Finally, there is a provision stating that any permit for unconventional oil and gas development is simply “deemed approved” unless DEP denies it within the relevant timeframe (which varies from 30 to 45 to 60 days depending on the situation). Even if the relevant review period is extended for cause, this provision would require that DEP refund the permit review fee to the applicant. This radical approach puts the burden on DEP – intentionally underfunded and understaffed – to rush its permit review process and allows for the automatic approval of permits that have not been subject to appropriate agency review or public scrutiny.

Put it all together, and it is clear that HB 542 is a direct assault on Pennsylvania citizens’ fundamental, constitutionally-protected rights to clean air and pure water. Rolling back environmental and public health protections won’t balance the budget – all it does is give drillers a license to pollute. Governor Wolf has political concerns over his reelection and, in his single-minded pursuit of a severance tax, he has cut a bad deal for the people of the Commonwealth that needlessly trades away clean air and water protections. This deal should be rejected as an affront to our fundamental rights and to responsible stewardship of our public natural resources.

Subscribe to our newsletter arrow right