The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, along with Mayor Nutter and Camden mayor Dana L. Redd are unveiling today a major new bike trail initiative. (Disclosure: I am a dues-paying member of the BGCP)
“The Circuit,” as the plan has been dubbed, will eventually comprise hundreds of miles of inter-connected bike trails, including several hundred miles of brand-new trails. The idea, says BCGP executive director Alex Doty, is that “wherever you live in greater Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley, Camden – is that if you walk out your door, you could look north, south, east, or west and know you can ride all day on trail.”
This vision is an extension of an idea that's at the top of the BCGP agenda: connectivity. It was the basis of the Pine and Spruce bike lanes (they connect the rivers); it's the basis of the connection between those lanes and the South Street bridge, which itself will soon connect to the Scuylkill River Trail — which itself will extend to Bartram's Garden. Connectivity, is what we're saying here.
Indeed, Doty compares this plan with the Scuylkill River Trail — which hopes to go unbroken from Center City Philadelphia to the Appalachian mountains near Pottsville. It's a project that's been years in the making, and which remains incomplete — but which draws more than a million visitors a year anyway.
The goal is a network of no less than 750 miles of bike trails. Currently, 250 miles are completed with another 50 miles in progress. That leaves 450 to go — which means this project will take a while — perhaps ten years, Doty says.
It will also require money, of which there is some and much to be raised. The William Penn Foundation has contributed substantial money toward the “Regional Trails Program,” administered by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
Usually Redditors trade in virtual Karma, but here's a Philly guy dealing with the real deal:
Ok, so here goes nothing. In the late night hours of Friday, December 2nd, in the midst of a drunken stupor, I stole a bike helmet from a bike that was locked up in the area of 6th and Chestnut. I did this for no reason other than I thought it would be funny to walk home with a helmet on. Since then, I've been experiencing a plague of unfortunate events, most notably, my car breaking down twice, having to be towed both times. After having it out of the shop for less than 4 hours today, it was involved in a hit and run in the parking lot of a Pep Boys in South Philly.
Let me be clear, I'm not looking for sympathy or empathy. If you're out there, I'd like to give you your helmet back, reimburse you for the cost of a replacement if you bought one, and buy you a few beers.
TL;DR I'm a douche and I want to set it straight with the cosmos.
Click here to get in contact with Lord Helmet.
End of summer breakdancing battle (followed by Naked Bike Ride) hits Rittenhouse, explains they are not flash mob.
Legs fly out, swing under and then around torsos before the pretzel-shaped forms freeze upside down — the breakdancers mocking their opponents in classic battle form. A big crowd comes to watch the tournament made up mostly of local high school students: black, Asian and white.
"Ladies and gentleman: this is not a flash mob," a judge yells out to the crowd. "This is young people in Philly supporting Philly."
And it's not racial violence that has plagued Philly schools either. As a matter of fact, it's the End of Summer Jam, says David Seng, a senior at Bok Technical High School.
"Everyone's coming from all over Philadelphia," he tells City Paper. "We started in Love Park, but people thought we were a flash mob and kicked us out."
By "people," he clarifies, he means the Philadelphia Police Department.
Speaking of which, check out this old BBC clip with lots of Philly breakdancing and hip hop (Scanner Boys) — thanks Sonja.
A few hours later, a horde of butt-naked cyclists came through the square on Philly's Naked Bike Ride. I did that twice when I lived in Portland, but don't have the guts to do it in tough gritty Philly. There were maybe 500 naked people — God bless them. You really put the naked in Naked City.
Kudos to those who don't mind their butt cheeks being plastered across philly.com's highest-trafficked photo gallery. Plus, you're all but guaranteed to get Daily News columnist Stu Bykofksy so excited that he will need a toke of his much-maligned devil's weed to settle down.
Is MLK Drive's hostility to pedestrians partly to blame for another car plowing into another bicyclist yesterday?
[Ongoing coverage of Philly's inevitable march to becoming a Biketopia]
As the Inquirer reported, a bicyclist was left in critical condition yesterday after a car hit him on Martin Luther King Drive (formerly West River Drive), which runs along the west bank of the Schuylkill River.
Reports the Inky:
The man, whose name was not released, was riding southbound on the sidewalk near the Strawberry Mansion Bridge about 7:40 p.m. when he attempted to cross the street and was hit by a northbound 2010 Toyota Camry, police said.
Note the phrase, "attempted to cross." Though technically a park road, MLK drive has become an effective highway through one of the most heavily-used portions of the most heavily-used part of Fairmount Park.
