Exactly 17 days passed since Emily Fredricks was struck and killed by a private garbage truck while riding in the bike lane along Spruce Street before another cyclist was again struck by a turning truck while riding in a bike lane. This time the crash occurred near 13th and Pine Streets, just a couple blocks from where Fredricks was killed, and is once again igniting the call for more protected bike lanes throughout Philadelphia.

This morning, over 100 people gathered today to again form a human barrier between traffic and the bike lane along 13th Street, and show support for Becca Refford, 24, who was commuting to work when she was hit. Refford waved and smiled at the people who made the human bike lane from her hospital bed via Facetime.

Another serious crash so soon after the death of Emily Fredericks should make clear that paint-buffered bike lanes are not good enough protection on the most used, high traffic streets in Philadelphia.

Last week, the City took a small step by committing to a short section of protected bike lanes on South Street and 27th Street near the South Street Bridge. Unfortunately this is a compromise from the original plan to include a protected bike lane along Lombard Street as well.

Spruce Street, Pine Street, Lombard, and 13th Street are some of the most highly traveled bike lanes in Philadelphia. It is important that these roads be upgraded from lines of paint to physical barriers, the past three weeks have clearly demonstrated the need. Call Councilmen Kenyatta Johnson and Mark Squilla to thank them for the small addition to the City’s protected bike lane network, and demand that they take further steps to rapidly install protected bike lanes on all of center city’s bike lanes.

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

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