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.”

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

On Wednesday, March 1, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and Uber presented the the Vision Zero Conference at Thomas Jefferson University. Vision Zero is a policy approach that recognizes traffic fatalities as preventable and aims to reduce all traffic deaths through engineering, education, and enforcement. Originating in the 1990s in Sweden, Vision Zero is based on the belief that the loss of life is not an acceptable price to pay for mobility. As of January 2017, 23 U.S. cities have committed to Vision Zero.

In 2016, there were 76 traffic fatalities in Philadelphia. Of those deaths, 36 were pedestrians, 8 were children, and 4 were cyclists. While Vision Zero is still a relatively new concept for Philadelphia, Mayor Kenney took the first step in recognizing these traffic deaths as a public health crisis by issuing the city’s first-ever Vision Zero Executive Order in November 2016. The executive order established Philly’s new Office of Complete Streets and a Vision Zero Task Force. With the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities to zero by 2030, the Task Force released a Vision Zero Draft Three-Year Action Plan on March 7, 2017. Additionally for the first time, the City has dedicated significant funds to Vision Zero in the proposed 2018 budget.

The conference, the third of it’s kind to be organized by the Bicycle Coalition, featured presenters and panelists with a wide range of expertise. These experts included traffic safety researchers, trauma surgeons, city planners, and heads of government agencies, as well as everyday road-users. With the City ready to move towards zero traffic fatalities, here are our 5 takeaways on how to implement Vision Zero in Philadelphia [quotes have been edited for clarity]:

5. Everything revolves around data … better capture & utilization is needed to improve communities. – Dr. Stanton B. Miller, Founding Director of Jefferson Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Data is vital for implementing Vision Zero strategies, but data is often spread across agencies and organizations.  For example, police collect crash data, trauma surgeons track crash injuries, PennDOT monitors traffic information, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia counts bicyclists, etc., but these organizations don’t often share their findings with each other. By involving all the stakeholders, data can be better shared, analyzed and compared so that the right policies and improvements can be made and lives can be saved.

4. Our city is poor. – Mike Carroll, Deputy Managing Director for Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems

Most of us are aware that Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the U.S. There are kids going to school hungry and gun violence is devastating communities and families. So, why should people care about Vision Zero? Emiko Atherton, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, said it best: “Investment in Vision Zero is an investment in the community with huge returns.” Not only is it an economic opportunity that can provide safe, affordable, and convenient access to jobs, but it also can help improve public health. By making it safe to bike, walk, and take public transit, people can adopt exercise behavior into their everyday life. Additionally, replacing car trips with those sustainable modes of transit can improve air quality. Instead of taking away from efforts to address other community issues, Vision Zero can help progress those issues.

Futhermore, funding for safety improvements can be hard to find. But, as WSP/Parsons Brinkerhoff and AECOM showed in their corridor design presentations, low-cost, small scale projects completed over time can greatly improve safety for all road-users.

3. Vision Zero network needs to be context sensitive. What works for one community may be different elsewhere. –  Emiko Atherton, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America

Vision Zero is not a one-size-fits-all solution to traffic deaths. It was conceived in Sweden, a very homogenous country whose government works very differently than ours, so what works there might not necessarily work in the United States. Similarly, what works in one U.S. city may not work in another. Vision Zero policy makers need to understand the communities in which they are working and, as Dr. Miller said, they need to recognize the varying cultural perceptions of traffic safety.

2. Priority should be to invest in design first: set table for good behavior. Then education, then enforcement. – Kelley Yemen, Philadelphia’s Dir­ect­or of Com­plete Streets

Engineering, education, and enforcement are Vision Zero’s three main strategies to end traffic fatalities. Engineering focuses on street design. Education aims to not only inform the public about street safety, but also to unify neighborhoods around Vision Zero goals. Enforcement is the use of police strategies to target dangerous traffic behaviors. For communities of color, police encounters can be life threatening. Black men and women are more likely to be subjected to excessive force, touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground, or pepper-sprayed by a police officer. Philando Castile, Walter Scott, and Samuel Dubose were all fatally shot after getting pulled over by police for minor driving infractions. As Yemen stated, enforcement should be the last resort for Vision Zero.
1. Be kind. – Charles Horton, Executive Director of Commission on People with Disabilities

It’s often forgot that all of us are trying to get safely from point A to point B, and sometimes even points A, B, C, D, and all the way to Z. So, not only is Horton’s message applicable for road-users, but also for those implementing Vision Zero. It can easily feel like Vision Zero is only helping cyclists and pedestrians. Vision Zero should make people feel like they can be the solution to traffic violence, not the cause of it. Vision Zero, when applied correctly, can benefit all road-users and communities. And as moderator Andrew Strober pointed out, “Streets are our most important public space. At least, they should respect human dignity. At best, delight.”

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