As we reported waaaaaaay back in 2009, the speed limit is 35 mph — but, as the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition's John Boyle found after spending a few hours there with a speed gun, virtually no one obeys the limit. Boyle found 100% of cars speeding.
The fact that the drive boasts only a few traffic lights (there is no light at the intersection which this bicyclist was trying to cross, says Boyle) and two hefty traffic lanes in each direction despite low traffic volume probably doesn't dissuade drivers from speeding, either.
In 2009, a different crash on that drive, involving a child, led the Bicycle Coalition to launch a "take back the drive" campaign. Since then, the city's told Coalition members that it's considering improvements but hasn't yet announced any.
Just after 4:30 p.m. today, the Streets and Services Committee held a bill proposing that City Council ordinances be required before any future bike lanes are created.
Councilman William Greenlee, who introduced the bill a week ago, requested that the bill be held for amendment or possible introduction of a different bill. The meeting included testimony from Deputy Mayor of Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler and significant discussion between Cutler and the committee.
Possible changes to the current bill were suggested including the notification of affected community members before bike lanes are painted and a more regulated process of bike lane development.
“Before things are changed or made to be different, I believe people who will be impacted by it deserved to be heard,” said Councilman Frank DiCicco.
Cutler explained the current process the Streets Department takes to install bike lanes includes extensive studies of traffic flow and safety. It is ultimately up to “engineering judgment” to determine if a bike lane is possible on proposed streets.
Committee members Greenlee and Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez emphasized their support of cyclists in Philadelphia.
“This bill is not intended to be anti-bike lane,” said Greenlee. “It is not directed at specific area or bike lane. It’s about being consistent. “
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia opposed this bill, and many members attended today’s meeting. Two coalition members spoke against the bill, but only after the committee had officially held it.
In a budget hearing yesterday, Deputy Mayor of Transportation Rina Cutler revealed that plans are in the works for two new major north/south bike lanes, to complement the east/west lanes installed on Pine and Spruce streets last year.
I'm going to go ahead and make a wild prediction: grumbling — whining, one might say — and lots of it, from the usual suspects who hate bike lanes, hate bicyclists, and really hate the fact that the city seems determined to push ahead with its plan to become a truly bike-friendly city.
The grumbling, according to my prophetic vision, will include:
1. Complaints about bicyclists running red lights and riding on sidewalks.
2. Complaints about space being given over to bicyclists that could (or is) being used for more cars!
3. Complaints that bicyclists pose some kind of crazy public safety threat (when I last checked, in December, 2009, the ratio of people killed by cars versus bikes in the city over five years was 174:3).
4. Complaints that bicyclists are a small minority of residents and therefore are being accommodated disproportionately.
5.Complaints by Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky (I look forward to being proved wrong on this one, Stu).
Another prediction: These complaints will be as valid and as flawed as they always are.
Do bicyclists break traffic laws? Yes — and they should do it less. But most of us who rely on bicycles for daily commutiing are more concerned with safety. A broken collar bone, cracked rib, broken wrist and innumerable near-doorings taught this reporter caution long ago. I'll advocate for bicyclists' being considerate and cafeful all you want. But the more the city provides safe and intuitive ways for people to get around town by bikes, the less I'll need to. There are plenty of studies showing this: More biking means safer biking, and more accomodations like bike lanes mean more biking.
The grumblers may grumble, and that's their right, but bicycles are becoming viable transportation alternatives to driving in cities like Philly — not for everyone, but for more people than are aware of it now — and a bicycle on the street is one less car in front of you in traffic.
And you know what? They're popular — not always with old-timers, but, I'll wager, with young newcomers. And we need more of those in Philly: Bike lanes are a cheap, easy way to attract the kind of urban energy this city needs to grow. (This reporter's being able to ditch his car after moving here, for example, has resulted in much revenue for local bars).
Mayor Nutter and Parks & Rec Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis announced today the beginning of an improvement project for the stretch of the Kelly Drive recreational path connecting Falls Bridge to City Line Avenue.
This is cool for few reasons but the main one is ... connectivity! Oh yeah.
Right now, the average bicyclist, jogger, or other user of the path would reach Falls Bridge and see stretching before him or her a strip of uninviting sidewalk that constutes, for some reason, the only connection between Fairmount Park, the Schuylkill River Trail — which extends past Valley Forge and will someday connect all the way to the Appalacian Trail, and the Wissahickon Valley: the great triad of free, lovely Philly recreation.
