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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