"Clearly, this crappy strip of sidewalk proceeding north isn't meant for me," he or she might say, then turn around and miss the great riches to be found ahead.
This is good news, but less great is the fact that this means that you'll have to detour around the area until at least June, 2011, when the work it supposed to be finished.
The city is recommending that bicylists use Ridge Avenue, which will be marked with "sharrows," — arrows, but for sharing, and "share the road" signs. And be careful: Ridge isn't ideal for bikes.
Get more info on the detours at the Bicycle Coaltiion's website.
(Holy smokes, we forgot to mention this is part of CP's ongoing coverage of Philadelphia's slow, but surely inevitable march toward becoming *Biketopia*)
On Thursday, a group of urban transportation technocrats visited Philly for a tour of what we do and don't have going on bicycle-wise. They belonged to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, a group which shares ideas and acts as a lobby for better urban-centric transportation (it turns out that transportation money and policy tends to be disseminated at the state level, which skews disproportionately away from urban issues).
Our visitors included Washington, D.C.-based NACTO Executive Director Eric Gilliland, Portland, OR City Traffic Engineer Robert Burchfield and San Francisco Deputy Director of Planning and Development Timothy N. Papandreou.
The tour was lead by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (disclosure: I'm a tee-shirt-owning member), and a few of the chief players from city administration who've been overseeing the actual implementation of Philly's Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan. Bike policy geeks (and angry blowhards) might find this info useful, so here are the brains behind the lanes: Andrew Stober, Chief of Staff at the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities; Aaron Ritz, who works under him; Steve Buckley, Deputy Commissioner of Transportation; Charles Carmalt, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator; and Jeanette Brugger, who works on pedestrian and open space issues and the city's Bike & Pedestrian plan for the City Planning Commission.
To give an idea of what this ride was like, our first stop was at the buffered westbound bike lane on Spruce, where we watched a bus and two bicyclists approach the intersection. It was a test-case: the shared use of the lanes by buses and pedestrians is one of those things planners try to plan for.
"Let the bike geekiness begin!" declared a triumphant Andrew Stober, as all three made it through the intersection without incident.
|From L: Transportation's Andrew Stober, Bike Coalition's Alex Doty, San
Francisco's Timothy N. Papandreou
That's not to say the tour was all back slapping and hurrahs. Included in the tour was the Ben Franklin bridge â the single bikeable (or walkable, for that matter) connection between New Jersey and Philly â whose opening and closing hours are notoriously fuzzy, and which, amazingly, is shut down completely to non-automotive traffic if there's any significant snowfall. Since the Delaware River Port Authority doesn't shovel the walkway either, noted Advocacy Director John Boyle, the bridge simply remains shut down until the snow melts.
There was "riverfront" bike trail â put in quotes because, as one rider rhetorically asked the group at a stop in Penn Treaty park, "How many of you saw the river before we got here?" Except for a new "trail," about half a block long, behind the Sugarhouse casino, Philly's riverfront bike trail remains woefully not-by-the-river.
Still, there's much to be excited about: The South Street bridge is set to re-open this week, and will feature new bike lanes in each direction, the eastbound lane extending down south street to 22nd street, where another bike lane guides cyclists up to the buffered bike lane on Pine street, which extends across Center City.
For anyone who commutes â or is contemplating it â by bicycle from West Philly, the reopening of the bridge and the new network of bike lanes are a godsend (for two years, we've had to jog up to Walnut or down to Gray's Ferry). Give it six months, and I expect we'll see a visible change in the number of people using the Center City lanes.
The Pine & Spruce lanes, meanwhile, have finally been repaved and newly-emblazoned with white bike stencils.
Finally, the Schuylkill River Trail will be extended all the way to the South Street bridge â yet another useful connection for getting around the city.
If this stuff perks your interest, check out the city's Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan.
As we tipped you to last night on the CPFacebook, your humble correspondent biked home last night on the newly repaved Spruce Street (it and Pine, the sites of the much ballyhooed/grumbled-over east-west bike lanes, had been stripped last week). The line repainting was still in progress, but the bike lanes which were billed as something of a temporary test when they were laid just over a year ago, were being repainted as well.
Though the original plan called for both streets to be repaved in the spring (and boy did they need it), and the determination about scrapping the lanes or making them permanent to be made then, the process got pushed back.
In our conversation with deputy mayor for transportation and utilities Rina Cutler for her Big Vision Issue nod, she confirmed that, yes, at long last the streets were being repaves, and the lanes were, indeed, to be made permanent.
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